Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) and Jeff Johnson (R) squared off in their first one-on-one gubernatorial debate in Duluth Tuesday. The debate was sponsored by the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce and the Duluth News Tribune and live streamed by The UpTake from the Duluth Playhouse. The video of the debate is captioned. Just click on the “cc” button.
Transcript of the debate
Transcript by Susan Maricle
Good morning and welcome. I’m Roger Wedin, Director of Policy and Education at the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Along with my friend and fellow moderator Chuck Frederick, Editorial Page Editor at the Duluth News Tribune, our partner in bringing you these candidate forums.
Couple of acknowledgements this morning. I’d certainly like to thank our friends at the Duluth Playhouse for affording us their facilities. They’ve been very gracious and accommodating in this morning’s event as well as two in the previous past two weeks. I’d also like to thank our friends at the Duluth Superior Community Foundation and their Civility Project, Speak Your Peace.
You were all handed a leaflet as you entered the auditorium this morning. It sets out our expectations for our for our civil discourse this morning. We will ask you to hold your applause until the very end after the candidates have had their closing remarks and I’ve been able to say a few things in closing us out. Ah we will accept no shouting or heckling, no disruptive behavior of any kind will be tolerated. We’ve had great civil debates the last two weeks and we’re anticipating the same this morning.
So with that. Chuck, why don’t you get us started.
Thank you very much Roger. Welcome to everyone who’s here, welcome to those watching at duluthnewstribune.com and also at theuptake.org, and I believe on MyNine TV I think. The candidates for being here especially, thank you so much for for participating and for accepting our invitation. I want to point out that your questions today will be timed. Our timekeeper is sitting in the front row. Kris, Kris Vereecken, of the News Tribune. And she’ll hold up signs letting you know how much time you have left and then when your time is up. And Roger and I of course will enforce that if you decide you’re gonna go over that time.
As incumbent, Governor Dayton, you and your campaign were given the option of speaking first at the beginning of the campaign or having the final say. You chose to have the final say. So with that we will open things with opening remarks, two minutes each on opening remarks. There’s no rebuttals on opening remarks. Each candidate will have four turns to go first, answering first on the questions. But we will start with Commissioner Johnson just to kind of introduce yourself, tell a little bit about your campaign, why you’re running, things like that. And then you’ll also go first answering the first question. But, Commissioner Johnson?
Jeff Johnson: Great, well thank you, thank you to the hosts, and thank you all for being here today. A just a little bit about my background. I was born and raised in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, my wife’s from Crookston, we went to school in Moorhead, at Concordia College. I have spent most of my life in the private sector. Both as an employee and as a self-employed business owner. And during that time, also served in the House and on the Hennepin County board.
And I’m running for Governor because I believe somebody needs to stand up for the forgotten middle class in this state. As Governor, I will focus every day on encouraging the creation of good jobs, good-paying full-time jobs for the middle class, rather than chasing them to other states as we’ve seen in the last few years. And of and of giving our schools the power and the flexibility to hire and promote and reward the very best teachers, rather than tying their hands. And of demanding that government take less money from the middle class, and actually with what it does take, spend it more efficiently and effectively, putting the family budget in front of the government budget for a change.
And I believe Governor Dayton is a very decent man. We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit. But I don’t think he understands the struggles and the concerns of the middle class. Everyone in this room, or at least most of us who have to work, have had to worry about making a mortgage payment or or saving for our kid’s college or finding a job in the private sector. And when you never had to worry about that in your life, I think it gives you priorities that probably don’t serve the middle class as well as they should.
My focus will not as Governor be on the demands of the government bureaucracy or of special interests, but on the needs of the middle class. Working to put more job opportunities into our lives, more great teachers into our kids’ schools, and more disposable income into our pocketbooks. That’s why I’m running for Governor and I’m looking forward to this morning. Thank you.
Roger Wedin: Thank you very much. Governor Dayton.
Mark Dayton: I was born and raised in Minnesota. I’ve lived here most of my life. This state’s been very very good to my family and to myself. I started running for Governor in 2009 because I was concerned about the direction this state was headed. Unemployment was very high, real standards of living were static or falling, our state was in an economic slump, even worse than the the rest of the country. And we were looking at a projected 6.2 billion dollar deficit for the next two years. We owed our schools two billion dollars.
So when I stepped in in January of 2011, I made jobs the number one priority. There are 162,000 more jobs in Minnesota today than there were when I took office. Restoring fiscal responsibility to state government. We balanced the budget, we’re looking at budget surpluses ahead. We paid off the entire 2.8 billion dollars we owed our public schools. And we’ve invested. Raised taxes, income taxes on the wealthiest 2%. And only on the wealthiest 2%. Invested that money in early childhood education, all-day kindergarten, tuition freezes at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU campuses.
We’ve invested in the future of our state. And the results show that we have made that kind of progress. Since January of 2011 our employment increase is 6.1% compared to Wisconsin’s 4.3%, compared to Iowa’s 5.2%, compared to South Dakota’s 4.1%. So we’re doing well. We’re doing better than most other states. Our per capita income is six, seven thousand dollars higher than Wisconsin’s. We’re movin ahead, and I want to continue to keep us going in that direction.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you very much. Well, you both touched on the state’s business climate, and that’s the subject of our first question. It was about a year and a half ago that North Dakota put a billboard up along its Minnesota border, “Open for business.” The suggestion was that North Dakota was open for business while Minnesota was not. And that’s because it came right on the heels of the Legislature enacting two billion dollars in new and increased taxes. Now more recently, revenue is 46 million below forecast, I saw in the news just this week. So the question is, is Minnesota open for business? Or are we not don’t have the business climate that we should have? And Commissioner Johnson we’ll begin with you.
Jeff Johnson: Well, we don’t. And it’s not just North Dakota that has a billboard up. I’ve been told that every state that surrounds us has a billboard or multiple billboards up, saying “Open for business,” and they are drawing our entrepreneurs and in many cases our citizens to their state. And ah Governor, I would disagree with you that everything is rosy. And as I travel around the state, ah people don’t feel that way. They have real concerns about their jobs.
And we’re not creating businesses. The private sector is not creating businesses in this state. The Kauffman Foundation, which is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit, says that over the last 4 years, Minnesota is dead last per capita in the country for creation of businesses. And if you look at the most recent statistics, not old statistics but the ones that came out two weeks ago from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, our job growth rate over the last year in Minnesota is forty-first in the country. And last in the Midwest, behind North and South Dakota and Iowa and Ohio and Wisconsin and Indiana. And it is because we have created a tax climate that is so uncompetitive with the states that surround us. And a regulatory climate that is just overbearing. I hear stories consistently about regulations and permitting in this state. I was talking to a company in southern Minnesota just a couple of weeks ago who said that a very successful poultry company, they wanted to expand in Minnesota. They waited a year to get a permit and they finally gave up. And they expanded in Iowa. And it took ‘em ten days. That is crazy.
