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

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
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.”

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.

“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?

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?

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.

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.

Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/26/2013 - 09:35 am.

    Same-old, same-old

    Yet another country club Republican who blames the state’s fiscal woes on the health and human services budget, touts charter schools as the solution to education, and who hems and haws around the social issues that have defined the party for years (“I’m not one of those hillbillies, but Lord knows, they’re the base!”). Haven’t we heard this one before?

    Incidentally, anyone whose public service experience is limited to raising funds for candidates from wealthy donors is a political neophyte.

  2. Submitted by Susan McNerney on 04/26/2013 - 09:42 am.

    So basically

    it’s another republican who seriously believes there is enough “waste” in state government to pay for first world services while slashing taxes on his banker buddies, and who thinks $7 an hour as a minimum wage is not a problem.

    I believe Minnesota has already voted on this guy, and rejected him. His name was Mitt Romney.

  3. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 04/26/2013 - 10:19 am.

    Reform government,

    improve business climate…

    Isn’t that what the State Legislature did for the last two years while the GOP was in control?

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/26/2013 - 10:48 am.

    I’m not hearing “fire in the belly”.

    Pretty vague and generic answers.

    Now where have we heard about “running government like a venture capitalist” before?

  5. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/26/2013 - 10:49 am.

    Boy, have we ever heard this song-and-dance before !!

    Obviously, Mr. Honour is a great admirer of Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, and it’s fair to say that Mr. Honour would love to give us more of what Pawlenty gave us. If you liked Tim Pawlenty, you’re gonna love Scott Honour if he should ever sit in the governor’s chair.

    His views are what you could expect of a Mergers and Acquisitions guy.

    Do we want a Mergers and Acquisitions guy at the head of Minnesota government?

    After reading his views on how great the minimum wage is, how we need to reduce regulation of business, and how he’d like to create an environment where people upgrade their Twins tickets and have a smooth drive up 94 to Cabela’s on the weekend, I thought there was some similarity in his thinking to…but what was it ? I couldn’t quite remember…

    Then, YES, I found it – he’s on the Board of the Center for the American Experiment !!

    These are the people who bring “…conservative and free market ideas to bear”. Once in a while, MinnPost runs a column written by one of their people – e.g, they championed the voter ID amendment which Minnesota rejected in the last election.

    Now, Cyndy – you may be batting a thousand with your columns – but don’t you think this association is worth mentioning in this column ?

  6. Submitted by jody rooney on 04/26/2013 - 10:54 am.

    Okay Mr. Honour here’s some food for thought

    1. You can’t find state budget data – give me a break. It’s all public. You could at least look at tax incidence and tax expenditure data before you look at your grand sollution.

    2. Exactly how much skin should my 90 year old mother have in the health care game. I think she does well just to keep track of all the appointments that she has. You would like her broke too?

    3. Clearly you have not read Freakonomics nor did they teach the Hawthorn Effect at Wharton. You might want to do that before you attribute the success at special schools. Although I completely agree with you the administrative burden put on schools because of state requirements to be “parent substitutes” has driven a lot of really good teachers out of the profession.

    4. The state should focus on where they have an economic advantage. Head slap. Why didn’t anyone ever think of that before. I hate to be picky but what exactly do you think they have been doing? Do you see a lot of textile mills? Before you blame taxes you might want to look at what the basically “Tax free” JobZ zones accomplished in terms of real growth rather than merely relocated businesses jobs. You might even look at data that says taxes are far down on the list of priorities for business. I believe that was done by a national group that supports lower taxes. Their research didn’t support their position.

    I do heartily agree that government needs to prioritize what it does at all levels. While it can’t really or shouldn’t really create jobs in the short term through bonding for the construction and repair of public infrastructure (and there is always a back log) it can improve the access and delivery of the factors of production that make this a cost effective place to do business.

    I would first segment thinking on the business world. McDonalds does not have a need for the same skilled labor that the Mayo Clinic or even Medtronic does. Joe’s Hardware in Hinckley faces different issues than Mille Lacs Health Care in Onamia.

    True growth is increasing your state export sector and that can happen anywhere. Just asked the tribes when they started “exporting” entertainment to people outside of their immediate area their communities thrived economically in a way they hadn’t before.

