Thanks to Marty Owings of KFAI Radiofor the above picture.
On February 8, 2010, Radio KFAI sponsored a gubernatorial candidate forum at their studio. Present for this interview were DFL candidates Margaret Anderson Kelliher, John Marty and Tom Rukavina, as well as IP candidates Robb Hahn and Tom Horner. Also present were GOP candidates Marty Seifert, Bill Haas and Tom Emmer.
KFAI will be doing another forum with more gubernatorial candidates on March 25. You can listen at the KFAI website.
The candidates were all first given a chance to briefly introduce themselves and tell why they are running for governor. Here's what they said:
Margaret Anderson Kelliher - She's running because she believes our best days are yet to come, but we have some serious hard work to do to get there. We have some needs on the front of education and health care. As a mom, she knows that. (Wouldn't she know that even if she weren't a mom?) She's a public school parent. She proudly lives in Minneapolis but grew up on a small dairy farm in southern Minnesota. (Now there's something no one has heard before. What a surprise!) She thinks that's an important piece. (Huh?) Because the governor is the great equalizer in the state, making sure that people are treated fairly and making sure that every part of the state is growing and has a plan for growth into the future. (Our governor does that? Our current governor? Pawlenty? MAK is not thinking on her feet today!)
Tom Rukavina - He's running for governor because he really loves this state and he hates seeing what has happened to it in the last ten to twelve years. He grew up in the little mining town of Virginia, MN, where he was taught the value of a good education and of having a good job. He's tried to do that for the last 24 years at the Capitol. He's been the person who has tried to make sure that we still have a manufacturing base in this country. He wants to make sure that our kids have an affordable education, particularly higher education. He's concerned with tuition increases at both the University and in our MNSCU system, and even our private colleges. It's really terrible, and we have to make sure education is one of our top priorities. And that's why he's running for governor. (The only thing I can comment on for evaluation purposes is the use of the crutch word "um." Otherwise Tom got his point across quite well.)
Bill Haas - He brings a different perspective to the office of governor. As a business owner, he works every day with small business owners around the state of Minnesota. These are the salt of the earth people who keep our economy going. They're having a lot of problems and they're struggling. So are their employees. He's been listening to them. He served ten years in the House of Representatives and was the mayor of Champlin where he planned and developed the city. (My son's ancestor on his father's side founded the city of Champlin. It was planned and developed long before Haas became mayor.) He's been able to bring people together to make things happen. That is what's important. We have a lot of problems we have to solve with the State. We have a great state. We have a lot of resources; we have a lot of untapped resources and good people. We just need to bring these people together so we can solve the problem we're under and move forward again and get this economy up and running. (Haas has too many double starts and uses "uh" as his crutch word. His main thing is to bring people together. He says nothing of what he will do for the vulnerable population of MN.)
Tom Emmer - He's running for governor because he thinks the next governor of this state should understand first hand how hard it is to run a business in this state. The next governor of this state should understand what it's like to struggle to meet a payroll and having the personal experience of meeting a payroll but not getting paid because you're the owner of the business. It's important, and he'd like to be involved in redesigning government in the state of Minnesota. We need to once again establish what the priorities are that we expect from government. We need to redesign our government to meet those priorities. We need to lower the cost of doing business in this state to not only keep the jobs we have right now but to once again make Minnesota the place of investment and opportunity for new jobs that drive our cities, our towns, our communities. (He's not the best speaker I've ever heard; not by a long shot. He sounds angry and whiny. He's a boring speaker, too.)
Marty Seifert - His two main reasons for running for governor are his two kids. He wants to make sure that Minnesota offers the same opportunities for his kids as he and his five brothers had growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota. His dad was able to raise six kids on an eighth grade education. When he was growing up the biggest employers in Minnesota were private sector and now three of the top five employers are government. Two weeks ago he and his wife had to sit for nine hours doing paperwork for their small business. If they lived in any neighboring state, they wouldn't have had to do any. For him it's about downsizing, rightsizing and economizing government, growing the private sector, and allowing an opportunity for people to grow and thrive and for the business sector to grow again. Minnesota is a wonderful place to raise a family or we wouldn't all be here, but it's a tough place to do business. (Marty Seifert sure talks fast. Slow down a little bit, Marty. On the plus side, he doesn't use any obvious crutch words or double starts. He's got a pleasant voice. He doesn't sound angry. He's not whiny. He sounds very reasonable. Were I Republican, I would vote for him. But I'm not so I won't. I would recommend him to my Republican friends who I know would never vote DFL. I think that Seifert is the best of the Republican candidates. I'd sure rather have him than Emmer or Haas. It's a moot point, though, as the next governor is definitely going to be DFL. Seifert is a typical Republican who thinks that we have too much government. If our government is not in top shape, it's the fault of the Republicans, since it's been a Republican administration in Minnesota for quite some time now. So if you don't like the way things are, blame Pawlenty and his administration.)