This that should not be what’s happening in this state. And, so there are so many things we could do to encourage the growth of business and therefore the gross the growth of careers and good jobs in this state. And we’re moving in exactly the opposite direction right now.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you Commissioner, Governor Dayton I know you have a far different perspective, please.
Mark Dayton: Well, I don’t say that everything in Minnesota is rosy, I say it’s better. Better than it was when I took office, and it’s, it will continue to get better if we stay on the course we’re on now. Ah Commissioner y’know you have a preponderance of of statistics out there, that all of which show that Minnesota is doing better than most other states in terms of this recovery from the Great Recession. And you latched onto one, that some reporter in Wisconsin had found, who wanted to benefit Governor Walker, and takes numbers from March of 2014 and March of 2013. That’s five months dated.
The most recent ah employment statistics from that same Bureau of Labor Statistics is for August of 2014, August of 2013. We gained 44,600 jobs. We’re ranked fourteenth among the states. We lost jobs from January to March of 2014. We had a dip of 5,000 jobs, which we’ve made up and more. So the number had ended in March of 2014, it was an outlier. It was unusually low. And that’s what y’know everybody else can take into account, and you’re so desperate to find something to make Minnesota look bad, that you jump on whatever you can find.
The facts are, the facts are that employment in Minnesota has increased by 6.1% in the last, since I took office. Wisconsin is about 4.3%, Iowa is 5.1%, South Dakota is 4.1%. I mean, people can put up all the signs they want. But that doesn’t reflect reality. And there are more people working – the unemployment rate here in Duluth right now is 4.3%. The unemployment rate in Minnesota is 4.3%. That’s what economists call full employment. Are they the best jobs that we can create in the future? No. Are we going to do better? Yes. We’re gonna work at it, and, to say, to denigrate this state, and to denigrate what the people of Minnesota have accomplished, I think is just it’s wrong.
Chuck Frederick: Commissioner Johnson, one minute.
Jeff Johnson: All right, well I never denigrate Minnesota, because I’ve spent almost my entire life here. Ah but I certainly think you have us going in the wrong direction. And this is another example where you’re ignoring the facts. You can cite to a monthly number but what the Bureau of Labor Statistics told us two weeks ago is, look at our annual number because it’s more accurate than the monthly numbers. And the last annual number we have is exactly what I told you: forty-first in the country. That is where we’re going over the last year since your budget was introduced.
And on top of that, here’s a really important fact that you that you don’t want to acknowledge. And that is underemployment in this state is at about 50%. And when I mentioned that last week, you said “Well that’s nonsense, that’s that’s not a real number.” It comes from your administration, Governor. And it’s not nonsense. It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal to all of the college grads that are living in their parents’ basement. Or the middle-aged men and women who are making 50% of what they were making five years ago. Or the single mom who’s working 2 jobs because she can’t find one good one. Because the good-paying full time jobs are going to other states.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you. Governor Dayton, one minute before we move on Sir.
Mark Dayton: Well, Commissioner, we’ve been through this before. The underemployment rate was determined by the, published by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development before I took office. I don’t interfere with statistics that the department, any department puts out. It would be inappropriate to do so. But the, it stayed the same since Governor Pawlenty was was in office. And, I mean, use common sense. Fifty percent of the people in Minnesota are underemployed? Two-thirds of the college graduates in Minnesota? By the way, they took these two unrelated sets of data and they merged them together and they pushed a button on the computer and that’s what it said. I mean, ask ask college graduates of Minnesota if they think two-thirds of them are underemployed. It just doesn’t make any sense. The way they calculate underemployment, every police officer in Minnesota is underemployed. Half the nurses in Minnesota are underemployed. I mean, use some common sense and some judgment and you’ll find out that yes, we need to create better jobs, we’re absolutely going to do that, but those statistics are just bogus.
Roger Wedin: Thank you gentlemen, let’s move on. Governor Dayton, you championed an increase in the minimum wage that will take Minnesota from having one of the lowest minimum wages to one of the highest. Commissioner Johnson, you’ve said that increasing the minimum wage isn’t necessary. And workers should find higher-paying jobs instead. Let’s talk about that. Governor Dayton, please?
Mark Dayton: Well, Commissioner Johnson says he’s for the middle class. And he’s for lowering taxes on the rich, super-rich, and lowering the minimum wage for people who are working hard, the 300,000 Minnesotans are going to benefit from the increase in the minimum wage. Which before was less than half of the federal poverty level for a family of four. So you’ve got somebody working fulltime, working hard, and they are mired in poverty. I believe in the old-fashioned notion that work should pay. That it should pay off for people. And even raising the the rate to nine dollars fifty cents, which will occur in two years, that’s still only 80% of the federal poverty level for a family of four.
We’re not making people rich, we’re giving them a chance to start to earn the American dream. And those 300,000 people who have more money in their pockets are going to spend that money, most of them locally. Most of them have urgent needs. They’re going to go to local stores, they’re gonna buy purchase goods and services that they couldn’t afford before. If you want to build a middle class, you need to give people a chance to earn that that money through the workplace. Otherwise the rest of us pay the price for their not being able to do so. Earned income tax credit, food stamps, ah public healthcare. We’d much rather have people earning a good living and achieving the American dream through their own work and education than having it otherwise.
Roger Wedin: Thank you Governor. Commissioner Johnson.
Jeff Johnson: My focus as Governor is not going to be on low-wage jobs, on the minimum wage. That has been the focus. It needs to be on what I would call maximum wage jobs. It needs to be on careers that keep our kids in this state. Careers upon which you can raise a family. That’s not what the minimum wage does right now, and I think this belief that the minimum wage is the answer to the problems of the middle class is kinda out of touch. With how the middle class lives and what the middle class wants. They don’t want low-paying jobs, they want real careers in this state, and we’re not growing them right now.
And I’ll go back to that underemployment rate again. I know that you just dismiss that as as a number that is, I think you called it a tangential factoid the other day. It’s not. To all the people who are looking for something real in this state to keep them here. And this is kinda personal for me. Because I I have two boys at home. One is ah 13 and one is 16. Thor is in high school, at the public school high school, and he’s starting to look at colleges. His mother is more interested in it than he is right now, but he’s starting to look at colleges a little bit. He may stay here, he may go somewhere else. But after he graduates, I want him to be a Minnesotan at some point and and start his career here and serve his community here. Raise my grandkids here. And take care of me when I’m old and infirm and cranky. And if we don’t have careers here for for our young people, that is simply not going to be the case and it’s not the path we’re moving on. I don’t think a minimum wage increase is the answer to that. And I did not support the last minimum wage because I don’t think it actually helps the people that we claim to want to help.
Ah, but having said that, I’m also been very clear I’m not going to seek to roll it back because I don’t think the business community needs more uncertainty of a rollercoaster of minimum wage. My focus going forward, however, is not going to be on low wage jobs. It’s going to be on creating a an atmosphere where the private sector wants to create high-paying careers in this state.
Roger Wedin: Great. Thank you. Governor Dayton, would you care to respond?
