Dean Urdahl is a native of Litchfield and Meeker County, residing on a hobby farm near Grove City in Acton Township. He graduated from Litchfield High School and St. Cloud State University, and spent 35 years as a history teacher at New London-Spicer schools. He and his wife, Karen, have been married 49 years. They have three sons, Chad (Michelle), Brent (Mary) and Troy (Rebecca), 11 grandchildren, and a puppy, Buster.
Urdahl was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2002. He has served primarily on agriculture, education and infrastructure committees. Urdahl also was chairman of the Legacy Committee for four years and the Capital Investment Committee for two years. He currently is the lead Republican of the Capital Investment Committee. Among his significant achievements is authoring legislation to restore the State Capitol building.
Although he is running unopposed this election, the Leader reached out to Urdahl to ask him about his goals in the next two years of the Legislature.
What should the Legislature do in its next session to aid Minnesotans affected by COVID-19?
We should encourage those measures that keep Minnesotans safe and healthy. We must make sure that we have the tools necessary to combat the virus, but also use reason in how Minnesotans are treated. One size does not fit all. Rural Minnesota has different circumstances than the metro area. Vaccinations must be made available for all who want them.
Rural Minnesotans often feel their communities miss out compared to metropolitan areas when it comes to state assistance for cities, schools and roads. How would you like to see these concerns addressed?
School funding is at a basic formula amount that all schools, metro and rural, receive equally. The differences come in categorical spending, where metro schools come out ahead. I have advocated for a task force to study how we fund schools and how to make it more equitable.
Funding for cities is based on Local Government Aid. I believe we need to reexamine the various criteria used to determine amounts. Numbers of stop lights and speeding tickets have been among determining factors.
Regarding transportation, the Minnesota Department of Transportation determines project locations. We have legislatively asked for balance between metro and Greater Minnesota. One item that should be addressed is the inconsistency in funding road projects for towns under 5,000 in population. Sometimes they receive money; last session they didn't. We should also maintain a strong rural bus transit system.
What measures would you support to help farmers facing volatile commodity prices and market disruptions caused by COVID-19?
We are somewhat limited in what the state can do to support farmers. Commodity prices are driven by markets and, to some extent, the federal government. Passing conformity to Section 179 and the resultant tax relief for farmers and small businesses should be done. The state will pay farmers if there are farm losses due to COVID-19, often with loans financed at 0 percent interests.
What do you see as the most important step or steps to bolster rural schools in Minnesota?
To bolster rural schools, I was chief author of a bill to change the small schools revenue formula and make schools of up to 1,500 pupils eligible for funding. Had it passed, this would have increased funding for small schools by $29 million. We must also make sure that broadband capabilities are expanded to all school districts that are currently underserved.