    Mouthing of the party line on social issues show that you have not really given them any thought and are just going along with the party line. So you look like someone who wants to dip into my wallet to put money in yours.

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/26/2013 - 11:06 am.

    KIPP

    By the way, KIPP schools generally limit enrollment of special ed students and limited-english students and have self-motivated students and parents that are committed to a higher level of parental and student involvement and engagement, and the schools negotiate directly with colleges for entrance of students.

    Other than those “minor” differences., it’s all “apples to apples” in GOP land.

  8. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 04/26/2013 - 11:20 am.

    Advice for Scott

    Wouldn’t it be great if a GOP candidate would find a specific regulation that is both stupid and costs lots of money for business to follow or for the state to administrate?

    His dodge on the health care question is illuminating. There must be a few GOP legislators with some ideas on how to answer this question. Maybe some dialogue with them in advance of announcing that you are running for governor would be smart.

    If I was in the DFL, I would not necessarily criticize his success in business. Hopefully, the press can create a spreadsheet to identify the companies that he has been involved in and the impact of his involvement in long term company success, employment levels pre- and post involvement, and some measure of how much capital he extracted in fees rather than received through the long term success of the company.

    I did follow a link to a google earth view of his house. Looks like while the Capitol is being renovated, you could move most of the proceedings there! 🙂

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/26/2013 - 11:33 am.

    New face same story

    Absolutely nothing to see here folks. Yet another republican who thinks he’ll find billions of dollars worth of efficiencies with his private sector magic wand.

  10. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 04/26/2013 - 12:22 pm.

    I love MinnPost Readers

    More vetting, research, and analysis in these few comments than anywhere else on this “new” candidate from the AEI!

  11. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/26/2013 - 12:34 pm.

    I was about to write

    …one of my usual lengthy diatribes, but then I read Jody Rooney’s comment. Bravo!

    “Investment bankers” have destroyed far more jobs in the past half-dozen years than they’ve ever created, and beyond that, well, I refer readers to Mr. Rooney, above.

  12. Submitted by Chris Farmer-Lies on 04/26/2013 - 01:04 pm.

    I predict that being first to announce is the beginning and end of this guy’s political ambitions.

  13. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/26/2013 - 03:55 pm.

    Perhaps Mr. Honour Would Like to Explain to Us

    How the increases in private taxes,

    especially those collected by the financial industry over the past thirty years,…

    are justified.

    As far as I’m concerned, the outrageous salaries pulled down by investment bankers such as himself,…

    as well as the outrageous levels of compensation now reached by executives throughout US business constitute the very definition of “waste, fraud, and abuse.”

    (and why is it that REGULAR workers are told they must be willing to work for the same wage as the lowest workers anywhere in the world, whereas executive workers are able to demand pay which compares favorably to the HIGHEST paid executives in the world, especially when most of the largest companies could LOSE their chief executive and run for YEARS without one with no discernable difference in their operation.)

    Mr. Honour and his Republican cronies will NEVER find the savings they think they will by eliminating government excesses,…

    because the excesses over the past thirty years,…

    excesses that have cost the general public Trillions of Dollar,…

    have ALL been in the private sector.

    If any of us want to save money by the elimination of “waste fraud and abuse,” THAT’s where we need to look for it (and where Mr. Honour, being a beneficiary of it, will never come close to recognizing it, let alone eliminating it).

  14. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/26/2013 - 04:24 pm.

    Minimum Wage

    What was the minimum wage when Scott Honour earned it?

    Now, adjust that to 2013 dollars by factoring in inflation.

    Next, make that the new minimum wage. Because the minimum wage he worked for was not the original minimum wage. It had been adjusted for inflation.

  15. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 04/26/2013 - 06:21 pm.

    Thank you Cyndy for the interview, and

    thank you Scott for being up front with your comments. They have assured me that you are not the person who should be Gov. of Minnesota.
    You would return Minnesota to the regressive years from which we just escaped.

  16. Submitted by Ann Richards on 04/29/2013 - 07:55 am.

    Ho Hum – another fluff piece from Cyndy. This is not an interview, this is his press release.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/29/2013 - 08:43 am.

      In that respect, Cyndy never disappoints…

      …her market. I’m actually suspicious that the interviewees provide both their own questions as well as their answers.

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