Mark Dayton: Yes. (clears throat) There are 300,000 Minnesotans who are supporting themselves or supporting their families on minimum wage. And for them, that’s a real increase that makes a huge difference in their lives, the lives of their families. Y’know that’s a much better policy than your desire to lower the income tax on the wealthiest 2%, to reverse what what I accomplished with the Legislature just two years ago. You say you’re for the middle class, you want to lower the minimum wage and lower the tax rate for the super-wealthy. I don’t think that’s a consistent policy.
The minimum wage is a floor. People who are making above the minimum wage are also benefited from that and a competitive environment, as well as from a competitive job environment. When we have 4.3% unemployment in this state, 4.3% here in Duluth, 4.9% up on the Iron Range, we’re getting people working, and the situation we have now is more and more people, companies, have the job vacancy but don’t have the employees.
Roger Wedin: Thank you Governor. Commissioner Johnson, care to respond?
Jeff Johnson: Well, ah again I think this is a basic difference between us. I am not gonna be satisfied or focused on creating more low-wage jobs in Minnesota. That is not what the people need. We need to be creating careers. And I think this is a real difference in our approach to making Minnesota a business climate where entrepreneurs want to start businesses. I don’t even think you understand how that works. Because the policy of Governor Dayton has been to travel around the country, this is the business creation policy, travel around the country and essentially beg businesses to come here by offering them tax breaks and giveaways that no one else gets. That is not how you create a healthy business environment. You create a healthy business environment by having an overall climate, a regulatory and tax climate in this state where businesses and entrepreneurs actually want to start jobs in this state. Not because they get something special. But because it’s a good climate for them to create a business, or for our existing businesses to expand. It’s simply not happening right now.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you both very much. Ah gentlemen, there’s really no reason to look beyond the bridge collapse a couple of years ago in Minneapolis to see that our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges are in desperate need of repair, of upkeep. Ah MnDOT’s own estimate is 12 billion dollars, or 700 million dollars a year for 20 years. Everyone agrees it has to be done, but the question is how are we going to pay for it? Ah Commissioner Johnson, you can answer first Sir. How how would you support paying for our massive infrastructure needs, Sir?
Jeff Johnson: Well, first of all you say that everybody agrees that it has to be done, but it’s not getting done. And it hasn’t been getting done the last four years, and particularly the last two. And the reason is, all of the focus, all of the energy in transportation funding, especially in the last two years, has been on everything but roads and bridges. It’s been on light rail, it’s been on commuter rail, it’s been on high-speed rail, it’s been on streetcars and trolleys and bike paths and sidewalks and complete streets, which is I’ve learned is everything but the street, and our focus needs to be on the form of transportation upon which everyone relies, which is roads and bridges. It simply hasn’t been. Especially since we’ve had all-DFL control of the Legislature, there’s been very little focus on that. That’s where my focus is going to be.
Now the question becomes, “How do you pay for it?” There doesn’t seem to be an interest in doing it at all right now. I will, but how do you pay for it? Number one is priorities. And I know that y’know, Governor Dayton will say “Well that’s just silly. We can’t reprioritize.” Of course we can. It’s what everybody has to do. It’s what families have to do, it’s what businesses have to do. So let’s prioritize first what’s most important, which is roads and bridges.
On top of that, I am actually someone who would support greater bonding, greater borrowing, for our roads. And that that might replace some other projects that we think are pretty cool. But there is very little that is more important in the state than roads and bridges. And I think that there’s nothing better that fits the definition of what we’re supposed to bond for, which is a regional or statewide project of some longterm significance, than roads and bridges. We’re simply not doing that right now.
And and Governor, I I hope you answer this question because I’m a little confused. In our first debate you said “I’m not gonna raise taxes anymore. I’ve already done it, no need to raise anymore taxes.” And last week in our second debate you said one of your top three priorities would be to raise the gas tax. And then after that you walked that back and said “Well I’m not so sure.” So. I’m curious. Are you going to raise the gas tax or not, because I won’t.
Chuck Frederick: Governor Dayton?
Mark Dayton: I’m not gonna raise the gas tax but I’m gonna face the reality and I’m not gonna y’know. It’s not silly to reorder priorities but it is silly, and it’s really disingenuous to tell people that reordering priorities is going to begin to cover this 6 billion dollar gap that we’re told by transportation experts exists between (unclear) state and federal revenues and just maintaining the status quo. I don’t think many people in Minnesota haven’t experienced the decline in quality of our roads and bridges the last couple of decades, who haven’t seen more congestion, more traffic delays. That’s gonna get worse. That’s gonna get worse unless we invest more, and if we don’t invest more, then it’s gonna to continue to get worse.
Reordering priorities? What does that mean? You talk about eliminating the Southwest Light Rail line. That would save the state 121 million dollars. One time. That’s not six billion dollars. Talk about administrative efficiencies. Let’s say you could find 100 million dollars every year for 10 years. That’s a billion dollars. Now you’re 5 billion dollars short of what you need to spend.
I mean so let’s get real here, Commissioner. If you want to invest in infrastructure and make things better, it’s gonna cost money. It’s gonna have to come from somewhere. It’s not gonna come from the federal government, it’s not gonna come from the sky, it’s not going to come from these administrative fictions that you describe. Y’know you either raise revenues or not.
Now the business community said the other last week, they’re not interested in raising money. If the business community doesn’t support any kind of revenue increase for transportation, I can guarantee you, given the politics at the Legislature, there won’t be any increase. But again, you have to say be willing to acknowledge in the same breath what you’re saying. You’re saying then, is we’re willing to allow things to get worse.
It’s going to take 10 years if funds are committed now, by the time you go through right of way acquisition, engineering, studies, all the other has to go on, contracting, the actual project project construction two-three years, it’s a decade before you see those results. The question is, are we going to be foresighted enough to look a decade into the future for ourselves and especially for our kids and our grandkids, or are we gonna pretend that we don’t need to do anything?
Chuck Frederick: Commissioner, one minute.
Jeff Johnson: Well, I’m still confused Governor. Because now you said you’re not going to raise the gas tax but you kinda said you wanted to but the business community isn’t going to let you. And – I’m not going to because we don’t need to. We had the biggest tax increase in history on all Minnesotans by the way, not just rich Minnesotans. Everyone took a hit from these tax increases. We saw the biggest cigarette tax increase we’ve seen in this state. We saw a healthcare tax increase if you’re in the MNsure exchange, we saw for most of you a wheelage tax increase because that power was given to counties if you own a car or a truck, you probably have higher taxes. So it’s not just on rich people.
And also keep in mind that top 2%? That’s a lot of the small businesses in the state that that pay taxes on a pass-through basis. So everybody is paying higher taxes. The biggest increase in history. And now we’re arguing that we can’t even do the most basic function of government without another tax increase? Which is filling our potholes and making sure that we have roads and bridges that can get people around this state. So I I’m still not sure where you stand Governor.
Chuck Frederick: Governor, one minute.
