Q&A: Rep. Barb Haley, potential GOP candidate for governor

By: - March 23, 2021 6:01 am

Rep. Barb Haley on the floor of a nearly empty House in 2020. Photo courtesy Minnesota House, by Andrew VonBank.

Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, is a rising star in the House GOP in just her third-term. She’s the minority whip, and Republicans say her name is in the mix for the 2022 race for governor, though she’s also said to be intrigued by a potential run for Congress against U.S. Rep. Angie Craig in the 2nd District. 

Haley, a University of St. Thomas graduate, has had a business career with AT&T and experience with nonprofits. 

In an interview with the Reformer, she explained some of her priorities for the new legislative session, how she’ll face continuing challenges from COVID-19, and how her background gives her a unique perspective in the House. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Minnesota is the only divided Legislature in the country. How do you plan to reach across the aisle in order to pass legislation?

It starts with relationships. I served my first term in the majority and the past two in the minority. And when you do that, you learn that you’re not always in control, and you’re going to need to work with the other side. So, I’ve tried to do that regardless of position. And I also think it starts with getting some forward momentum on things where we do have common ground.

What are your top three priorities this session?

First, not to increase the burden on Minnesotans with tax increases.

Second, continuing to manage COVID-19 and really work our way out of this pandemic. My priority is to continue to push for faster vaccine rollout to the at-risk population and seeing positivity rates go down.

Third, reopening our businesses, getting the unemployed population back into the workforce, and getting our kids back to school. 

How will you use the budget surplus?

My recommendation on that is we use it to provide the tax relief on the federal PPP loans that small businesses got, and also exclude from taxes the unemployment insurance monthly bump that the feds passed. We need to use our one-time money to take care of that tax problem, and we should be doing that immediately. It passed with a bipartisan vote in the Senate recently, and we tried to bring it up on the House floor, but the majority did not allow a vote, and I will continue to push for that.

I would also suggest money for summer school. We know we have kids who are severely impacted by distance learning, and that learning gap. I’ve always been a proponent of education in my time in the Legislature, so I recommend immediate funding to schools. Let’s leave it up to them on how they want to design those programs, but they know the kids need to have in-person learning with a teacher in a classroom this summer. 

How will you meet challenges that arise from the ongoing pandemic?

I think we need to look at the past. From the past 10 months, we have money and supplies in our hospital systems, personal protective equipment and ventilators. We have processes in place. So, let’s build on that success. And having people that are at higher risk take their precautions as they personally see fit — the masking, the distancing, etc. — and getting the vaccine to those most at risk.

What about your background gives you a unique perspective that supports your Minnesota constituents? 

Before running for office, I had worked in my rural community supporting businesses, our economy, having strong schools, and having access to affordable health care close to home. And so I bring that to the Legislature — my background as a consensus builder, a relationship builder and someone who looks for pragmatic solutions that we can implement and measure. I don’t come to it from starting with the political fight, I come to it from being a problem solver.

This is one of a series of interviews with Minnesota legislators of both parties. See the others, here.

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Gracie Stockton
Gracie Stockton

Gracie Stockton is a senior at the University of Minnesota. She was awarded the 2021 Kaufman scholarship from the Hubbard School of Journalism & Mass Communication and joined the Reformer as an intern. Gracie also studies theatre and Russian, and is an artist in her free time.

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