Governor Mark Dayton has his second one-on-one debate with Republican challenger Jeff Johnson at Hamline University. Dayton and Johnson have also debated two other times with Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet. Debate organizers KMSP-TV and Hamline University did not invite her.
Nicollet told supporters and the media she is considering legal action against Hamline because she says their non-profit charter prohibits the school from favoring one candidate for public office over another. A Nicollet campaign spokesperson says when they approached Hamline to point out excluding candidates from the debate would go against the IRS rules for non-profits, Hamline changed its website describing the debate. The Nicollet campaign says the Hamline website originally described the debate as a “partnership” with KMSP-TV, but Hamline changed that to say it was the “host” of the debate.
When asked about the website change, Hamline issued a statement that did not directly address the website language:
To clarify Hamline’s involvement in the debate content decision-making, the editorial decisions, such as which candidates would appear at this event were entirely those of FOX9.
Hamline was approached as a partner venue to provide a site for this event, and FOX9 rented that space from the university. Hamline does not support or oppose candidates for public office. The opinions expressed at this event are not those of the university.
Transcript of the debate and more video of protest outside the debate.
Above: full video of the debate courtesy of KMSP-TV
Below: Hannah Nicollet and supporters protest outside the debate.
Click here for a sharable version of this video
Transcript by Susan Maricle
RM = Randy Meier, moderator
JJ = Jeff Johnson, Republican candidate
MD = Mark Dayton, DFL incumbent governor
RS-B = Rachel Stassen-Berger, panelist
TS = Tom Scheck, panelist
BS = Bill Salisbury, panelist
KC = Kelcey Carlson, Fox 9
EH – Erin Harvey, audience
MT = Miko Taylor, audience
RM: Good morning and welcome to the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul, just steps from the State Fairgrounds, and home of the Vipers, the school founded back in 1854, considered by many to be the oldest college in the state of Minnesota.
And welcome inside. We’re coming to you live from the Foss Center here this morning, it’s a beautiful morning. Hello everyone, I’m Randy Meier. Fox 9 honored to bring you one of five gubernatorial debates. Over the next hour we will be discussing a number of issues with the candidates, and they’re issues that impact the lives of Minnesotans every day, whether you live on the Iron Range, suburbs or downtown Minneapolis.
Now in just a bit we’ll be introducing our panel of experts. We’ll also be taking questions from students in the audience, as well as on social media, using the hashtag #Fox9Debate.
Right now, let’s meet the candidates, beginning with incumbent Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, who is seeking re-election to a second term. Before being elected as governor back in 2010, Dayton served as United States Senator from 2001 to 2007. Please welcome Governor Mark Dayton.
And, the Republican candidate for governor is Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. Johnson served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for 6 years. He was elected as Assistant Majority Leader. Please welcome Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.
All right, before we begin all of that, we want to get to our, give each candidate one minute to do some opening remarks. We conducted a coin flip earlier, and this is how it shook down. Mr. Johnson, we’ll begin with you, your opening statements, please.
JJ: Thank you. Well, thank you all for being here. (clears throat) I am running for governor because I think someone needs to stand up for the forgotten middle class in this state. And I will work every single day to encourage the creation of good-paying, fulltime jobs, rather than chasing them away to other states, as we’ve seen these last four years. And to make sure that our schools have the the power and flexibility to hire and reward and pay better the very best teachers, rather than tying their hands because a special interest tells me to. And most importantly, to make sure that that government takes a little bit less from the middle class and spends what it does take more efficiently and effectively. Putting the family budget in front of the government budget for a change.
So for me, it’s about good jobs, it’s about great teachers, it’s about lower middle-class taxes, and it’s about smarter government. That’s why I’m running for Governor, and I’m looking forward to this morning. Thanks.
RM: Governor Dayton?
MD: When I became governor in January of 2011, Minnesota was not in good shape. We owed our schools 2 billion dollars, we faced a projected 6.2 billion dollar deficit, and our unemployment rate was 6.8%. I campaigned on the promise of a better Minnesota. And I believe that that promise has come through true in the last 3-1/2 years. Unemployment is down to 4.1%. We have budget surpluses rather than deficits. We’ve repaid all that we owe our schools. We’ve also invested in all-day kindergarten, early childhood education, and frozen tuitions at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU campuses. And we’ve seen jobs created all over our state, with 172,000 more people working than when I took office, more jobs in the private sector now than ever before in our state’s history.
We’ve got a lot more work to do, but we’re on the right track, and I believe we’ll continue that progress if we continue in our present policies.
RM: All right. Thank you both candidates. Next I want to introduce our panelists. They are a combination of journalists throughout various outlets here in the Twin Cities. Together they have come up with a series of questions to ask the candidates, and they are from left to right Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Star Tribune, Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio and between there, and Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press. Thank you all for being here today. We appreciate it.
Our first topic has to deal with divided government. Now currently we have a Democratic Governor in Governor Mark Dayton, we have a Democratic House and Democratic Senate. That could all change on November fourth, so our first question comes from Rachel. Rachel, it’s addressed to Mr. Johnson.
RS-B: Good morning. Governor Dayton, in 2011, you were in a stalemate with a Republican-controlled Legislature that led to a state government shutdown. Commissioner, ah you’ve been on the losing end of many votes on the Hennepin County Board. What proof is there that either of you can lead in a divided government? Commissioner?
JJ: Well, I just think you have to look at my record in the House. I mean, that would be the, the, I think what you’ve done is the best way to tell what you’re going to do. I was in a Republican House for 6 years, with a DFL Senate, a heavy majority of the DFL in the Senate. Every year I took what was a pretty complex, sometimes somewhat controversial bill and worked it not just to get it passed in the Republican House, but worked with the DFL Senate to figure out how to actually turn it into law. I just – I didn’t just want to fight and lose, but actually get it done. So, whether it was eminent domain reform, we essentially rewrote the property tax laws in Minnesota, I’m sorry the property rights laws in Minnesota, my chief author during that debate was Tom Bakk, who’s now the House – or the Senate DFL leader.