Mark Dayton: I stand as I said last week, one of the one of the possibilities I would consider is the wholesale tax on gasoline. That’s different from the gas tax at the pump. For one, it would generate more revenue. But I can’t raise taxes, and shouldn’t be able to raise taxes myself on anything in Minnesota. It takes the Legislature and the Legislature reflects the will of the people. And as long as there are people like you who are fooling people into believing that there’s all this money lying around, that if there is, please tell us. Y’know, just don’t say “reorder priorities.” Tell – us – where you are going to come up with 6 billion dollars, or even half of that, through reordering priorities, through administrative efficiencies, tell us where that money is. So we can know that we’ve got some step toward a solution of a problem, and not just a campaign speech that claims that we can get something for nothing.
Jeff Johnson: Can I tell him where that money is?
Chuck Frederick: Sure.
Jeff Johnson: Yeah, well, don’t change what I just said, Governor. I didn’t say we’ll find all the money by – in fact, I didn’t even bring up ah efficiencies. I talked about number one, priorities, where we can find a piece of that money. But I believe we ought to start bonding for it. And I know when I brought that up before, I think you said “Well he lives in a fantasy land.” You like to just dismiss everything that others say. I don’t live in a fantasy land. You said I live in a fantasy land because well there’s there’s a lot of important things we put in a bonding bill and it would be too hard to make those choices. Well, government ought to have to make hard choices. And sometimes we can’t fund everything that everyone wants. We gotta say “These are the most important things.” I believe we should beef up the bonding bill and put a transportation bill in it.
Chuck Frederick: Governor, please, thirty seconds and then let’s move on. Please.
Mark Dayton: The Minnesota Department of Transportation now issues bonds, a few under Governor Pawlenty, as a way of financing highway expenditures. And they spend 20% of their state and federal revenues now to pay the interest and principal on those bonds. That’s the policy within the department which has been deemed to be fiscally prudent. If you want to jack that up to get a short-term boost from it, then you’re going to be paying more interest than principal, and have less money for basic roads and repairs. The Minnesota Constitution prevents you from taking the general fund bonding and using that for the trunk highway system. If you want to change the Minnesota Constitution, you have to wait until the election two years later and and do that. And then you’re gonna take away money from Lewis and Clark and Worthington and Luverne and other essential projects that are here. Downtown Duluth, Maurice’s, built because of a bonding project, y’know, you’re, you’re gonna take away, robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Roger Wedin: Okay, thank you gentlemen. Moving on, farmers and agribusiness frequently complain that North Dakota oil shipping is tying up the railroads, impacting delivery of crops to market. Discussion of that issue often leads to the question of pipelines. What is your position on the safe transport of oil, the backlog of commodities to market, and ultimately where do you stand upon the expansion of pipelines? Governor Dayton, we’ll start with you.
Mark Dayton: Well, North Dakota oil is what’s jamming up our our rail system. The amount of oil being sent out of North Dakota has more than doubled in just the last two years. And over 70% of that goes through Minnesota to the markets east of here. So it’s put a tremendous strain on on grain shipments, on coal coming to places like Minnesota Power for electrical generation, propane, which will be more a concern as the months unfold. And y’know we’re managing a tough situation. I met with the Burlington Northern CEO twice now. And we have a conference call set up for later this week. And I’m meeting with some in our Congressional delegation, for a probably this end of this week also. We’ve written the Surface Transportation Board. Until or unless the federal government is willing to stand up and tell the rail companies that they can’t just keep loading overloading the system with oil for their own profits, we’re gonna have this problem. And right now, the way the policies and laws have been written in this state and country for the last 150 years or more, the railroads are essentially free to operate how they choose, whether the cities or counties or states or even the federal government likes it or not. So until we take a stand and say “Okay, we’re not gonna let people just freewheel this, and let farmers suffer, or let others suffer” for these business decisions, we’re gonna have this problem.
Pipelines are are a solution. We should build the Sandpiper Pipeline, we should let the Public Utilities Commission, set up by the Minnesota Legislature, with a good intention to isolate these decisions and especially the routing of these from the political grandstanding that goes on around them now. And the Public Utilities Commission I expect will issue a Certificate of Need, they will look at this the route that’s Enbridge has proposed, as well as other environmentally safer routes, they’ll come up with a route and we’ll have the oil pipeline, and that will help.
Roger Wedin: All right, thank you. Commissioner Johnson.
Jeff Johnson: Ah well I think actually the Sandpiper and other potential pipelines are actually a solution or a partial solution to a problem. And we’re not taking advantage of that. And Governor, your appointees to the PUC are trying to kill the Sandpiper. And I think you ought to take some responsibility for that. Don’t say you support it and then have your people try to kill it and hide behind the process.
Ah we have farmers in Minnesota who simply can’t get their crops to market. I was in Eldred Minnesota last week, just outside of Crookston. And I was talking to Danny, Danny Grunewald, who is who runs the grain elevator there. And he said that this is killing our farmers right now. Because the rail is filled with oil. And we gotta get some of that oil off the rail. And we can talk tough to the railroads all we want. I’m happy to do that. But it’s probably not gonna do much. What we what we have is a potential solution, to build the Sandpiper pipeline. It will help farmers, it will help miners, because that’s it’s a significant problem up here also, the fact that the the rail cars are filled with oil.
Ah and it’s time that we actually took some action on it and moved the process forward, rather than hiding behind the process and saying, “I want to get it done” but really behind the scenes, we’re killing it. Ah and this is, I think this is a common theme that we’ve seen in this administration. Those things that are most important to Greater Minnesota, they’re not getting done. Whether you look at where we’re spending our transportation dollars, whether you look at the the allocation of money for K-12 education, or for LGA, whether you’re looking at some of the regulations that are killing our farmers, some of the water regulations, where the feds are trying to come in and actually regulate the water in people’s ditches, and we’re not standing up to them ah in the Governor’s office right now. This is a very metrocentric administration. And I think the fact that the Governor’s PUC commissioners are trying to kill the Sandpiper is a perfect perfect example of that.
Roger Wedin: Thank you Governor. Would you care to respond?
Mark Dayton: Well it’s just not true. Y’know I appoint members to the Public Utilities Commission, you’re correct, Commissioner, I’ve appointed 3 of the 5, but I appoint judges as well. And I don’t call judges up and tell them how they should decide cases. And similar here, the Public Utilities Commission is very well insulated by intention by the Minnesota Legislature and previous Governors from that kind of interference. They’re following the procedures that are set up in statute. They’re going through a review process. Enbridge is the one pushing, saying “Well, we have this deadline of June 2015, therefore now it’s a delay.” Well, that was their their timetable. That was never one that was agreed to by anybody else. And now with the concerns raised by people living in Greater Minnesota along the pipeline route, the fact that some of these are extremely sensitive areas environmentally, very hard to access if there would be a pipe oil damage, ah y’know you want to ram this through and and leave future generations to be dealing with it. Millions and millions of dollars and years and years of oil cleanup. I want to prevent that, do it right, now and for a long time.
Roger Wedin: Thank you Governor. Commissioner.
