Kahn ready to raise taxes to support U

by Chris Vetter

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, likes to compare her political career to her zeal for marathons.
“I treat issues just like I treat marathons,” Kahn said. “I have a lot of tenacity and I keep on working hard at it.”
Kahn has represented the University’s district in the Minnesota House of Representatives since 1972. Her district encompasses both the East and West Bank campuses except Middlebrook Hall.
Typically, Kahn receives more than 60 percent of the vote, while her Republican opponents get less than 30 percent.
Kahn said she has worked hard for the district during her 24 years in office, fighting for women’s rights and environmental protection. She helped pass legislation to fund battered women’s shelters and women’s athletics, and has expanded bike paths on the Minneapolis campus.
Last session, Kahn worked unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would prohibit the University from renovating its southeast steam plant. The renovations would allow the plant to burn coal, gas and a variety of fuels. Kahn wants the University to build a gas-burning plant because she says that type of plant would pollute less than the coal plant.
University officials want to go ahead with their renovation plan because they say it will be less expensive and will not pollute more than a gas-burning plant.
In 1975, Kahn sponsored the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, which requires restaurants to set aside 30 percent of their seats for non-smoking customers and forbids other business employees from smoking indoors at the workplace.
Her work on these and other bills earned Kahn 100 percent approval ratings in 1994 from both the National Organization for Women, a women’s rights group, and the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group.
University student Tom Gromacki, a member of the Minnesota College Republicans who is running against Kahn, did not approve of Kahn’s perfect scores from the two interest groups.
“I’m not sold out to special interests,” Gromacki said.
The Republican party has not settled on a candidate to challenge Kahn for the 59B seat in the November general election. Gromacki and lawyer Don Aldrich are both running for the Republican nomination in the September 10 primary.
Gromacki said Kahn refuses to debate her opponents. Kahn said that is not true, but added she will debate Gromacki only if he wins the Republican primary. She said she debated her competitors three times during the 1994 election.
Critics have called Kahn a “career politician,” but she said she is very proud of her record as a legislator and there is nothing wrong with serving a district for an extended time.
University funding is very important to Kahn. She fought against the closing of General College, and has voted for more funds to be appropriated to the University.
“I’m a strong supporter of education,” Kahn said. “What you need for the University is public money to pay for it.”
Kahn said she is willing to vote for higher taxes if it leads to more funding for the University.
“I have never run on a program of decreasing taxes,” Kahn said. “I don’t believe we are overtaxed.”
After the 1970 national census, district lines were redrawn in 1972. Kahn said the newly drawn district, which still stands today, fits her well.
“I wound up being in a district that was very good for a liberal person to run in,” Kahn said.
Among Kahn’s recent bills was a plan to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16. She said this is a reasonable position, even though it would require a constitutional amendment.
“This will call attention to the fact that children are not getting their dues in the political process,” Kahn said. “If we are worried about them being irresponsible, why do we let them drive?”
Kahn is a former University professor in biophysics and genetics. She received her Masters degree in public administration from Harvard University. She is married with two children and lives on Nicollet Island.