Ah whether it was that, whether it was the anti-meth bill, which was the most comprehensive anti-meth bill we’ve ever had, I had a DFL author in the end over on the Senate on that, whether it was a protection of identity theft ah for individuals, I had a DFL author over in the Senate for that. So I think you have to look at what we’ve done in the past. And I think the difference here is ah Governor Dayton did preside over the longest shutdown in state history. Ah and I know he blames it on the Republicans, but as governor you have to take the lead. And if you’re gonna have a shutdown, it’s probably as much the fault of the governor as it is of the other party in the legislature. I think you’ll see a different attitude and a different culture in St. Paul if I’m governor.
MD: Well when I took office, we had Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate for the first two years, and then DFL majorities in the legislature for the second two years. And there was a marked difference. In the first two years, ah the Republicans staunchly opposed my attempts to raise income taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans to deal with the projected deficit. We agreed on some 2 billion dollars in permanent cuts. And then they wanted to cut further, they wouldn’t specify where, but they said that they wanted another billion and a half. I had met them halfway with my billion and a half, (unclear) changes, and I said I’m not gonna cut education, healthcare, human services still further. I wanna I wanna balance the budget by raising taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans. And they steadfastly refused. So we went into a shutdown, which we have a shared responsibility for. But I my responsibility was, I will not cut further. And theirs was, we’ll not raise taxes on the rich. So we had this stalemate, and finally I accepted a proposal they had made just before the end of the session with some additional conditions attached to it. We borrowed a half million, 750 million dollars more from our schools, and 750 million dollars from our future.
So, the Republican Legislature would rather raise a billion and a half through additional borrowing than raise taxes on the richest people in Minnesota. Fortunately, that was changed when we had a DFL Legislature.
RM: Mr. Johnson, you’re welcome to rebut.
JJ: Well, I think that what you just heard is kind of the difference in in style and attitude that you will see with us as governor. What you heard from the governor is, It’s all the Republicans’ fault. And that’s what we’ve been hearing for 4 years. Ah now I happen to agree with Republicans most of the time because I’m a Republican. But I also happen to believe that there are a lot of DFLers that have good ideas out there, and we gotta figure out how to bridge that divide.
Let’s start with what we can agree on. And actually get that done. I’ve talked a lot about the achievement gap, that disparity in graduation rates between white students and students of color. That is not gonna be an easy thing to solve. But it can be solved and you do it by talking to the DFLers who are willing to actually make some big changes. I know who they are, and I think you’ll actually see me reaching out to the other side to get something done, rather than just fight.
RM: Governor Dayton, would you like to rebut as well?
MD: Please. In the last 2 years, with a DFL majority in both the House and Senate, I think our accomplishments have been extraordinary. We passed early childhood education scholarships, all-day kindergarten funding, tuition freezes at MnSCU and University of Minnesota campuses, marriage equality, a raise in the minimum wage for 300,000 Minnesotans, and a whole range of other initiatives that made it truly one of the most productive legislative sessions in history.
I’m glad to work with Republicans, I’ve had before, will continue to do so, as long as they’re willing to be reasonable and meet me halfway.
RS-B: I’ve got a quick followup for both of you. As you know the House is up this year as well and soon the House and Senate will both be up. So, which is better – a divided government or a single-party rule at the Capitol?
JJ: Well, I don’t know which is better. I suspect we probably would both love to have single-party rule at the Capitol if it’s our own party. But the history in Minnesota, with very few exceptions, has been divided government. And I think generally, that has worked relatively well for the people and the taxpayers of Minnesota. Ah certainly, one-party rule in the last two years with DFL control has not been a good thing for Minnesotans, and particularly, particularly for taxpayers. The biggest tax increase in state history.
And Governor, you didn’t just raise taxes on the top 2%. You keep saying that, but it’s not true. You raised taxes on every Minnesotan. There was a a healthcare tax increase, there was a huge cigarette tax increase, there were new wheelage taxes that were that were passed through to counties, that if you own a car or a truck your taxes went up. It wasn’t just the top 2%.
MD: Well Commissioner, not everyone in Minnesota smokes, fortunately. And in terms of what we’re able to accomplish, I think it proves the point. Look at what the situation was in Washington over the last few years with Republican House, Democratic President and the Senate, the Republican House being obstructionists and blocking everything, that’s what we have here, if the Minnesota House turns Republican and if I’m re-elected governor, if Commissioner Johnson becomes governor, it’ll be a different scenario. But there’ll still be this divide and a gridlock. I think people should assess the progress we’ve made in the last 2 years. And if they believe we’re going in the wrong direction for Minnesota, then it’s time for a change. If they believe we’re making progress that they want to see, with their kids, with their job situation, with their standard of living, then we should continue in that direction, and that means DFL majorities in the House and Senate and Governor.
RM: All right our next question, we’ll stick with our panel. It comes from Tom Scheck and it also involves who would become governor and it entitles the leadership element of that job.
TS: Good morning, we have some questions for each of you, starting with Governor Dayton. Governor Dayton, you and your party have called Commissioner Johnson a “Tea Party extremist.” He’s standing right next to you. What extreme views would you like him to explain?
MD: Well, I’d like him to explain that he said he was going to go “all Scott Walker” on Minnesota. And I guess I’d like to have him to elaborate on that.
JJ: May I? Yeah, you know what, I look around the country and I see governors all over that I think I would follow in certain in certain areas. Scott Walker would be one of them. In that he believes in less regulations, he believes in lower taxes, and he’s actually seen some progress from that. I think Jack Dalrymple, next door in North Dakota, has some good ideas. I think ah the governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, has some good ideas. I actually think there are some DFL governors who ah have some good ideas, and I will look to them and in in some ways try to emulate them.
And again, your last answer, when we talked about how do you work together, you said “Well if we have Republicans in charge of the House, they’re gonna be obstructionists, and they’re gonna block everything.” That’s now how you go into a session, Governor. You go into a session saying “All right, if we have divided government, which hasn’t been a bad thing for Minnesota, how are we gonna work together to get things done, rather than just throwing down the gauntlet and saying one party’s bad, and the other is good?”
RM: Governor Dayton, you’re welcome to rebut that.