Jeff Johnson: Well Governor, of course I don’t want to do that. We have a a process, whether it’s for opening mines or building a pipeline, that is difficult in this state. And I can live with that. It it probably shouldn’t be easy to do those things. But let’s actually move through the process rather than throwing up roadblocks and then and then hiding behind that process. Your 3 PUC commissioners were appointed by you because, I assume, that they share your philosophy. About what should be done on that board. And they are not just following the process. They did with the Sandpiper what everybody has told us has never been done before. The PUC has never taken the role of blocking a pipeline because they thought maybe there were some other better routes that no one else had even put out there. It is a very transparent attempt to kill the Sandpiper, and you should take some responsibility for that.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you both. This transitions very well into the subject of precious metals mining, copper nickel mining. You knew you couldn’t come up north without being asked about precious metals mining. It it probably is one of our most polarizing issues in in northern Minnesota right now, with ah one side saying that the regulatory agencies are dragging their feet, and and holding back billions of dollars of economic impact. And the other side of course saying it can’t possibly be done safely.
Commissioner Johnson, we’ll start with you. You’ve said that re-electing the Governor would mean that the precious metals mining will never happen. Why why do you say that, and how would you be different Sir?
Jeff Johnson: Well I I think that’ s just the truth. If Governor Dayton is re-elected, PolyMet is not gonna open, at least not in the next four years. Ah Governor, if you wanted PolyMet to be open, you’d at least be telling people “I will be an advocate for this, even though it still has to go through the process.”
I will be an advocate. I’ll do everything I can to get that mine open and other mines open, once they go through the process. I happen to think 9 years is long enough for a process. And let’s just be really frank and honest about this. Ah this Governor is beholden to what I would call some pretty extreme environmental groups, mostly based down in the Twin Cities, who don’t wanna see any mining in this state. They also don’t want to see pipelines because they don’t want to see oil flow anymore. That would suggest that we’re not gonna see this thing open after the election, if he won’t tell us before, he’s not gonna tell us that afterwards. Again, I’m gonna be an advocate for mining, and for logging, and for shipping. And for farming. Because I believe strongly that if every part of our state isn’t thriving, then Minnesota as a whole isn’t gonna be thriving.
And I know Governor, your answer’s gonna be “It’s the process,” and you’re gonna hide behind that process again, but sometimes we just gotta tell people where we stand. Some people are gonna get mad at us. I get that. It’s okay. People have the right to know that. And when I brought this up at our last debate, it might have been 2 debates ago, you said “Well, you saying that you’ll advocate for mining is just pandering to people up in northern Minnesota.” It’s not pandering. I think it’s actually showing some leadership, and that’s what Governors are supposed to do.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you Commissioner. Governor, you did say –
Mark Dayton: Ah Commissioner,
Chuck Frederick: to us too that – any comments before the process is done are premature. So where do you stand, Sir.
Mark Dayton: Commissioner, it is pandering to say you’re gonna pre-empt the environmental review process. I agree, 9 years has been too long. But that’s not a reason or a justification for short-circuiting the final months of the process, which is what they’re going through now. The DNR, 2 federal agencies, and to say that you’re going to, before any of that has been completed and published, you’re gonna just go in full force and behind this project, I think is irresponsible, and it’s unfair to the future of the state of Minnesota. And you’re just doing it for political advantage.
You and others have been saying for months now that you’re going to support this project before the final environmental review process is complete – are absolutely pandering to northeastern Minnesota. I’ve seen it time after time. I’ve been working on behalf of northeastern Minnesota for 37 years and I’ve seen hucksters go up there and promise chopstick factories. And endotronics. And all these other things that will never materialize because they are dangling out the prospects of jobs. Well we’re going to do this one responsibly. We’re gonna protect the environment, we’re gonna protect jobs, we have a thousand more people in Minnesota right now working up in mining up on the Iron Range, mining jobs, from when I took office. The unemployment rate up there is 4.9%. I was up there a couple of weeks ago, there are businesses that want to expand, they’re looking for welders, electricians, mechanics. People with skills that we need to bring to our community colleges and technical colleges so that they’re training people for the jobs of the future.
But – in this case you want to just run roughshod, you just say that now because you are are running for office, and you think you can drive a wedge, and it’s just not responsible. I’m gonna wait til the environmental impact statement is complete, all the information is known, and then I’m gonna go review some of the projects around the state, around the country, and see what the reality is, and tell Minnesotans, what what y’know they’re gonna reasonably have, be able to expect with this with this undertaking.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you. Commissioner?
Jeff Johnson: Well – ah, that’s a new one. You’ve called me a whacko, a Neanderthal, and now a huckster. So that’s probably better than the first two, I suppose. (audience murmurs) Ah – here’s what it comes down to. Again. You’re hiding behind the process. I I have never said let’s short-circuit the process, in fact just a minute or two ago I said “It’s okay that we have a tough process.” We should certainly have a tough process to open a mine. But 9 years is enough, and what I’m saying is I’ll actually advocate to get through that process, because I think mining is a good thing. Is a positive thing. And I wanna see it get done. Yes, we have to get through the process. But I want to see it get done and as Governor, I’m gonna push to get it done. And I’m not gonna let them slow it down anymore just because some groups want to kill this. And I’ve never heard you say that and I don’t think I’m going to.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you.
Mark Dayton: Mining’s a very good thing. And it’s been the backbone of our economy in northeastern Minnesota for over a century. As I said earlier, a thousand more mining jobs in Minnesota than when I took office. We’ve issued over 70 permits to expand mining up on the Iron Range. Copper nickel is a very very different kind of mining, different process, a different kind of residue left. And breaking new ground in in that undertaking and it’s y’know 9 years is too long. No disagreement there. But to say we’re gonna short-circuit the and and make our decision on where we stand before the final facts are in, I think is irresponsible.
I don’t recall ever calling you a whacko. You said yourself to a Tea Party group last spring that people call Tea Party folks “whackos” and you said “and we’re not” and you said “I probably say ‘we’.” Ah that was the time when you were also asking them for their endorsement. Which you denied subsequently. So I I I haven’t used that term. And I do think that hucksters are people who promise things that are unrealistic for selfish advantage.
Roger Wedin: Thank you gentlemen, let’s move on. To the Affordable Care Act. It has withstood dozens of challenges in Congress and scrutiny by the Supreme Court, and it is the law of the land. But let’s bring it a little closer to home. Minnesota crafted MNsure, which by most admissions rolled out with a rocky start. Is MNsure achieving the results promised? Is all of this settled? Or in your opinion where do we go from here? Governor Dayton.
Mark Dayton: Well, it’s far from settled, because the people who opposed the Affordable Care Act, who want to go back to sort of a Darwinian y’know survival of the richest in our healthcare system, where ah insurance companies and others are free to offer whatever plans they want. And then people, after they purchase these, find out when their loved ones are sick or they’re sick, that they’re not covered by that policy. Ah the highest the the highest percentage of personal bankruptcies in this country are people who can’t afford their health ins their health bills, who have, most of them have insurance. They thought they were covered but they’re not.
