Apr 22, 2022 - Politics

Andrew Yang party candidate's changing tune on universal basic income

cory hepola
Screenshot courtesy of Hepola's campaign video

Supporting direct cash payments for families and individuals is a founding principle of Minnesota's newest political party.

  • But Cory Hepola, the first Minnesota candidate endorsed by Andrew Yang's Forward Party, has questioned the idea in the past and isn't sold on implementing the policy on the state level.

The big picture: Cities across the country, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, are experimenting with government-funded unconditional monthly payments as a vehicle for lifting people out of poverty.

  • And Yang, who ran unsuccessfully for president and mayor of New York City, has said his new third party is "how we're going to pass" the policy across the country.

Yes, but: Hepola, whose independent bid for governor was formally endorsed by the Forward Party in March, has expressed skepticism about universal basic income.

  • He told Axios this week that while he now supports the concept, he is "not going to institute a statewide UBI."

Flashback: As a WCCO Radio host, Hepola raised concerns about cost, impact and long-term popularity of direct cash payments.

  • "While the idea of a universal basic income sounds great, I don't know how you pay for it," he said of Yang's presidential campaign proposal in 2019, adding that he worries $1,000 a month "won't be enough" in the eyes of the people after a few years.
  • In another riff on the topic in 2020, he said he's "skeptical" of candidates who "run on free stuff."

Where he stands now: Hepola said his view on the issue as a whole changed after conversations with others, including Yang and his own best friend. Hepola highlighted how the payments could "impact families' lives."

  • He said he sees UBI as more of a federal issue, but would use his platform as governor to "continue to educate, get people thinking about it" and be a resource to local communities interested in launching their own pilots.
  • He does not "at this time" have any specific state-level policy proposals aimed at supporting those local efforts.

What he's saying: Hepola told Axios that his evolution on the issue demonstrates "the beauty of democracy and the beauty of growth" that running as an independent allows.

  • "It's not like a top pillar for us," he said of the issue, which is listed as a "governing" or "core" principle on both state and federal Forward Party websites. "But it's something that, if at a local level they're interested in, then we're happy to have to have conversations about it."

Of note: The Minnesota Forward Party did not respond to a request for comment from Axios.

The intrigue: A section of Hepola's campaign website that expressed support for federal UBI, local pilot programs "and other supportive legislation at the state and local level" last month was later deleted.

  • Hepola said Thursday that his position on UBI "should probably be on" his website and was likely deleted when the campaign rearranged its issues page.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that Hepola expressed skepticism of candidates who "run on free stuff" during a show in 2020, not in 2021.

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