MD: Well Commissioner, your comment did not include other governors. You said, “I’m gonna go all Scott Walker on Minnesota” to Tea Party factions, and now you’re adding a bunch of other governors. You have this habit of saying something definitively at one point and then a few months later you equivocate your position. Y’know if you thought the other governors were models of reason and bipartisanship, you had an opportunity for months to say that, but you didn’t. You kept saying to Tea Party groups, “I want your endorsement.” And then when after the the primary, you said “Well, I I never asked for their endorsement.” So you gotta take one position at the beginning of the year and stick with it all the way through.
JJ: May –
TS: Commissioner Johnson, you have called Governor Dayton the most incompetent governor in the nation. Is there anything you want to ask him?
JJ: Well, I I don’t know if there’s anything I want to ask him, but the reason I’ve said that, I I think it’s pretty well laid out. He he doesn’t seem to know what’s in the bills that he signs. And oftentimes he doesn’t seem to know what’s going on in his own administration. And I think it’s important that Minnesotans have a very engaged governor who knows what’s going on. There are there are multiple examples of this. And I’ll bring up a couple, but I could I could probably spend the next ten minutes on it.
The Vikings bill is a prime example. Ah Governor, you didn’t know that the personal seat licenses were in there. In fact, you expressed outrage that they were in there, and in turns out they were in the bill that you said you negotiated. Ah you didn’t know there was a farm equipment repair tax in the tax bill. You said that the Senate office building was extravagant, but you signed the bill with it in it.
MD: Y’know the stadium has added seven thousand five hundred construction jobs, mostly Minnesotans, 38% people of color, building that project. It’s triggered over a billion dollars in additional private sector investments in the neighborhood that before that was getting increasingly rundown and dilapidated. So I’m I’m I think the stadium has made an enormous contribution.
The legislation that finally passed did not say personal seat licenses. They changed the words to stadium builders license and put it in twice, they varied it intentionally. I was aware of the final agreement on the personal seat licenses, and I was aware of the language, which was passed, which stayed in, fortunately, which was that y’know the stadium authority would make the decision on whether to offer those licenses and if so how much, and I urged them not to do so, and they went ahead and did did it anyway. So I know what’s in the bills, I know the big picture, and I think the big picture for Minnesota is we made enormous progress and we’re going to continue to make that progress.
RM: All right our next topic is the budget. Mr. Johnson, you’ll go first, and for that we turn to Bill Salisbury with the Pioneer Press. Bill?
BS: Commissioner, (inaudible) shows a surplus. What would you do with the first hundred million dollars? And, if there’s a deficit, how would you deal with the first hundred million dollars of that deficit?
JJ: Ah with regard to a surplus, I think it – a comprehensive tax reform is crucial in this state, and it’s something that the governor has been talking about for 3-1/2 years but we haven’t actually done it. We are not competitive with other states in our region. We’re certainly not competitive with the states that surround us, and you can go to any border community and the people there will tell you that. And it’s hurting Minnesotans and it’s hurting us from a jobs standpoint. So, comprehensive tax reform if there is a surplus. ‘Cause that’s probably the only way you can actually do it. And that means that means the income tax, that means property tax, corporate tax and sales tax.
If there’s a deficit, ah we’ve gotta look at where we can save money. I don’t believe that Minnesota needs ah more revenue. We have increased spending in this state in the last 4 years from 30 billion to almost 40 billion dollars. In four years. That is not sustainable and it certainly suggests to me that we’re not short of money. It’s that we’re unable to prioritize.
So I think we gotta start looking at where we can spend our money more wisely. Ah the governor sometimes kinda scoffs when I talk about prioritizing. But government doesn’t do a good job of that. We as families do, small businesses and big businesses do, government should have to do that as well. Ah one area where we can look at saving money is in the human services budget. I have advocated for an audit, an outside audit, of every program that taxpayers fund, starting with human services. Because it’s the fastest growing area of our budget. The ones that work, we should celebrate. The ones that can’t prove that they’re working, we need to end those programs.
RM: Governor Dayton?
MD: Well if we had a hundred million dollar surplus, I would propose a child care tax credit for the working parents who find it increasingly expensive and often impossible to afford the cost of child care for their very young children. And ah expand that so it includes more of the middle class working parents, as well as to increase the amount, so it keeps pace with the rising costs, is something that I would, I proposed in the last legislative session. And unfortunately, it was not adopted. But I would press for that.
One of the reasons we added that 150 million dollars to the budget surplus budget reserve in the last session was so that if there is a downturn, and we go from the projected surplus to a 100 million dollar deficit, that we have that cushion to draw from. I’ve looked for areas to reduce spending, that aren’t going to have a negative impact on people who need the government assistance, and if we can’t find the hundred million in the existing operations, then we I’d use the reserve to cover the rest.
RM: Mr. Johnson, you’re welcome to rebut.
JJ: Well sure. Ah I mean Governor, you said you looked for areas to cut spending but you obviously didn’t find any, because we increased spending by almost 10 billion dollars over 4 years. And I don’t see that stopping if you’re elected again. And I know it’s great to throw out goodies to everybody, but at some point government can’t keep taking more and spending more. There’s a point where you’re gonna hit a brick wall, and I think we’re actually pretty close to it in this state.
And – this concept of more money and good intentions, which has kind of been the philosophy the last couple years, that’s not good enough. It’s not gonna work. We actually have to demand that government start spending money wisely. We gotta figure out which human service programs are actually working, are actually changing people’s lives for the better. Because some of them are. And ah I think we probably should bolster those programs. But there are programs that can’t prove that because they’re not doing anything, and we’re not doing anything about it.
(off camera) All right.
MD: Well Commissioner Johnson, you said in an interview about two weeks ago that you would basically accept my budget for the next biennium because you wouldn’t have time to figure it out for yourself. And that it would take 4 years to complete all these audits you’re proposing. In which case we wouldn’t have a budget proposal from you for 4 years.
