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Scott Honour Q-A: GOP’s first candidate for governor wants to reform government, improve business climate

“I want to … take waste out of the [budget’s] burdensome administrative cost … and spend it smartly in capital expenditures.” 

Gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour: “I’ve had great success, and I want to see people in this state have that kind of opportunity for themselves and for their kids.”
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday

Orono businessman Scott Honour is the first Republican out of the gate with an official campaign to challenge Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014.  He needs to put the extra time to good use because most Republicans — and even fewer voters in general — know who he is. 

The DFL tried to step into the identity void earlier this week by immediately offering its own definition of the candidate: “Scott Honour is Minnesota’s Mitt Romney… getting rich at the expense of everyday people.”

In an interview with MinnPost, Honour swatted back.

“My own life story is one of a middle-class upbringing, and we had some hardship along the way, and we got through that,” he said of growing up in Fridley, and ultimately making his fortune as a venture capitalist in California.

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“I’ve had great success, and I want to see people in this state have that kind of opportunity for themselves and for their kids.”

Honour has no public-sector experience, but he is not a political neophyte. He raised money for Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign and then for Mitt Romney, impressing Republican insiders with both his fundraising prowess and knowledge of the issues. 

“If you get down to brass tacks about it, it’s about making good decisions. It’s about having teams of people that can evaluate the problems we face and come up with solutions and effect them,” said Honor, 46, who graduated from Pepperdine University and has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. “Sure, you’re doing it in the public eye, but when I bought and fixed companies, well that was in the public eye, too.”

Honour offered his solutions to a variety of legislative and political issues. Here are excerpts from his responses.

MinnPost: Are you going for the endorsement of Minnesota Republican Party?

Scott Honour: I’m going to seek the endorsement.

MP: Will you go to primary if you don’t get the endorsement?

SH: I haven’t made a final decision on that yet.

MP: How will you fund your campaign?

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SH: I saw what Mark Dayton did in his last campaign, which was pretty much self-funded.  I’m not looking to replicate that model. I’ll make sure our campaign has the financial resources that it needs, but I’m planning to have a broad base of support from donors.

MP: Turning to the state budget, how would you change one of the biggest cost-drivers in the budget — health and human services?

SH: I don’t have the access to the data that our government officials have to be able to tell you in exact detail what to do. But I think conceptually, it’s the idea of potentially modifying eligibility levels and making sure that the neediest people are getting benefits and that we’re not creating a disincentive for folks that perhaps are not as in need, to perhaps try to improve their lot thorough their own efforts. 

We need to have people have skin the in the game. The idea of having systems that reward people taking charge of their own health care, their own wellness, and there’s ways to do that that have proven to be effective, to reduce costs and to improve outcomes.

I think that the idea of trying to reform government in general in a way that gives better outcomes through reduced costs is very possible. 

You could probably eliminate the budget deficit we have just by managing health and human services more effectively.

MP: How would you modify the new health care exchange?

SH: I think we’re going to have to see what it looks like when it gets launched to figure out what to do. Do we move back off of it? Do we have a federal government exchange? Do we try to combine with some other state? Do we stay in a go-it-alone system?

MP: How would you improve education outcomes in lower-achieving schools?

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SH: Let’s take north Minneapolis, where we clearly have issues. Couple of weeks ago, I toured the KIPP charter schools.  What a great job they’re doing.  Their operating budget is about 20 percent less per student than in comparable middle schools. They’re paying teachers 15 percent more, and their proficiency ratings are twice that. So the idea that you can get better outcomes with less money and have teachers paid more, it’s being done right now.

We’ve got to focus on giving parents more choices and letting these kinds of programs that we know work, flourish. I want to set a real goal. I’d like to see us in 10 years lead the nation in terms of high-school graduation readiness for career or college. To do that, I want to set interim goals. I would expect to have a team of people that are education experts work with me on how do we set definable goals and make sure that we have policies that are driving toward those goals.

MP: Would you support raising the minimum wage?

SH: No, I would leave minimum wage where it is. I think what we need to do is try to improve the economy and give people at every level of wage earning the opportunity to have a job and to have a better job. And the best way to get someone higher than minimum wage is to have a robust economy.

I started out working for minimum wage, and I got a lot out of that.  It helped create the foundation of my future success.

MP: How can state government grow jobs, given the global economic pressures?

SH: First thing is, stay out of the way. Let’s clean up the regulation burden. Let’s make sure we have a competitive tax rate.  We’ve got to reform our tax code in this state. It needs a complete overhaul. So we have to put the right freedoms in place to let companies flourish. And I think there are some things that we can do proactively to promote industries where we could have a real advantage, like agriculture, health care, energy.

MP: Would you support increase background checks for gun control?

SH: I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I would not look to modify the state’s gun control laws. Frankly, I think we ought to focus more on being tough on crime. And I think we need to focus more on mental health issues as well.

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MP: How would you improve transportation, which many businesses say is a concern?

SH: One of the roles of government is to provide goods that only government can provide. One of them is roads, infrastructure. Drives me nuts to go up to Cabela’s in Rogers on Friday because you get totally jammed up in traffic.

One of the things I want to do conceptually is take waste out of the burdensome administrative cost in the state budget and spend it smartly in capital expenditures.  

MP: Would you support a gas-tax or sales-tax increase dedicated to transportation?

SH: No. I think the way we have to deal with all these issues is we’ve got to take a holistic view of all the things that governments do and create what we think is the right prioritization around them.

MP: Do you support gay marriage or civil unions?

SH: I support traditional marriage. At the same time, I think Rep. [Tim] Kelly’s proposal to allow civil unions is one that makes sense, and I support it.

MP: Would you support further restrictions in Minnesota’s abortion laws?

SH: I’m pro-life, but I would not look to change the current status of our regulations on abortion.

MP: What kind of state would you like Minnesota to be in five years?

SH: I think it’s a state where you have a feeling of exceptionalism. That people, when they are sitting around their dinner tables, that their children are coming home happy. That they’re not talking about “Geez, my cousin just got laid off, or my son had to move out of state to get a job.” That’s the opposite that they’re talking about — upgrading their Twins tickets because things are going well.

I think just having a sense of optimism for the future of the state.