Candidates discuss budget, constitutional amendmentsQuestions about the state budget and funding were on the minds of attendees at the Minnesota House and Senate candidate forum Thursday evening sponsored by the Red Wing League of Women Voters.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Questions about the state budget and funding were on the minds of attendees at the Minnesota House and Senate candidate forum Thursday evening sponsored by the Red Wing League of Women Voters.
Candidates fielded a total of 11 questions from an audience that nearly filled the City Hall council chambers; three of those questions dealt with the state budget.
“We have to prioritize,” Tim Kelly said when asked about his solution for balancing the budget.
Kelly, a two-term House incumbent, added that under the current budget, the state didn’t actually cut education and health and human services funding, but decreased those departments’ rates of revenue increase.
“You see that that’s where the priorities are,” he said. “That’s a good thing. We need to educate our children and we need to take care of vulnerable people.”
Democratic opponent John Bacon said his solution is to tax wealthy residents.
“You really have to look at where the state is getting revenue and where there are opportunities,” he said.
Those opportunities include looking at small tax increases to make up for large deficits, Bacon said.
“Does it make more sense to mortgage our children’s future than it does to ask some of our most fortunate Minnesotans to chip in some more dollars?” he asked, referencing the state’s decision last year to delay state funding about $2 billion in aid to schools.
Senate candidates John Howe and Matt Schmit answered the same questions the House candidates did. Incumbent Howe called for tax reform and moving away from a reliance on income and property tax to create a balanced budget.
“We have to have a more stable and predictable funding environment,” Howe said, adding that the state should move toward a consumption tax.
Democrat Schmit said that when determining funding, not only do priorities need to be determined, but legislators also need to have an “honest discussion” about where cuts can be made.
“Where can we cut?” Schmit said. “Not all options have been on the table. If we’re going to act like adults, all options need to be on the table.”
Candidates also were asked about funding for health and human services and how they would repay public schools after the state shifted $2 billion away from education in the 2011-12 budget.
All candidates agreed that the state should be involved in the silica sand mining debate, but that its role should be limited to conducting studies and providing local governments with information. Counties and cities, the candidates said, should ultimately make the decision on whether to allow mining in their areas.
“We want to make sure that we keep local control,” Kelly said, echoing statements made by the other three candidates.
The candidates also agreed on the importance of collective bargaining rights.
They were more divided on the issue of the voter ID constitutional amendment proposal.
Republicans Howe and Kelly said technology must be used to improve the integrity of elections.
“There are so many things that you need a valid ID for,” Kelly said. “There’s no reason to not have a requirement.”
Schmit and Bacon both said requiring IDs at the polls is a solution in search of a problem.
All four candidates agreed that the same-sex marriage amendment vote did not need to go on the ballot.
“I’m not convinced that it needs to be in our Constitution,” Howe said. “Whether the amendment passes or fails, nothing changes.”
Schmit added the issue has divided Minnesotans unnecessarily.
In addition to policy questions, candidates answered questions about their working styles, outlining their strategies for communicating with constituents and how they would work to compromise with legislators from other parties.
The forum can be viewed on Channel 6 or at redwing-mn.pegcentral.com/index.php.