So y’know you talk glibly about all the waste in government and all the need to re-prioritize and the like. But you never offer specifics. Y’know just the way the Republican leadership was in the Minnesota Legislature three-four years ago. You talk about cutting taxes, you talk about balancing out spending but you never say where you’re gonna cut. We cut 2 billion dollars. Two billion dollars we cut in fiscal, calendar year 2011 to deal with the deficit. Permanent cuts to state operations. We dug into every budget, we looked for the savings and we made tough decisions.
JJ: May I respond to that?
RM: I’d ask to hold your thoughts.
RM: Bill has a followup and maybe he’ll give you a chance.
BS: Commissioner, you have said the buck stops with the governor. But when it comes to cutting spending, you want to leave it to an outside auditor to determine where the waste is. Can you give us a specific example of waste that you see in state government now?
JJ: Yeah ah well I first of all Bill I haven’t said I’m going to leave it up to an outside auditor. I’m saying we need to audit the programs to figure out which ones are working. It’s still the call of the legislature and the governor as to what you’re gonna fund and what you’re going to not. So I see that as a big piece of it. But there are several areas that I’ve talked about many times where we can save money.
Does Minnesota need to have its own OSHA when the federal government has it? Do we need to be spending as much as we are on light rail and commuter rail and trolleys and streetcars as we are? I don’t happen to think so. Should we be giving snowbate grants to filmmakers that come into Minnesota? What about state health improvement grants that spend tens of millions of dollars to tell people what to eat? And and whether to exercise or not? And I see my time is about up but I could keep going down that list.
BS: Ah Governor, could you see any instances in which you would sign a tax increase bill that deals with the general fund? I know you’ve said you could increase revenue for transportation. But are there any general fund increases? Tax increases?
MD: I I don’t anticipate any in the foreseeable future unless the national economy just totally plummets again, ah I would not consider that. I think we’ve raised enough revenues and we should live within our means and within the revenue that we raise. So I don’t anticipate raising anybody’s existing taxes. And, putting more money into property tax relief, which has been very successful the last few years in in slowing the the drastic increase in property taxes over the previous decades. Property taxes statewide increased by 86% in the decade before I took office. And now they’re relatively stable, they’ve gone down in a few instances, up slightly in others, so more property tax relief is a key part of what I’d like to do over the next 4 years.
RM: All right, our next topic deals with an event that’s been in the news now in this country for about 3 weeks, when we experienced our first Ebola patient in this country. We’ve had 2 more since then. We turn to Facebook for this one. It’s a question submitted from a viewer on our Facebook page, our Fox 9 Facebook page. Patricia Peterson asks, “What can be done to stop the spread of this dangerous disease in our state, and is our state or will it be prepared and trained to deal with an Ebola outbreak if it should happen?” Governor Dayton, I’m gonna start with you. A reminder to both of you, there will be no rebuttal on this one, so just answer the specific question and we’ll move on. Governor.
MD: Well it’s a critically important issue to all of Minnesota, because as we’ve learned just a couple of days ago, a gentleman walked into an emergency room at a local hospital. And ah fortunately the hospital personnel there dealt with him responsively, effectively, he was not tested negative for Ebola but it was a recognition that somebody could walk in anywhere and we all need to be prepared.
I spent 4 hours yesterday meeting with the nurses, the doctors, hospital association, the ambulance drivers, find out what they think the deficiencies are and tomorrow morning we have a meeting with the responsible state agencies to go into what we can do, have to do, to provide leadership. In addition to the federal government, the CDC, to show so that every Minnesota healthcare facility, hospitals, clinics, the like, school nurses, people all over the state who come in contact with people from these area backgrounds, are prepared. We need to get additional equipment into the state and have a center, a distribution center where that protective equipment can be distributed, in a real situation.
We’re fortunate. We have airline carriers who are not gonna fly people from those west African countries directly to the United States, and therefore they won’t be coming directly to Minnesota. But we can never be too vigilant.
RM: Commissioner Johnson.
JJ: Well – it’s all about preparation. And I know we have some amazing people in this state ah who are working on this. And ah I’m I’m very thankful for that, and I’ve talked to some of them about it. But it’s all about making sure we’re prepared. And as a Hennepin County commissioner, I happen to know that Hennepin County Medical Center is probably one of the better-equipped hospitals to deal with Ebola patients. So it’s very possible that if we have patients here, they may go there. And I think we’ve got to look at
what that would do to a hospital, if you become the Ebola Hospital, other patients are probably not wanna go there. I think that’ll be the reasonable response. And a hospital’s not gonna be able to sustain that for very long. They will financially collapse if everyone else stops coming in.
So one thing that we’ve gotta look at is possibly dedicating a facility and a healthcare team just to infectious diseases, especially an Ebola outbreak, and that would mean having a separate facility ah where professionals self select to come in and actually live there with the patients so that we don’t have the decontamination issue.
Ah I I that would take better people than me, but we know they exist to come in and do that, and I think it’s something we have to at least take a look at.
RM: All right gentlemen, thank you. We want to switch it up here just a little bit. Instead of us asking the questions of the candidates, we would like the candidates to each ask each other a question. You’ll each be given 90 seconds to respond. Mr. Johnson, your first question to Governor Dayton.
JJ: All right. Well Governor, about a year ago you advocated for the release of Thomas Duvall. Thomas Duvall is a one of the worst sex offenders we’ve ever had in the state of Minnesota. He raped at least 60 women, probably more, he fantasized in his log during treatment about having sex with kids. Everyone in Minnesota, except practically I think you and your human services commissioner thought that was insane. To advocate for his release. But you did for a year before changing your mind at the last minute. What were you thinking?
MD: Well I was thinking that I would follow the recommendations of the psychiatric experts who had interviewed Mr. Duvall and who had determined that he was ready for release. And therefore the process could go forward, and that process has followed the course that the legislature intended, and it was a wise course because it’s protracted in its sequence and ah couple weeks before a final decision was going to be made, additional information came, my commissioner of human services ordered additional psychiatric evaluations, and their information came to light for the first time that caused her and the Hennepin County attorney to reverse their positions.