So the Affordable Care Act settles the floor. It said, You gotta, you can’t deny people from pre-existing conditions. That’s huge. Especially for people of middle age and older who, most of us have pre-existing conditions. You’re covered, your kids are covered til age 26 on your policy. You can’t have a limit on what you you need to spend lifetime for health, for your health needs. And and others. So that that part has definitely been contended contentious for those who who don’t want to have those standards. And and theory is, that, if everybody is covered that way, we aren’t gonna have these personal bankruptcies, we aren’t gonna drive people into poverty, because they can’t afford their health bills.
In Minnesota, the health exchange was something that everybody – Minnesota Business Partnership, Minnesota Chamber, ah hospital groups, doctors’ groups, everyone involved with healthcare said it was preferable to going through federal. And I believe it will turn out to be – it got off to a bad start. It’s getting better. Our rate of people in Minnesota who are without health insurance has dropped by 40%. We have the second lowest percent of people who are without health insurance of any state in the nation. MNsure is gonna get better. It’s gonna be better this next rollout. We still have the lowest rates, the lowest health insurance rates of any state in the nation, I think that’s that’s a tribute to our healthcare community. But it’s something to build upon, not to tear down.
Roger Wedin: Thank you Governor. Commissioner?
Jeff Johnson: We we had the best health coverage system in the country, in Minnesota before MNsure. And we don’t anymore. Ah Governor, you desperately wanted to be the first state to implement Obamacare in the form of MNsure in Minnesota. And and you practically got your way. You certainly got MNsure exactly the way you wanted it, with a hand-picked board and and all the pieces of legislation that you asked for. And it has been an unmitigated disaster from day one.
And not just because it it wasted a fantastic amount of money on a crappy website. But more because it is hurting people. It’s hurting hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans. Yes, we went from 92 to 95% coverage, and that’s a positive thing. But 140,000 Minnesotans were forced off their health coverage. Many of them lost their doctors. Some of them lost their hospitals. We saw rates go up after MNsure, and we’re gonna see them spike next year. Not 4-1/2%. Not even close to the 4-1/2% that you guys put out. Ah the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters has said that the increases for next year within MNsure are gonna be between 8% and 43%. Depending upon where you live. The cheapest policy in St. Louis County is gonna go up 33%. That was in the Star Tribune a couple weeks ago.
So the fact that you keep saying we’re we’re the lowest and it’s 4-1/2%, I think everybody has found that that number is truly bogus. Ah we have ah we have people that have the highest deductibles in the country! We have parents who can’t get their babies on health insurance! It’s taking them months because MNsure is such a complete mess. And Governor, you’re not doing anything to make it better.
Ah number one, I will seek a Section 1332 waiver under the ACA for State Innovation Waivers that will allow us to keep the best parts and actually do some innovation on our part. I will fire the entire MNsure board because they’re incompetent. And I will appoint people who understand that more competition and more choices for consumers generally sends prices down and quality up.
Roger Wedin: Thank you, Governor Dayton, you care to respond?
Mark Dayton: You wanted an innovation grant, what is your innovation? You never said what you want to go back to instead of MNsure. People oppose the Affordable Care Act, want to go back to a system where the health industry is is free to set their prices, set the coverage, judge whether or not they’re gonna call something a pre-existing condition, and refuse to pay for it after the person has been paying for their insurance for years, needs that operation or procedure, ah y’know tell us what you’re gonna do instead. Tell us how you’re gonna make it make it better.
It’s not perfect. I’ve said that before. But, 140,000 people forced off their healthcare? When the Affordable Care Act, the federal act, required plans to become compliant with those minimal standards, people then had to find a different they’re a new policy because the old policy was substandard. And so they were they were y’know given forewarning and given the chance to look and shop competitively for for other plans. And that’s what was supposed to happen. That transition was what was supposed to occur.
Roger Wedin: Thank you. Commissioner.
Jeff Johnson: Governor, they weren’t given a forewarning because you and the President told them that if they liked their insurance they could keep it. And it’s not your job to decide what is adequate or substandard for a family. I think they’re smart enough to figure out what insurance policy works best for them. So limiting those choices to only what government bureaucrats think is okay is wrong. And I’ll tell ya exactly some of the things that I’d do. The Section 1332 waiver, this is part of Obamacare, says that if you want that as a state, you can’t remove anybody from insurance that would have it under Obamacare. So we’re not eliminating any of those things that many people would say would be positive. You need to continue to cover all the people.
Ah but I happen to think we ought to get out of a government-run exchange that limits options for people. Give them more choices and more options and they’re gonna be happier for it. Because you might think that government bureaucrats know better what insurance I should have for my family, but I don’t. I think most families can figure that out themselves.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you both very much. The billion dollar Minnesota Vikings stadium stands to cost us taxpayers plenty of money, or maybe maybe not. Ah but with respect to what the birds might ask you about the stadium, my question is whether the public financing of the stadium has been as responsible and as transparent as possible or as it should have been, and how can taxpayers be assured their money is being spent wisely? Commissioner Johnson we’ll begin with you Sir.
Jeff Johnson: (sighs) Well, it hasn’t been, I mean here here is another example of where we’re gonna differ about as far as you could possibly differ. Ah the Vikings stadium – ah by the way I’m as big a Vikings fan, even this year, as anybody in this room – (audience laughs) but I don’t happen to believe that that public should be funding a half a billion dollars for that stadium. And Governor, you promised that we would, we The People’s Stadium, as you like to call it, would never actually be funded from the general fund. But, because the plan that was in place for e-pulltabs ended up 95% short, now we are. We’re using general funds. So that everybody out here is paying for about a half a billion-dollar – well, the people of Minneapolis are paying for a chunk of it, but taxpayers are paying for about half of that stadium. And ah I was just actually reading about the stadium in New Jersey that houses both the Giants and the Jets. You know how much the taxpayers paid for that one? Zero. So don’t believe it when someone says the only way we can do this is by being held hostage.
The bigger problem though that I have with this, is the fact that Governor, you didn’t have a clue what was in that bill. You claim that you negotiated it. But you didn’t know that there were personal seat licenses in there. In fact, you expressed outrage after the bill was signed that they were in there. But they were in the bill that you signed. You gotta know what’s in the bills you sign. And, you didn’t have a clue about how it was going to be funded because we had to switch and now make taxpayers pay for about half of it. And number three, you didn’t realize that the Wilfs had some pretty serious legal problems. And ah when that came to light, after you signed the bill, even though it was public knowledge before that, you said “Oh my goodness, we have to do due diligence.” You do due diligence before you sign a contract. Before you sign a bill, Governor. And you didn’t do it in this case. This whole thing has been a disaster, I think it’s been a terrible deal for the taxpayers of Minnesota. And despite being a huge Vikings fan, I’m very disappointed with it.
Chuck Frederick: Governor Dayton?
