Several candidates for area political offices answered forum-style questions recently at Ogilvie High School. Among them were Minnesota Sen. Dave Brown (R-District 16) and his DFL challenger, Ogilvie native Sally Knox.
During her introduction, Knox explained why she is seeking public office.
“I looked at my kids and I thought the time is now,” she said, adding that the state needs common-sense solutions and lawmakers who can work across party lines. “So that my kids and your kids inherit a better Minnesota than I did.”
Brown used the time to point to his positions on various Senate committees, including the agriculture and rural economics, capital investment, commerce and consumer protection, energy, utilities and telecommunications and higher education. He said his plans would improve the environment for jobs and supports a flat tax in Minnesota.
Q: Minnesota’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average. What are we doing right?
Brown: He said that although the joblessness rate is lower, the state could be doing better.
“What oil is doing for North Dakota, mining will do for Minnesota,” Brown said. A faster mining permit process would create more jobs now, he added.
Knox: She agreed that the state could be doing even better than it is.
“The fact remains that people are still unemployed,” Knox said. “One of the ways we can put people back to work is making sure they can go back to school to learn the skills they need.”
She also said the state could use a better small business climate.
Q: The state’s Medicare program is under federal investigation for overpayments to HMOs. How far back should this audit/investigation go?
Knox: “Government should absolutely be good stewards of the people’s money,” she said. Knox said the audit should go back as far as it needs to in order to uncover the waste.
“Just because an HMO is a nonprofit doesn’t mean it isn’t owned by a private corporation,” she said, adding that state-run programs shouldn’t be operated by private corporations in the first place.
Brown: He said the audit should go back at least 20 years when the HMOs began managing the program.
“I’m not going to be here bashing our private sector,” he responded. “We need to find out why the health department failed in its job to provide oversight on these programs. They need to pay it back, but the private sector is a very important part of Medicare.”
Q: Property taxes are high for many Minnesotans. What are your plans for Local Government Aid?
Brown: “My plan for property taxes – we need to get the economy going again,” he said, stating that a strong economy would lessen the reliance on local property taxes.
Brown said a trust should be created that would pay down this type of taxes.
Knox: “Whenever we did away with the homestead credit in the Legislature, we hurt a lot of farmers and a lot homeowners,” she said, calling the move “unprogressive” and wrong. “LGA helps, especially in rural Minnesota.”
Q: What is your stance on the Voter ID proposal?
Knox: She said she doesn’t believe in legislating through the state constitution.
“If we truly value our veterans and if we truly value our students, who are the future of our state, we would value their right to vote,” she said, adding that she does not support the constitutional amendment.
Brown: He called it a good amendment. “You’re right. It would keep some people away from the polls – the people who shouldn’t even be voting in the first place.”
He said constitutional amendments are a “bipartisan” way of legislating, pointing to the Democratic support of the Legacy amendment a few years ago.
Q: What should the state do about it’s projected budget deficits?
Brown: He touted the small surplus some economic projections have indicated as “results” of the current Legislature holding down spending.
“I disagree with this idea that there’s going to be budget shortfalls,” he said, adding that he disagrees with Gov. Mark Dayton’s call to raise taxes.
Knox: “I support a balanced approach to solving the state budget shortfall,” she said, saying she would like to see a combination of cuts and tax increases.
“We do need to get in there and weed out government waste,” Knox said. “But simply cutting taxes for everybody is not going to do it.”
Q: What are your plans for job creation?
Knox: She admitted that she doesn’t have any experience in bringing jobs to the state, stating she has been busy going to school, raising her children and working.
However, she would work to encourage job growth “by lowering taxes for small businesses and lowering their fees,” she said.
Brown: “The biggest single thing we can do in Minnesota is get the mines up and running in northern Minnesota,” he said. “It’s going to take thousands of jobs, put millions into the Minnesota school trust fund, and I support it.”
Q: How do we reinstate civility in the governing process?
Brown: “On the floor of the Senate, I don’t see a lot of incivility,” he said. “How much of your principles and beliefs are you going to give up in order for everyone to get along? I’m not willing to compromise just so I can say I brought sides together.”
Knox: “The reason we have civility on the floor of the Senate is because when one side is talking, the other isn’t even in the room,” she said. “We both believe in God, but there’s a reason why there’s a separation of church and state, because those beliefs hold no room for compromise.”
In their conclusions, each candidate expressed reasons why they believe they would make a better lawmaker.
“I’ve never had a lot of money in my life,” Knox said. “I raise my money on a budget. My kids are depending on me. I do not want to see my child drive across a bridge and watch that bridge fall into the water. We are not making this a better state.”
Brown pointed to his ability to vote in conscious and not his party as a reason to re-elect him.
“I’ve voted against my party on more than one occasion because I felt it was the right thing to do,” he said, adding that he wanted more of the bonding bill to focus on roads and bridges.