We have 698 people who have records, many of them similar and some even worse than Mr. Duvall, who are lined up indefinitely contained now in our Moose Lake and St. Peter facilities that we expect soon a federal judge to tell us we have to deal with differently. If I had my way I’d lock ‘em all up for the rest of their lives. Keep them totally removed from the people of Minnesota. But if a federal judge rules, as is anticipated, that that’s not gonna be Constitutional, and when we have a task force from the Supreme Court Justice Erik Magnuson, who went through this carefully and made bipartisan recommendations for how he could make improvements, ah and then he was totally stymied in the legislative process, then y’know we’re stuck with where we are and we have a set process that’s wide open for the kind of demagoguery that you and others have employed.
RM: Governor Dayton, your question for Mr. Johnson.
MD: I think we’ll go back again to this Tea Party you talk about, y’know your position you said to a meeting of the Tea Party members in the south metro area in April that you would be truly honored to earn your support and endorsement in this race. And you were asked about your relationship with the Tea Party in September, you said “No, nor have I asked for their endorsement.” It’s just another example of where you say one thing before primary, one thing after, even today, equivocated “goin all Scott Walker” with adding some other governors you hadn’t mentioned before. When are you going to take a position and stick with it throughout the whole process?
JJ: Well Governor, you’re on on your talking points this morning, so congratulations on that. Ah with respect to the Tea Party, ah as you know because I’ve told you this before, I was seeking the endorsement of the party. The Republican Party. And I was seeking that endorsement for a year. And I went to every Republican group imaginable, including Tea Party groups, ‘cause there are a lot of Republican activists in Tea Party groups, and I asked for the endorsement of the people in that crowd for party. And I got it.
And one of the reasons I was endorsed, and one of the reasons that I won the primary as a Republican, was because I’ve reached out to every faction of our party. Whether it’s Tea Partiers or libertarians or social conservatives or business conservatives or moderates – ah we still have moderates, a lot of moderate Republicans around Minnesota, they haven’t necessarily voted Republican recently, but a lot of them are supporting me because I’ve reached out to them. Tom Horner, who was the Independence Party candidate last time, is not just supporting me, but he’s actively campaigning for me.
And I think that’s just a big difference between you and me. I I try to reach out to broader groups rather than saying “This group is bad, and this group is good, and the only group I’m going to deal with is the one that agrees with me all the time.” So I just I think that’ s a fundamental difference between us, Governor.
RM: All right gentlemen, thank you. Next we want to get a question from one of our students here at Hamline. This is a topic that any student out there, almost any student out there, is going to deal with in a very big way. Kelcey Carlson is standing by in the audience with that question for us. Kelcey?
KC: Randy, I’m right here with Erin Harvey, a sophomore here at Hamline University. She has a question about student loan debt. This is a question that’s on the top the minds of many many students, and adults out there. And there’ s no rebuttal for this question. Governor Dayton, you will answer first. Erin, your question.
EH: Thank you Kelcey. My question was submitted by a member of our student body at our Student Congress General Assembly. And this question is: “Student loan debt is very high for students throughout this country and in this state. What do you plan to do to help students battle student loan debt?”
MD: Well it’s very unfair, Erin, you and other students, and it’s evolved over a period of time. State support for higher education, which is the public universities and colleges and student aid which as y’know goes to private college students as well, has – in fiscal 2012 was the lowest it had been in real dollars since 1981. So the state’s been steadily reducing its support for higher education, and one result of that tuitions have gone higher. The federal government has likewise failed to keep pace with the rising cost and both the state and federal governments need to step forward and do more of of their share, which we addressed last time with freezing tuitions at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU campuses.
Now that doesn’t apply to Hamline, obviously, but we did increase the student aid by a significant amount, about a hundred million dollars, and that does benefit students here as well as other private colleges and universities. But we’re way behind. My generation owes your generation a lot more support because we tell you “You should get all the education you can,” which you should, it’s gonna benefit you and benefit society, it will. But then to say “We’re not gonna help you pay for it,” It’s just terribly unfair. We’ve got a long ways to make up for that gap.
JJ: Ah yes – yeah. Thank you Erin, thanks for the question. And y’know I I think the response that we saw from this ah this crisis that we have with students, and by the way, I have a junior in high school who’s starting to look at colleges so this is pretty personal to me, we actually took our first tour just this last week. Ah it it is a crisis. It’s a big problem. And I think the only answer we saw during the last 2 years at least was a tuition freeze. Which, I think is fine. And I think we may probably want to consider that again for a couple years. But that’s a band-aid. It’s kind of a typical really short-term politically popular answer that does nothing to actually bend the curve on costs that are just killing students once they graduate.
I think we gotta look at several different things. We have to look at administrative costs. Ah at the U of M there was a report that came out a few years ago that said their administrative costs are much higher than they should be. And I think they’ve made some progress, but there’s question about whether they’ve made enough progress. I think we’ve gotta look at the the MnSCU system, moving to more of a Centers of Excellence model, where they’re not providing everything to everyone, but they’re very much specializing in a few things, at each different spot, I think that helps keep the costs down.
Ah I think we gotta look at how long it takes kids to graduate from the U of M, if you happen to be a U of M student. We’re looking at, I think it’s 34% graduate in 4 years and just over 50% graduate in 5 years. And ah there are other things that we can look at. But it’s not just a band-aid, we gotta look at the bigger picture.
RM: All right, thank you, and thank you to our student questions, we’ll be, we’ll have more of those. We’d like to refer back to our panel now. Topic that we’re very familiar with in this state, and it’s healthcare. Actually, it’s not just this state, it’s all around the country now. Last year, the state of Minnesota launched its own health insurance exchange called MNsure. It’s had its ups and downs, as many of you know. It’s also had a change of leadership. It’s something, though, that affects some 50,000 Minnesotans now, and Rachel from the Star Tribune has a question for both candidates on healthcare and how do we manage healthcare.
RS-B: Well – you’ve both talked a lot about MNsure during the campaign, and I we understand some of the benefits and the problems therein. But let me ask you this: if you had a magic wand when it comes to healthcare policy, what would you do? What is your ideal healthcare policy, and we’ll start with you Commissioner.