Mark Dayton: Well, Commissioner tell the seven thousand five hundred people who are workin to build that project that it’s a disaster. Ah the fact that there’s over a billion dollars of private investment and projects, buildings, apartments, ah businesses and other enterprises right around it, whereas before, under the Metrodome, there was nothing going on in that part of Minneapolis. Ah I don’t consider that a disaster. I think that’s a fantastic resurgence of a dilapidated part of east Minneapolis.
The Vikings would have gone to Los Angeles or somewhere else if we hadn’t built, agreed to build a new stadium. That’s what the Commissioner of the NFL told us, that’s what the Mr. Rooney, the Chair of these NFL owners, executive committee told us, and so that’s what we were dealing with. I negotiated it all the way with a Republican Leg – Legislature and two really terrific heads, Senator Julie Rosen and Representative Morrie Lanning, and guided it through the Legislature.
I knew what was in that bill. And I knew that we couldn’t dictate terms because the Vikings’ lease had expired and they were under no obligation to continue to be in Minnesota. So we negotiated the best deal we could. Personal seat licenses were not in the bill. They changed the name to “stadium builder licenses” to disguise it. But the language in there once y’know once I looked at the language, is the same as what I’d signed off on before, it gave the stadium authority. The authority to sell personal seat licenses, to determine what their prices would be. I disagreed with that. I expressed it at the time, I expressed it later – but y’know that was probably what the Vikings insisted upon having in there, and and for reasons that became, that are that are apparent now, with what they’re looking to take from it.
The taxes to pay for it are from closing corporate loopholes, large corporations that are doing business overseas and were not paying taxes on it. Those that money is what’s paying for the state’s share of the of the bonds.
Chuck Frederick: Commissioner Johnson?
Jeff Johnson: Well and Governor, that money would go into the general fund. So it’s general fund money that’s being spent, that could be spent on something else that is now being spent on the stadium. But y’know when I – it it just disappoints me when I hear you say “Well the Vikings y’know essentially controlled the process, there’s nothing we could do about it, they they kind of took us for a ride,” and – that seems to be a theme.
I was in northern Minnesota, ah just west of here, ah couple weeks ago I think it was, I was talking to a company that was having a terrible time with the regulatory process. And and one of the agencies in the Dayton administration. And I said “Well have you have you called the Governor’s office to see if you can get things moving, see if they could help you out?” And they said “We’ve tried, but there’s nothing the Governor can do about this. It’s, this is the agencies, the bureaucrats run the government.” I think that is sad. When people just assume that the Governor has no control over what’s going on within this government. Whether it’s negotiating a deal with the Vikings, or whether it’s telling the agencies that their job is to serve the people who pay their salaries, rather than try to control them. And ah I just – I really feel like right now we really need a more engaged, active Governor.
Chuck Frederick: Thank you. Governor? One more minute?
Mark Dayton: Well, to complete a negotiation, both parties have to agree. And the Vikings didn’t control the process, but the Vikings were part of the negotiation and they were under no legal requirement nor requirement of the league to agree to any terms that they found unacceptable. So we negotiated back and forth. We negotiated to the last day of the legislative session. Ah in fact it was Senator Julie Rosen who required them to put up the last 50 million dollars. We all sat in a room waiting to see whether they’d accept or whether they’d walk away from the deal. And if they’d walk away from the deal, they would be playing somewhere else, ah and we would have a Metrodome with no paying tenant, dilapidated, obsolete, and no economic growth occurring around it. Instead we’ve got seven thousand five hundred people working to build it, we’ve got several thousand more who are gonna have jobs and commercial enterprises right next to it, we’ve got a civic park, a ah redevelopment of all sorts and kinds going on around there, I say it’s gonna prove to be a very significant economic boon to that part of Minneapolis.
Roger Wedin: Thank you gentlemen. Our final question before we go to closing comments is on education. Governor Dayton, as you run for a second term, you point to delivering on a campaign funding promise you made as a candidate in 2o10. This time around, you’re saying you’d like to see the per-pu per-pupil formula continue to increase. Essentially, you want to spend more on schools. Commissioner Johnson, you haven’t been willing to make the same pledge or make any specific specific spending promises. You’ve said that the current state funding formula has grown too complex. You are inclined to criticize the Governor for being too close to Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers union, and as a result fails to make changes that could help narrow the state’s persistent achievement gap.
I think we can all agree a high-quality educational system is essential to our state’s prosperity. But you differ greatly on how to get there. Governor, your comments?
Mark Dayton: Well, I have increased state funding for K-12 public education ah because they’ve been cut back in relative and real dollars over the previous decade. And even now, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Minnesota ranks 24th among the states in the nation in state support for public education, on a per per-pupil basis. So we’ve gone up, but we’re just right back into the middle. And I think Minnesotans would be shocked, who value education, know the importance, would be shocked if they realized we have been declining falling into the second half of the country, lower half of the country, in terms of our sup support for our public schools.
So I I’m I’m glad that I was able to support that, and the Republican Legislature, to their credit, in 2011 supported that increase, the DFL Legislature in 2013 supported that increase, and by increasing the per-pupil formula, you’re giving the school districts the flexibility to decide where that money can be best spent. Here in Duluth, it may be different from where in Crookston. Or from in Albert Lea. So at the school boards, who are elected by the people, have the authority and the flexibility to make those allocation decisions.
We’ve also funded early childhood education. Didn’t exist, state support for that didn’t exist before I took office. Experts say that working with children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, at an earlier and earlier age, is crucial, giving them the chance that other kids have and closing the achievement gap. All-day kindergarten is now statewide. Something that I’ve advanced since 2009, the Legislature wouldn’t support it when Republicans were in control, DFL legislators supported it, now every child in Minnesota, every 5- or 6-year-old has a chance to go to all-day kindergarten.
We froze tuition at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU campuses. The money we have spent on additional education has been well spent, it’s been badly needed, and I hope that our fiscal situation will permit us to continue to do more.
Roger Wedin: Thank you. Commissioner Johnson.
Jeff Johnson: Well, this is actually one of those areas where again, there’s a there’s a deep divide between the Governor and me as to how we’d govern. Ah I will base my education decisions on every single instance on what’s best for the kids in this state, not on what the special interest allows me to do. Or tells me to do. And yes, I I have been critical that the Governor has essentially is allowing Education Minnesota to run education policy in this state. And I’m not an anti-union guy, I grew up in a union household, I’ve actually represented unions as a lawyer. But I will never let any special interest, whether it’s unions or businesses, dictate policy to me. Especially K-12 education policy, that’s a big difference between us.
I’ll tell you another difference: I think we both recognize that money is important in K-12 education. That’s why, in my 6 years in the Legislature, I always voted to increase K-12 spending, never cut it, despite what you hear on commercials that have been found to be false. But, unlike the Governor, I don’t believe that the only thing that matters is money. More money and good intentions isn’t enough. We need to start demanding results, particularly from the schools that are getting the most and providing the worst results. And that comes from having high standards that are set by those of us in the state, by the way, not by the federal government, in the form of Common Core, and by demanding actual results and parental accountability. When you look at the fact that Minneapolis spends about twice the state average per pupil, and gets terrible results, we gotta do more than just sending them more money. We have to change the way they do things. We have to demand that they do things differently. To better serve their families and taxpayers.
