Senator Dan Sparks: Interesting State Fair Poll Results

On the heels of this year’s Great Minnesota Get-Together, the Senate is busy reviewing results from the annual state fair poll conducted at the Minnesota Senate booth. It is an informal and non-partisan survey of the issues discussed in prior legislative sessions and potential topics for 2018. I always find the results interesting and informative. Even though the poll is not scientific, it captures a broad range of views – there were more than 5,300 Minnesotans who answered the questions this year.

Transportation, congestion, and how to pay for fixing our roads and bridges is always a hot topic. This year, the Senate survey asked respondents whether they would favor including toll roads in the Department of Transportation’s long-term strategy to reduce congestion and raise revenue for transportation. With the highest percentage of participants, more than 71 percent believe Minnesota should not consider toll roads as a solution to our transportation problems.

Ditch mowing was another issue that polled high. Lawmakers passed a one-year moratorium on enforcement of a permit that landowners would otherwise be required to obtain to mow or bale hay in ditches along state trunk highways. More than 57 percent of the respondents’ primary concern about mowing ditches in rural areas was the protection of habitat for pollinators and nesting birds. This result raised my eyebrows, because that is not necessarily what I am hearing from my constituents in rural Minnesota. Last session, I voted for the moratorium to provide more time to study this issue.

In 2017, Minnesota lawmakers approved a one-year, $327 million health insurance premium reduction package to help Minnesotans facing disproportionately high premiums in the individual health insurance market. More than 46 percent of participants said Minnesota should continue to provide funding to help lower individual health insurance premiums. In addition, another 31 percent said we should continue to provide subsidies, but with income limitations. This will definitely be a topic of discussion in 2018 because the premium problem is not going away, but the state also cannot continue investing that kind of money without a longer-term solution to our health care challenges.

This year, fairgoers also were asked to rank the best use of state dollars to meet future workforce. The results were: 36 percent support increasing spending for high-school and dual-enrollment career and technical education; 29 percent support providing full or partial scholarships for high school graduates pursuing an associate’s degree or professional certificate; and more than 20 percent support providing incentives to private employers that offer apprenticeships.

For me, the biggest takeaway from this year’s survey was that 44 percent of respondents were from the suburbs, 36 percent from the cities, and just 17 percent from rural Minnesota. That’s understandable, since the fair is held in the Twin Cities, but I also think it is a good reminder that those of us in rural Minnesota need to speak up.

I certainly understand people’s reluctance to participate in politics, but participating in democracy is different. This survey really drives home how important it is for all of us to make our voices heard so metro priorities don’t end up swaying decisions made at the Capitol. You can always call or email me, attend one of my town meetings, or set up a personal meeting. That’s true whether you agree with what I’m doing or not; it’s important to hear all sides of the story from people I represent.

My contact information is or 651-296-9248. You also can keep track of what the legislature is doing on the website,, where you can sign up to follow committees of interest or receive other notifications. There, you will also find a full summary of the State Fair Poll results via a link located under “Information and Publications” near the bottom of the webpage.


This column was first published in the Blooming Prairie Leader.

Senator Dan Sparks
Dan Sparks represents District 27, which includes all or portions of Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Mower, and Steele counties in the southeastern part of the state.

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