JJ: More competition, more options, more choices for consumers so that they can make their decisions about what’s best for their family. And that’s exactly the opposite of what we’re doing under MNsure. With MNsure we are making fewer options available. Much fewer options available to people. And we’ve seen the result of that. Skyrocketing premiums. Now, Governor, you’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that the average increase for MNsure is 4-1/2%. And – I think everybody knows it’s not true! And I actually called on you earlier this week to apologize to people for continuing to spread that. Because it’s not true – it’s a lie. And I think you know it’s a lie.
Ah we just saw PreferredOne saying that their increases are gonna be 63% on average next year. Sixty-three percent! We’ve seen the Minnesota Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters, these aren’t political people, saying that the average within MNsure is probably gonna be about 12%, but if you look at the whole spread it’s gonna be between 8% and 43%. People are gonna get clobbered. They’re gonna get hammered by this. And it’s gonna be killing the middle class. Because we’re gonna see these rates spike. We might not see it til after the election. But at least we should just be honest with people, and tell them what to expect ah rather than leading them to believe that there’s gonna be a very small increase. So, it’s it’s about competition, it’s about more choices and options, and giving consumers the right to choose what’s best for their family rather than government telling them what’s best.
RS-B: Governor Dayton, magic wand on healthcare. What is your ideal?
MD: I’ve I long been a supporter of a single-payer system, where government pays directly the overhead on Social Security, is about 3%, the overhead on private health insurance, thanks to Senator Franken it’s limited to 20%, but that’s still exorbitantly high. And I think if we had a system where we have cost protections as well, the affordability would be much much greater.
I’d like to go back to Commissioner Johnson. Y’know it’s it’s a favorite pastime now to bash MNsure, and there’s plenty to criticize about that, especially in the past. But then when you’re asked “What is your alternative?”, it’s always, well, competition and choice. And that’s close to what we had previously. We had insurance companies setting their own policies, writing those policies, evaluating those policies when people made complaints, I had a healthcare help line set up when I was in the Senate for the purpose of helping Minnesotans, most almost all of them had insurance, thought they were covered, and then found when they got ill or somebody in their family got ill, that the insurance company wouldn’t cover that policy, and they were out thousands and thousands of dollars.
One gentleman, someone on the help line, went and talked with these companies and persuaded them to re-evaluate and to provide ah different outcome. And $50,000, one couple told me just the other day, they were saved through that endeavor. But over half of the personal bankruptcies in America are people who found that their health insurance did not cover their medical expenses, and they couldn’t afford ‘em, so if we go back to that survival of the richest, we’re gonna have a much, less fair system.
JJ: Well, it’s silly to call healthcare a survival of the richest. We actually had the best healthcare system in the country, I think almost everyone can agree on that, before MNsure. We don’t anymore. We are being sucked down to the national average. We’ve had 140,000 Minnesotans be forced off their health insurance. And your response to that was, “Well I’ve decided they have better health insurance.” Some of them don’t think that! Because I’ve heard from them. Many of them lost their doctors. And where you wanna go with universal healthcare, is exactly the opposite of where we need to go. That is government essentially telling everybody what’s best for them.
It doesn’t work. It’s been proven to not work. And it we’ve seen it in MNsure, that’ s not full universal healthcare, but it’s quickly moving in that direction, and it’s been an unmitigated disaster. And I know, Governor, you said that you don’t lose any sleep over that. But I do. Trying to figure out how we’re gonna fix that mess once I’m governor.
RM: Governor Dayton, you’re welcome for a rebuttal.
MD: MNsure’s far from perfect. And yet, to go back to a system where the insurance industry sets the policies, decides what to cover and what not to cover. You talk to the commissioner about people who don’t have their doctors; there are people before who didn’t have any coverage at all. From any doctor. They were disqualified for pre-existing conditions, or there was a limit on the total healthcare costs they could absorb in a in a lifetime. Their children weren’t covered at an early age. Preventative screenings for cancer and other diseases were ruled out.
All of that’s covered now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which Minnesota is obligated to follow, and which we’re implementing, which means that for thousands and thousands of Minnesotans, they have healthcare access that they’ve never had before.
RM: All right, we’re gonna move on now, and get another question from our student body here. We had the candidates address, both candidates addressed the issue of the burden of student loan debt. This time we want to move to the next phase for those students, and Kelcey joins us now with a student. Kelcey?
KC: Randy, I’m here with Miko Taylor, a senior here at Hamline University, getting ready to go out into the workforce, and thinking about the job outlook. That is the topic for this question. Again, no rebuttal. Governor Dayton, you are, you will answer first. Miko, your question.
MT: Yes, my question was also submitted at our most recent General Assembly for our Student Congress. My question is, as governor, what will you guys do to increase the job markets for graduating seniors?
MD: Well ah as I said before, we have 170,000 more jobs in Minnesota today than we did when I took office, so that’s certainly what I would call increasing the job market. We want to do farther than that. And we will. Continue to recruit companies, continue to offer them the reasons that they come to Minnesota: which is the best educated, hardest working, most productive workforce, meaning the people of Minnesota, that we have anywhere in the world. And the reason that they have that capability is one, good work ethic and good family upbringing (unclear, 39:05) so, good education, which you’re suggesting you’re getting here at Hamline.
So we need to continue our investments in quality higher education, after starting with early childhood and all the way through, so that when we graduate young people, ah who recognize as having a world-class educations, because if we do that, the opportunities are gonna be out there, businesses are expanding, they are creating more jobs. We need to realign some of the higher education programs for the kind of jobs of the future that businesses are looking for now to compete, in engineering degrees, computer science, mechanics, jobs that are going unfilled all over Minnesota now, because people lack those specialized skills. So we need to have that realignment and we need to keep doing what we’re doing, which is to educate people the best way possible.
JJ: Well thank you Miko for the question. This is, I think this is a big difference between the governor and me. Because I recognize that the underemployment rate in Minnesota, the people who are overqualified for the job they’re in and probably underpaid, which happens to be a lot of new graduates, is 53%. In Minnesota. Ah that is much much higher than it should be. And ah it has to do with the fact that we have a tax structure that’s not competitive in Minnesota when it comes to especially small businesses. And we have a regulatory burden that is absolutely not competitive with other states around us. And because of that, the good jobs are being created in other states. And that’s particularly true if you’re anywhere near the border.