And the other difference is, I I believe that we need to give our schools the flexibility and power to hire and promote and reward the very best teachers. Ah this Governor, because of Education Minnesota, is actually tying their hands and preventing them from doing that. My focus will be on what’s best for our kids, not on what some special interest allows me to do.
Roger Wedin: Governor Dayton, care to respond?
Mark Dayton: Well, your record on education funding speaks for itself. And and y’know you have a different view from just about everybody in the established media who described the bill that you voted for in 2003 as a cut, 76 million dollars, in funding for K-12 education. For the 2005 biennial budget compared to the 2003. So, MPR said it was a cut, ah Star Tribune said it was a cut, all of the established media said it was a cut. You say it’s not a cut, so I guess you should talk with all the established media and and review all their reports. Because that’s that’s what they said.
You also voted to transfer “shift”, we called it, borrow involuntarily, over 400 million dollars from the schools, setting the stage for further shifts and further ah – and then you also increased, you also cut 200, 350 million dollars in funding for the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU campuses. Which also caused tuitions to go up the next year by 14%. So your record is one of cutting funding for education.
Roger Wedin: Commissioner?
Jeff Johnson: Well, Governor, it’s interesting because those media outlets have have pretty much trashed the commercials that say it. I think it got a C- for simply not being true. And I think that, the greatest evidence of that is the fact that the the first commercial said that I cut education, K-12 education by 500 million. The second commercial said I cut it by 600 million. Couple weeks ago, I think you said I cut it by 76 million. Now today you say it’s 73 million. None of them are true. But they can’t decide which lie to tell. And and the media has found this to be false. We actually increased education spending by 4 billion dollars during the 6 years that I was in the Legislature.
But again, that’s not the only issue. It can’t just can’t be about money. Because throwing money at schools that aren’t working in certain parts of the state, is not solving the problem, it’s not serving taxpayers, it’s not serving our kids. And on the school shift, Governor, you used the school shift twice to balance your budget. I think that’s bad policy.
Roger Wedin: Thank you gentlemen, we’ll move to closing remarks. I will alert our media partners that we’re likely to run slightly over the nine o’clock hour. I I would ask that the audience please refrain from any applause until after both of our guests have had a chance to make their remarks and I’ve had a chance to close us out. So we’ll move to closing comments. Ah gentlemen if you’d keep it to 2-1/2 minutes each, Commissioner Johnson, we’ll start with you.
Jeff Johnson: All right. Well, thank you. Thank you for hosting us today and thank you all for being here. I believe, and I I put this in the Duluth News Tribune editorial that was yesterday or the day before, I believe your way of life in northern Minnesota is largely under attack right now. It it’s certainly not supported by this Governor’s administration.
Whether you look at mining or logging or building pipelines, whether you look at the allocation of money and where it goes for K-12 education or for LGA, and the fact that it so Minneapolis-centric at this point, whether you look at how we’re spending transportation dollars, on things like streetcars (laughs) instead of roads, or light rail instead of bridges, or whether you look at this philosophy that government always knows best. How we should live our lives. What we eat and what we drink and how we raise our families and what we do with our own property.
I I had somebody ask me the other day, “Do you and Governor Dayton have anything in common?” And I said “Sure, we both love our dogs, and we both want to control my life.” (audience laughs) I don’t think that’s the right direction to be going as a state. I think your way of life is largely under attack in this state, and you will see me as Governor treating Greater Minnesota and northern Minnesota very differently than what you’re seeing right now.
And that fits perfectly with the bigger vision I have for all of Minnesota, including northern Minnesota. It’s a it’s a vision of a state where every kid in this state, regardless of where he or she lives, has access to a great education, and to great teachers, and to reasonable funding, and where patients and doctors are making healthcare decisions, not patients, doctors, insurance companies and government bureaucrats. And where people who work in government understand that their job is not to control and regulate and punish, but actually to serve the taxpayers who pay our salaries. Government should be a servant of the people, and not the other way around. It’s a vision of a state where entrepreneurs can run their companies, and farmers can farm their land, and and and teachers can be innovative and creative in the classroom without worrying every minute about government sticking its nose into their business.
And most importantly, it’s a vision of a state where we’ve ended this philosophy of the poor are poor and the rich are rich and all we can do is move money around. And instead we’re celebrating people who are successful. And we are never ever giving up on people who are poor. And we are preaching every day a sincerely held belief that the poor can become the middle class, and the middle class can become rich, and anyone who starts with nothing can still achieve anything. That’s why I’m running for Governor and I’d love your support. Thank you.
Roger Wedin: Thank you Commissioner. Governor?
Mark Dayton: I’d like to thank the Duluth News Tribune, the Duluth Chamber for hosting this forum, and y’know when I, you talk about Commissioner, the way of life being under attack, when I took office in January 2011, the the way of life in Minnesota was under severe attack. ‘Cause the economic underpinnings of our state had collapsed. We had 6.8% unemployment, we had low ah lower personal income than in real dollars than we’d had a decade before. Property taxes had gone up 86% in the previous decade. The school shift was staggering. The fiscal sta- status of federal ah of the state government was a mess. And we changed that.
We came in and we we did some tough things, we did some honest things. We cut spending by 2 billion dollars, the Republican-led Legislature and I, in 2011, permanent cuts, we raised taxes, income taxes on the wealthiest 2%, which Commissioner Johnson wants to reverse, we took that 1.2 billion dollars, wanted to cover the rest of the projected deficit, which we inherited, and then also to invest in K-12 education. And early childhood education. And all-day kindergarten. And making the education system better for the state of Minnesota, which is the key to continued economic prosperity. Duluth and northeastern Minnesota and all over this state. Because a well educated, productive workforce is always the number one reason the businesses tell me why they’re locating or expanding here. And if we lose that edge, we’re seriously jeopardizing the economic and the social vitality of this state for for decades to come.
So we’re gonna continue to invest in education if I’m Governor, we’re going to continue to invest in giving every child the opportunity to be successful. We’re gonna give them a chance to earn a good living in the workplace through their hard work, which is what’s made Minnesota successful. We’re gonna realign the higher education system so that we’re training young people for the jobs of the future rather than the past. That takes a commitment of funds to build for buildings, equipment and technology. So that we, we are facing the future rather than going back to failed policies of the past. That’s what I’m for.
Moving ahead: make continue to make Minnesota an even better state. And I’m committed to doing that if I’m re-elected Governor and I ask for your support. Thank you.
Roger Wedin: Thank you, and we’ll leave it there. Gentlemen, thank you both for your participation this morning, we greatly appreciate the opportunity to have this discussion on the issues. Thanks again Chuck to our partners at the Duluth News Tribune, we thank the folks at the Civility Project, I think we did them proud this morning, and of course we thank our hosts, The Playhouse.
Thank you for being here this morning, enjoy the rest of your day.
Audience applauds, cheers, candidates shake hands with each other and with moderators.