Tom Horner - Like many of these candidates, he brings the experience of starting and operating a successful small business that he's run for the past twenty years. He's proud that in all of that time, he's been able to provide good benefits and good pay for all of his workers. Through good times and bad they've never had to lay off a person because of economic conditions. That takes leadership. He spent more than thirty years in Minnesota public policy and politics working on issues and bringing people together around a vision; around a clear sense of how to make a great state an even better state. The real reason he's running is that we're in a year, 2010, that is going to require a different kind of leadership. When you have single party government that doesn't work in Washington and shared party government that's not working in Minnesota, there needs to be an alternative. He says we're going to hear a lot of good ideas tonight. He's the one candidate who can take the best of those ideas and make them work for Minnesota. (Horner doesn't use many crutch words or double starts. He's a pretty good speaker. Not an exciting speaker, but not too terribly dull, either. He's reasonable. He's probably the best of the Independent Party candidates as far as governorship potential. He seems intelligent.)
Rob Hahn - He's a true outsider. He's running as a small business man, a St. Paul resident, and an author. He brings a different perspective to this race. He's never been affiliated with the Democratic Party and he's never been affiliated with the Republican Party. He's not saying that's a bad thing, but he thinks we're at a point in our state where we need fresh leadership; someone who can reinvigorate the electorate and get them excited about politics and politicians once again and get rid of the cynicism. Too often he and his friends sit around and bemoan what they don't like about government. The main reason he got into this election is because he has something to offer. He has more than something to offer. He can sit around and complain or he can put his hat in the ring, and that's what he's done. As a small businessman, he knows we have to be more fiscally responsible as a state and be more business friendly. (Rob Hahn is a good speaker. I didn't catch many crutch words or double starts at all. Plus he has good tone of voice, vocal variety and voice inflection. He projects his voice well. I'd say he's in the top half of tonight's speakers as far as showing enthusiasm. I'd rank John Marty first in enthusiasm and passion for his topic, then Rukavina, Kelliher and Hahn.)
John Marty - He's running for governor because he thinks we have to invest in a bigger and better future. That means partly in good business investments and partly good investments in human infrastructure. That means investing and making sure that everyone has health care. Not 92%; not 95%; not health insurance, but health care. It also means investing in schools so that we have a system where all of our kids get higher education opportunities and affordable higher education opportunities. Minnesota has always thrived compared to other states and compared to other countries because we invested in our people. We've slipped backwards in that and now the consequence is that we can't even provide health care to everyone. It's a shame. He's running for governor because he knows we can change that. (John Marty is an excellent speaker. He speaks with passion and enthusiasm. He knows that MN can do better and he's not afraid to say that everybody should have health care as a basic right. He's a candidate who reminds me of Paul Wellstone.)
Next there's a set of questions that were submitted by KFAI's listeners. The first question deals with taxes. It's from James in St. Paul.
Tax revenues are down. Some have suggested tax cuts, including elimination of corporate taxes. Is the elimination of corporate taxes a good idea? Why or why not?
Marty Seifert - Minnesota has the 3rd highest corporate tax in the world. He comes from a philosophy that you have less of what you tax and more of what you subsidize. If you tax job providers, you will have fewer of them in the state. We are competing in a world economy. It's about being competitive throughout the United States and competitive throughout the world. We have very uncompetitive tax rates when it comes to business tax rates in Minnesota. He doesn't think he's being unrealistic in thinking that we can bring those tax rates down. We must bring down those tax rates if we're going to grow those big companies like we had when he was a kid, such as Dayton-Hudson, 3M and Honeywell. They were the biggest employers in the state of Minnesota, and now their divisions are all going elsewhere. We need to be able to downsize the tax system so the businesses can upsize in Minnesota and grow those jobs here. (Basically, Seifert wants less government and less taxes, especially corporate taxes. He says nothing of all the things that taxes do for Minnesota, such as good roads, nice parks, a good educational system, affordable higher education, and all the other things that taxes pay for. Hasn't he noticed all the potholes in the roads? Hasn't he heard about the atrocious state of our public schools? Doesn't he know that they have no money and that property taxes have gone sky high? Apparently he's not very well informed.)