Yes, we are creating jobs in Minnesota. Unfortunately, a lot of them are low-paying or part-time jobs. And that’s not what you’re gonna be looking for. Or probably already are looking for, or other college grads are. Ah the governor seems satisfied with that. In fact he said that that number is nonsense and it’s not true, even though it comes from his own administration. I think we’re leaving too many people behind in this economy. Yes, we’re creating jobs, but we have too many college grads livin in their parents’ basement. Because they can’t find a job that allows them to pay rent and student loans at the same time. That’s wrong, and we need to take some pretty significant action to fix it.
RM: All right, thank you Miko, thank you candidates. We want to move back to our panelists. This is a topic that’s often hotly debated in the state of Minnesota. We have a lot of outdoorsmen, we have a lot of private citizens who are interested in gun control. Tom Scheck with MPR standing by with our next question on that topic. Tom?
TS: Mr. Johnson: should criminal background checks be required for people who buy guns online or at gun shows?
JJ: No, I don’t think so. And and I think here’s here’s the problem that we have with gun control. All of our focus going forward on gun control is on trying to restrict from law-abiding citizens whether they have guns or not. We have a lot of laws on the books right now. If we would enforce all of those laws, I think we would be well protected as a citizenry. There was actually a compromise bill in the legislature a couple years ago, that amazingly, the gun control advocates and the NRA were able to agree on. With some common, it was a common-sense change that could’ve been made. I don’t think it went anywhere because there was too much political fighting over the last couple years over a lot of different issues, unfortunately. But I I would have supported that.
Ah but going forward with new legislation, and having this this cultural war that we love to have about guns, I don’t think that really benefits anyone in the end.
TS: Governor Dayton.
MD: Well, Commissioner Johnson’s answer shows the extreme to which you have to go to get the support of the NRA. Y’know we require criminal background checks on people who want to buy their guns from licensed firearm dealers. And then we create, allow these huge loopholes where somebody can go online, somebody can go to a gun show, and without any background check at all, purchase as many weapons as they want.
So it defeats the purpose, and actually penalizes the law-abiding gun dealers who are following the law and not standing in the way of anybody who’s lawfully entitled to have a gun, carrying a gun. As we expanded concealed carry in this state, and provide the same right to those who are law abiding, but we want to find out first if they’re psychiatrically capable of handling that responsibility or if they have a criminal background, which should disqualify them. So why wouldn’t we make that consistent statewide? I believe we should.
TS: This is a followup. Do either of you own a gun? And when was the last time you fired it?
JJ: I I own a hunting rifle, yeah. Probably less than a year ago.
MD: I own 2 Police Special handguns and a 12-gauge shotgun and 2 handguns are in locked storage now, since I have people around me in the Governor’s residence who are armed. And the last time I fired a shotgun was at the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener.
RM: All right! Our last question before the lightning round. A topic is corporal punishment, let’s turn to Bill Salisbury, the Pioneer Press, for that. Go ahead Bill.
BS: Ah Governor, in light of Adrian Peterson being charged with crossing the line when it came to disciplining his child, when do you believe the state should step in when it comes to a parent disciplining a child?
MD: Well that’s a challenging question, Bill. Because as you said, there’s a legitimate differences of opinion as to what constitutes proper and responsible discipline of children and, both by parents and and by those with whom they come in contact, in schools and elsewhere in society.
And where that line is between punishment, including corporal punishment, and child abuse, is is sometimes hard to determine right on the margin. But we’re dealing with in this society more and more, are people on the extremes.
Y’know I appointed to almost a hundred people, judgeships in Minnesota, which means I’ve interviewed over 300 applicants, many of whom were in the criminal justice systems as county attorneys, assistant county attorneys, public defenders. And I asked them, “What’s happening with the child abuse and spousal abuse and other abuse kinds of incidents in Minnesota? And they all say “more and more, and more and more extreme.” So what we’re talking about here is not that gray area, we’re talking about a clearly dark area of people’s psyche and their behavior in ways that have damaging effects on children and the spouses in that instance, for for the rest of their lives. So the kind of changes in the task force I’ve appointed are going to recommend are meant to provide protections. Where it’s not a judgment call, where it’s absolutely in excess of what any reasonable person would have for a standard.
JJ: Yeah well, that is a very difficult question and it’s a fine line and I don’t know exactly how I can even explain explain where you define that. But government does have a role, and I see this firsthand as a Hennepin County commissioner. Because a lot of times those issues come to the counties, whether they’re issues of child abuse or child neglect. So there’s a role to play, certainly, for the more extreme examples.
I would say Adrian Peterson would be a an extreme example where the government does have a role to play. Ah we unfortunately, very unfortunately in this past few months, we we’ve had that horrible story of the young boy who died because of what was going on in his family. And ah that should never happen. In Minnesota. And what happened was, there were there were there were report after report after report of abuse, and ah because they were only reports, and they were never proven, ah the county didn’t take action on that. And that actually happened because the legislature and the governor passed a law that said they weren’t supposed to do that.
Ah now I think we’re going in to try to fix that. Because there’s no reason whatsoever why we shouldn’t be allowing our counties to look at allegations along with actual proven incidents.
RM: Bill, you have a followup question?
BS: Yes I do. Ah have either of you physically disciplined your child? Governor?
MD: I whacked Eric once on the butt when he was in diapers and haven’t again. And I didn’t strike Andrew at all. And I can’t notice any permanent impairment in Eric’s psyche (off camera laughter) but I I regretted that action and didn’t repeat it.
JJ: Is Thor here? (audience laughs) He’s here, oh he’s in the back row. Oh, he’s gonna love me for this. But, yes! Once. Ah, kindergarten. Ah, Thor, ah who’s a really good kid, kept getting little yellow cards. It’s kinda like soccer at our public school in Plymouth. Where when you do something a little wrong, nothin horrible but a little wrong, you get a yellow card and he kept bringing home yellow cards. And I said “You know what? If you have one more yellow card I’m gonna give you a spanking.” And he didn’t believe me. And I did. And we never saw another yellow card. And he’s a good kid. (off camera laughter)
RM: There you go. All right we have about three minutes left in the debate, so we want to do something called a lightning round. Candidates, the panelists will be asking you a series of relatively quick questions. And what we’re looking for are relatively quick answers. In fact, 10 seconds or less typically, some of these questions or most of these questions will be yes or no answers. We’re gonna try to get as many in as we can. And Rachel, I believe you’re going to start our lightning round.
TS: I’m going to start the lightning round.
RM: Tom, go ahead.
TS: On the PolyMet copper nickel mine being proposed in northeastern Minnesota, Governor Dayton, if the state’s environmental impact statement comes back giving the project a green light, would you support it?
MD: Well, it passed that hurdle but it still needs to go through the permitting process, and we need to have financial assurances and the like. But if it’s a green light, based on the environmental evaluation that’s a big step forward.
TS: Mr. Johnson, the same report came back citing severe environmental concerns. Would you still continue your push to authorize it immediately?
JJ: I would push to figure out if there’s a way to solve those problems, yes, because I think mining is important to northern Minnesota.
RS-B: Onto middle class, both of you have talked a lot about it. At what income level do you define the middle class in Minnesota? Governor?
MD: Well, it depends on family structure. Somebody who’s single or has 1 dependent is a different situation from somebody who has multiple children or dependents. So I I would say sixty, fifty to sixty thousand dollars is the beginning of the middle class.
JJ: Yeah, Rachel I have no clue what, how I would define that. Ah y’know maybe it probably starts at that point and goes up, but it it all depends on the size of your family and probably where you live.
BS: Next ah, when screening candidates for Supreme Court vacancy, will you ask about their views on abortion? Commissioner.
JJ: I will not.
TS: Governor, should law-abiding citizens be allowed to bring guns into the State Capitol?
MD: Ah right now they can, and if properly recorded by the Commissioner of Public Safety, and if there are demonstrated to again have passed the qualifications, then I don’t think the Capitol should be treated differently from other facilities.
RS-B: Marijuana policy has been in considerable discussion at the Capitol. Have either of you smoked marijuana? (off camera laughter) Commissioner?
BS: Ah 2 years from now there’s gonna be a Constitutional amendment on the ballot. Will you vote for the Constitutional amendment that allows an outside group to raise the pay of state legislators? Governor?
MD: Well I think state legislators are severely underpaid in Minnesota. They’re supposed to be part-time but they’re full-time and they have responsibility for a 40 billion dollar biennial budget. Ah I think the state legislature should be paid what an average Minnesota family is paid, so they can feed their families and be the honest, law-abiding policymakers that they are.
BS: Commissioner? JJ: No. I I think this is a way of getting pay increases without having to vote for pay increases. And I think, as a former legislator, we should have to do that.
TS: Both of you have had health problems over the past year. Is there any circumstance where you can see yourself leaving office before your term is up? Commissioner?
MD: In a grave.
RS-B: Could either of you support a budget that cuts subsidized health insurance for Minnesota?
JJ: Is it me?
RM: Commissioner Johnson.
JJ: Ah, I don’t know. It’s it’s all gonna depend upon the the big picture of a budget, so answering yes or no to that’s pretty difficult.
MD: I agree. Not only very difficult, it’s impossible.
BS: Ah what’s your favorite fast food? What is your favorite fast food?
RM: Governor Dayton? MD: Chocolate ice cream. (off camera laughter)
JJ: I was gonna say DQ Blizzards. So we agree on something today. (off camera laughter)
TS: Would you outlaw the use of phone calls while driving? Commissioner?
RM: All right! Well, that was awesome. You guys did a great job with that. Candidates, we appreciate that as well. Really profound answers, we hope that the audience and those at at home garnered something from the answers today. Ah we are out of time this morning. Everyone here on campus did a wonderful job here. Hamline University, we appreciate them for hosting us here, and we want to thank them for being such a great host. Remarkable job, in all the preparation that goes into preparing for debate like this. It is not easy. We simply could not have done it without all of you.
Before we go, we want to give our candidates time for closing remarks. Governor Dayton, you went last for those opening statements so you will go first for your closing remarks.
MD: I was born and raised in Minnesota, and this state has been very very good to myself and my family. I ran for office in 2009 because I thought Minnesota was heading in the wrong direction. And I believe that we’ve turned that corner, and I think we’re making now considerable progress. Now we need to move ahead. We need to focus first and foremost on education. Because we want good jobs for our young people, we want good jobs for our middle-aged adults. And to be able to attract companies here, to locate and expand as they are now, we need the world’s best educated, best trained workforce, equipped with the skills for the jobs of the future, rather than the jobs of the past.
So that’ll be my priority. Invest in early childhood education, the read by the end of third grade initiative, that State Senator Gen Olson championed, and moving straight through to higher education, they’re training people for the jobs, the skills for the jobs that are out there now going unfilled, because they don’t have the proper credentials.
RM: Commissioner Johnson.
JJ: Well, I’d like to close with my vision for the future of Minnesota. I’ve a vision of a state where every child has access to great teachers and a great education, regardless of where that child lives, or how rich or poor his or her parents are. And where the people who work in government understand that our job is not to regulate and control and punish, but actually serve the taxpayers who pay our salary. And where patients and doctors are making healthcare decisions, not insurance companies and certainly not government bureaucrats.
And most importantly for me, I have a vision of a state where we have ended this belief that the poor are poor and the rich are rich and all we get to do is just move the money around. And instead we are celebrating those who are successful. And we are never, ever ever giving up on those who are poor. And we are preaching every day a sincerely held belief every day 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 in this great state. That’s my vision for Minnesota, and that’s why I’m running for governor. And I would love your support. Thank you.
RM: All right. That concludes our Gubernatorial debate for today. I’d like to thank both our candidates, wonderful job to both of you, taking time out your busy schedules, your campaign schedules, to address the issues that will be on the minds of Minnesotans come Election Day. Remember, don’t forget to vote on Election Day, November fourth. Coming up! Jeff Passolt has that post-debate reaction on the Fox 9 Morning News. For all of us at Fox 9, I’m Randy Meier, thanks for joining us.