Tom Emmer - It's time to rethink how we deliver government in the state of Minnesota, and frankly across this country. Big government, which is the idea that is typically offered by the other side of the aisle, doesn't work. That debate is over. Just look at Massachusetts, Michigan and California. It doesn't work. We can't continue to sustain the pace we're on. We need to redefine what the priorities are that we expect from government and then redesign government to meet those priorities. When it comes to revenues and taxes, you have to rethink how you do the tax structure. When you tax production, it has a negative impact. We should be looking at more of a consumption based tax. The governor had a group that put out the twenty-first century tax reform proposal last year that included some references to value added taxes and that sort of thing. We really do have to rethink that whole tax structure. (Emmer, that debate is not over. Come on over to this side of the aisle. You'll feel better and you might even lose all that anger in your voice. Don't worry about redesigning government. You should start with redesigning your Republican party. Savvy?)
Bill Haas - In November of 2009, another 700 jobs left the state of Minnesota. The reason why they left is taxes, cost of doing business and regulations. This is happening and it continues to happen year after year. As we lose more businesses out of the state, we have less revenues. The state has somewhat of a problem with revenues, but we also have a spending problem. That's what we have to take action on first. Get a handle on our spending. The problem with our state budget is that once you're in, you're always in, and nobody looks at your spending again. They only look at the new spending. You can't do that in a business. A business does zero-based budgeting. We look at everything on an annual basis to evaluate our programs. That's not being done at the state level. We need to implement zero-based budgeting, put in sound business accounting and budgeting practices so we can really see what we're spending money on. After that we can go after the tax system and we can modify and redo the tax system and simplify it and we can reduce taxes in this state. (Say Bill, did you know that the State is non-profit? It's biggest concern is taking care of those who can't take care of themselves. It's other big concern is to regulate businesses in order to protect the consumer. Treating the state as though it were one of your for-profit businesses is not going to work. We've seen what tax cuts do. Look at our roads. How is your car handling all the potholes? Schools are overcrowded. Some are going to a 4-day week because they can't afford to stay open for 5 days. Tuition for higher education is becoming unattainable. Meanwhile, Pawlenty cuts income taxes. The result is high property taxes. Sorry, Bill, but your analysis just doesn't cut it. Stick with your private business and stay out of state government.)
Tom Rukavina - He heard this story before back in 1999 and 2000. Pawlenty and his cohorts said let's cut the income tax and we'll have all these jobs created. The Ventura administration created a couple of jobs. This, however, is the first time in the history of this state that a governor in eight years has less jobs and actual real jobs than when he started. The same thing holds true on the national level. It was thought that if we cut taxes and the estate taxes, we're going to have all these jobs. Maybe they took their money and put the jobs in Indonesia or in China or wherever. Rukavina thinks we need to look at the tax structure and reward companies that locate their jobs and keep their manufacturing base in this country. He maintains that the loss of companies to overseas locations is why this recession is almost a depression. We should penalize corporations that move their jobs overseas with our tax money that we gave them. (This makes the most sense of anything I've heard yet on this question. Go Tom Rukavina!)
Margaret Anderson Kelliher - The outright elimination of the corporate tax at this time would actually add a two billion dollar additional budget hole on top of what we have already. So we're really looking at, then, a 10 to 12 billion dollar hole. What we have to do is be sensitive to the issue of business taxation in this state. A reasonable plan is to do some phasing down of the corporate tax over time as long as we're balancing the rest of the tax system. It has to start with a fair tax system. Right now, our current tax system is not as fair as it could be. She thinks there is an opportunity for us to attract in more manufacturing in the state of Minnesota. Near market manufacturing, where it's going to get expensive because of energy costs over the next twenty to thirty years for components to be shipped overseas and then back again. We have an expertise in manufacturing in this state. We should be able to grow that in to near market manufacturing jobs. (This is one of the best responses I've ever heard from Kelliher. This is good stuff.)
John Marty - Frankly, the idea of cutting corporate taxes right now when we have a big deficit is probably not realistic. He thinks we should focus our tax on progressive taxes, especially progressive income taxes. Right now the idea that we're going to be cutting corporate taxes is just a non-starter. What we can be doing to help business is supporting the Minnesota Health Plan, a single-payer bill that will take the health care burden off of businesses, which is the number one burden and well above government regulation and taxes as far as what is holding businesses down. We have to fix that and make sure we address the need of having a well trained, well educated work force. That's the most important single thing that employers need. The idea of cutting corportate taxes right now is just not realistic. (John Marty has great ideas. Speech evaluation: focus your thoughts to eliminate double starts. Good logical ideas on the subject.)
Rob Hahn - He thinks we've got the workforce and he thinks it's well trained. We need to continue to do that. It makes sense to work toward an elimination of the corporate tax. We can't do it overnight; it has to be done gradually. Something has to be done immediately to give these employers incentive to go out and hire more employees. Not just does the corporate tax need to be reduced, but there has to be some incentives for corporations to hire new workers. That will get people working again and gets those people paying income taxes. It will help the companies grow. Then they can contribute to the overall good of the economic society here in Minnesota. For too long, we've been too unfriendly to businesses big and small. We need to do more to do what's right for those businesses instead of looking at them as just fat cats. (This was a great answer from Rob. Evaluation: gather thoughts before starting a new sentence; this will help eliminate all the double starts. One the plus side, it's obvious that Rob has thought about this for quite some time. He has definite ideas about businesses in Minnesota.)
Tom Horner - This is a great issue to start our discussion tonight because it brings into sharp focus the challenges that Minnesotans are going to have to decide in moving forward. The fact is, almost exactly a year ago the Republicans proposed a package of economic reforms including changes in the corporate income tax. At about the same time, the DFL chair of the House tax committee was making virtually the same proposals. Republicans shot it down because it would have required an increase in other taxes; Democrats shot it down because it didn't appeal to a lot of their constituencies. Where there was 90% agreement, there was also stagnation. Of course we have to move forward on some of these issues; of course we have to look for the future; of course we have to be competitive. But we can't take individual issues and say let's deal with corporate income tax in isolation from spending. We need a comprehensive policy that says, "How are we going to grow Minnesota? How are we going to move into the future?" (Horner has a good comprehension of corporate tax issues. He gets his ideas across clearly. He obviously researched his topic.)
The second question of the evening comes from Nancy in Fergus Falls.
What do you plan to do to improve early childhood care and education in our state? How can we improve the dental and mental health of our youngest citizens and improve access to care?
Tom Horner - We need to make a bigger investment in early childhood education. Any investment made in this area is returned many times over. When we have half of our students coming into kindergarden unprepared to learn, and not just children coming from communities of poverty, but children coming from all communites, that's a tragedy. We need to take a look at education as a whole picture and make the smart investment. That's going to require taking a look at teacher pay. We ought to pay good teachers whatever it takes to keep them in the classroom. We need to also sit down with Education Minnesota and figure out how we get rid of the bad teachers because any amount that we pay a bad teacher is too much. On the dental, part of the problem is the legislature cuts reimbursement to dentists and then wonders why dentists aren't able to provide care. So we need to take a look at health reform and make sure that it's working for everybody.
Marty Seifert - The primary educators of children are their parents. We can't lose track of that. Also, there was a proposal in the legislature that Governor Pawlenty was warm to and the Senate Democrats were warm to, which was a scholarship program to let parents choose the best method of educating their kids. Right now we have Head Start, which is income based for some kids but doesn't always produce the desired results in that particular program. Right next door is an ECFE program which is doing much better. We need to do a thorough analysis of what the best programs are and then let parents vote with their money to determine what the best product would be for their kids. The scholarship program made a lot of sense. Maybe Rukavina and Kelliher could explain why they thought it was a bad idea. We had two of the three legs that were in agreement that parents should be empowered to educate those kids. On the dental issue, reimbursements are obviously part of it and also educating more dentists. If we don't have more and more people to be providers, we're going to have trouble. (Marty, the primary educators of children are not the parents for the simple reason that most families have two working parents now. When do you think they're going to have time to educate their own children? Not only that, but many parents don't have the patience to educate their own kids. That's why we have teachers and schools. The best thing to do is try to find more good teachers and get the bad teachers out, tenure or no tenure.)
Tom Emmer - He thinks that on the issues of early childhood education, dental and medical, the way to solve the problems is not by throwing more government and more money at it. He agrees with Marty Seifert that the highest authority in the education of kids should be the parents. The parents should decide where and how their kids get educated. He thinks there's too much state involvement. He totally disagrees with John Marty regarding health care. The issue is not whether or not government should be providing more health care. The issue is how much is government hurting the system and raising costs. We need to start making health care more affordable by inserting market forces into our health care system. That would be competition. (It's hard to listen to Emmer because he stumbles so much with his words. Way too many double starts. He's boring, too, plus he doesn't know what he's talking about. He should get out of the way and let John Marty do his thing with the Minnesota Health Plan. Emmer is just another Republican who doesn't care one iota about how many people don't have health care and health insurance. My reaction to Tom Emmer: eeewwwwwwwwwwwwwww!)
Bill Haas - This is an issue that has been discussed in the legislature year after year after year and it doesn't seem to come to a fruition of the problem. It's time to dismantle the whole system and come up with one system that will work. We've got too many different programs going. Let's consolidate and go into one program. Then we can focus the resources to the children and start the Early Childhood Education and really start gearing to what it should be: preparing kids for grade school. Rather than having all these different curriculums all over the place on different levels, let's get them all on one level of curriculum so that we can move the kids forward. As far as the medical and dental insurance, there's a lot of people who are covered throughout the state by the small business owners of this state. So they do have access to medical and dental (What world do you live in, Bill?) It's just more of an issue through public programs. He says he noticed the other day that a school district has actually implemented a dental and medical facility into their school district now as a pilot program. (Bill Haas definitely is not going to be the next governor. He doesn't understand what Minnesotans need and want. Also, I thought Republicans believed in the free enterprise system for everything. Now here's Bill Haas saying we can only have one program for early childhood education. Make up your mind, Haas, you can't have it both ways.)
Tom Rukavina - "Early childhood is very important. A good moderate Republican governor who I served under, Arnie Carlson, believed in it so much that he actaully supported putting more state money into early childhood education. He was a moderate Republican, unlike my three friends to the right of me. Representative Emmer, I don't know what country you're living in, but we do have a free market system in our health care system right now. You're shaking your head over there. Last year United Health Group made 3.8 billion dollars in one of the worst economies we've had since the Great Depression, making money off of people's sickness. We have to look at that. Finally, Representative Seifert, you talk about scholarships. You took over some of the wealthiest school districts in 2001 and you said the economy would grow and we would pay for that. But you never paid for that so where would you get money for scholarships and what poor people would you take it away from this time is something I'm wondering about."
Margaret Anderson Kelliher - "Nancy's question in Fergus Falls is something that I'm passionate about. I'm passionate about it because I'm a mom. I was able to stay home with my kids for awhile. I did ECFE but I also had the experience of having a great nursery experience for them. The fact is that we only spend one percent of our state budget on our earliest young kids, ages zero to five. I think we should work toward making that two percent of our state budget over the next few years. The return on investment is amazing. For every one dollar we invest, a $12 return on investment, lower early special education costs, lower correction costs later on, and lower remedial education costs. This is an issue that is very important that we should make a centerpiece of what we're going to do. It helps close the achievement gap, but bigger than that, it maximizes the potential of those youngest learners. The other piece is, I'm proud of the work we've done to expand health care to 40,000 more Minnesota children. (MAK is good to go on Early Childhood Family Education and related issues. The other candidates should listen to her on this one. She's been there and done that. The people who have personally experienced ECFE are the ones who know the most about it. I had my son Marcus enrolled in that when he was little. They had programs for the parents, too. I felt that it benefitted my child in many ways.)
John Marty - "Early childhood education is the best investment we can make for the future. Some have confused the difference between Head Start, which is a full time program for at risk kids, and Early Childhood Family Education, which is a few hours a week for all kids. We need to focus on both. We have to make sure that kids who are particularly troubled have the additional attention they need. But it's not just early childhood education. It's also making sure we have affordable child care, so I've been proposing that we fully fund the sliding fee child care program so every working parent can have their kids in a safe, secure, solid place for them to have child care and education at the same time. For health care, the whole idea that we're going to try to cover a few more kids with dental care or something, that doesn't work. We have to make health care, including dental care and mental health care, available as a right to all kids." (John Marty would be a great governor. He's the progressive leader that we have long been looking for. He holds the same principles and values as Paul Wellstone did. But could he win the general election in November? Are there enough progressive liberal voters in Minnesota to get him elected? How much grassroots effort are DFLers prepared to put into the election of the candidate who is the most progressive?)
Rob Hahn - "I agree with Speaker Kelliher that we can spend more money, but I think it's got to come from the existing pot. I don't think it can be created, especially in these economic times. I had a thorough discussion with a reporter friend of mine today about education. When the state is spending so much of its budget on education, that we need to look at every place the money is being spent on a yearly basis, like we would operate a business. What's working and what's not, and get rid of what's not working. We need to look at expanding some of the charter schools. Granted, some of them have not done so well, but I know a number of them that have. I like when the parents, the teachers and the administrators are all involved and all have something in it. Frankly, I think we have to work more closely with Education Minnesota and other unions. They have to adapt to the current day and age. Their membership has to adapt and realize that the economy has changed and they can't expect what they used to in the past and still have a functioning educational system here in Minnesota." (I don't think that Hahn knows as much as Kelliher or Marty do about this issue.)