Replay – Gubernatorial Debates in Rochester

Here’s a replay of Friday’s Minnesota gubernatorial debates in Rochester, which were held at high noon and facilitated by the town’s Chamber of Commerce and the Post-Bulletin newspaper. Time is running out on Democrat Mark Dayton, Republican Tom Emmer and Independent Tom Horner’s quests to become the state’s next governor. The election is just 11 days away.

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Minnesota Governor Candidates Debates-Captioned

Minnesota Gubernatorial Debate, Rochester MN, October 22, 2010
Sponsored by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce
Speakers: Mark Dayton, DFL candidate; Tom Emmer, Republican candidate; Tom Horner, Independence Party candidate; Moderator: Tom Overlie, KTTC-TV
Partial Transcript by Susan Maricle

Tom Overlie: Welcome, our three Gubernatorial candidates, to Rochester, to our fine city of Rochester. Senator Mark Dayton, raise your hand so we all know who you are! (audience laughs) Representative Tom Emmer, and Tom Horner, welcome. We are grateful also for your public service. I was doing a little research, by the way, prior to the debate here, came across the Lincoln-Douglas debates. And I considered using that very interesting format for a short time. But I wasn’t sure if opening statements of one hour would be too long per candidate. (audience laughs) Rebuttals, I believe, were an hour and a half. The one positive: closing statements, half an hour each. So we can go that format if you feel comfortable 00:52

Tom Emmer: Not enough time. 00:52

Tom Overlie: Yeah, not enough time. I have a newscast at six o’clock I have to anchor . Actually, five, and Tom Emmer, you’re coming on live at five. On KTTC. We’re gonna begin with candidate opening statements of two minutes and Tom Emmer, you will start. We did a coin toss back there, and the same order will be used for our closing statements as well. Which will also be two mintues. Questions will be provided by Julie Fiesel from the Chamber of Commerce. Julie, in the red, and Greg Sellnow, the Post-Bulletin. I’ll also be asking some questions on behalf of the audience, I have questions that many of you submitted. So thank you for those submissions. Each candidate will be given ninety seconds to answer each question. And in the middle of the debate we are inserting a segment, a segment called Peer to Peer. And each candidate will be able to ask one of their, another candidate a direct question. 01:45

And our timekeeper today is Bruce! Bruce Bohler. And so the candidates can get full use of their time, I ask that you would withhold your applause to the end. With that, we begin (sigh) our opening statements with Representative Tom Emmer. 01:58

Tom Emmer: First, now, it’s not true that the red one is attached to some kind of electrical shock device, is that true? )2:04

Tom Overlie: Well, I’m not allowed to go into detail about what would happen when the red light comes on. 02:09

Tom Emmer: Well, if you see us do that (jerks head) 02:11

Tom Overlie: Yeah, right. 02:11

Tom Emmer: Thank you very much Tom, and thank you for the Rochester Chamber of Commerce and the Post Bulletin and all the other great sponsors. As Tom told you before we came up here, we had a coin toss, and after listening to his reference of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, I guess I elected to take the wind, so I’m going to go first. Take it for what you will. This is going, these are great. We’ve done 22 of these, I think, so far? Twenty-two debates, we’re told? That it’s more than any other Gubernatorial candidates have ever done before this. And it’s a great opportunity for us to introduce ourselves to you, and I’m looking forward to the discussion today. I’ll just give you this brief snippet from our perspective. There are three people running for hti soffice but there are only two messages. On the one hand, my colleagues talk about raising billions of dollars of taxes. They talk about different types of taxes, but they want to raise billions of dollars of taxes to fund yet more growth in government. I believe that is not responsible, I believe that is not sustainable. I believe we have to look at government being more efficient. We have to redesign government in order to deliver the services we all expect. This argument that we’ve been hearing for years, you either have to raise taxes or cut services, is not real. We gotta talk about redesigning the delivery system for those services. That is the government that we do need. And there is a place for it. But it’s gotta be efficient, it must deliver the services we expect in an affordable, sustainable manner. And then we’ve gotta get jobs growing again in this state. And I produced the only balanced, complete, detailed budget that actually includes 625 to 630 million dollars of immediate business tax incentives to get our businesses not only the opportunity to start making capital investments again, but to start to grow jobs in this state. Looking forward to the discussion. And clearly there isn’t a shock collar that comes with it. Thanks. 03:56

Tom Overlie: You lucked out this time! Thank you Tom Emmer. And we now go to Tom Horner. 04:01

Tom Horner: Well, thank you very much, thanks to the host, thanks to all of you for being here. It’s always great to be in Rochester. It’s particularly good to be in Rochester on the day after receiving another in in almost a clean sweep of endorsements from newspapers, prominent Democrats, Republicans, and former Governors. Yesterday I received the endorsement of Govenror Al Quie, saying this is the first time he’s going to vote for a non-Republican. So very appreciative to have that kind of support. And it reflects, y’know I think a common theme that we hear through all of these endorsements. What I hear from my Republican friends is that well, with all due respect, maybe they’re not quite so certain about Represetnative Emmer, but they’re really concerned about what a Governor Dayton might be. And from my Democratic friends, maybe a little soft on Senator Dayton with all due respect, but really concerned about what a Governor Emmer might be. And I’ve learned to always agree with my friends. (audience laughs) But it’s not because I think one candidate as Governor is going to drag us way off the right cliff or one would drag us way off the left cliff. Y’know, the reality is that, would one take a couple of steps to the right before the Democrats pull a Governor Emmer back? Absolutely. Would a Senator Dayton, a Governor Dayton, pull us a few steps to the left before Republicans yanked him back? Without question. But here’s the reality. We can’t afford to move sideways at all. Whether it’s to the right or to the left. And that’s the proposals that we’re hearing from my two esteemed colleagues. Movement to the side. We need to be a state that’s moving forward. And when you look at all the endorsements that I’ve received, from all the nespapers across the state, from the former Governors, from prominent Republicans and Democrats, they’re all saying this. We have tough decisions to make in Minnesota. John talked about the challenges and the opportunities that exist in Rochester. It’s true the state over. We need leadership. And that’s what this election is about. 06:03

Tom Overlie: Tom Horner, thank you. And, Senator Mark Dayton. 06:08

Mark Dayton: It’s an honor to be here with all of the civic leaders of Rochester, this amazing community. Y’know when I was six years old I came here, where the Mayo Clinic corrected the eyesight of my little sister and gave her new life. A half-century later, as a United States Senator, I was in Amman, Jordan. I met with the officials including the foreign minister of Jordan, and I said “I’m from Minneosta. Do you know where that is?” He gave me a big smile and said “The Mayo Clinic cured my father of cancer three years ago and I spent much of six months here.” Isn’t it wonderful that we’re exporting your wisdom all over the world. And I remember when I was Commissioner of Economic Development. The IBM said that they would locate the plant here. Those product lines required the highest degree of perfection. Because they had the best quality workforce here in Rochester of any operation they had anywhere in the country. And yet last year I was in the Folwell School, elementary school, in a fifth-grade classroom with 35 children and only 1 teacher. So Rochester like Minnesota faces these challenges. And this election is about a future. About a future to restore the quality of life upon which our success has depended in the past and it will in the future. Starting with a renewed commitment to education. When state funding for our public schools has been cut by an average of $1300 dollars per student in real after-inflation dollars over the last eight years, it’s one of the reasons why Folwell’s classroom is overcrowded. It’s one of the reasons why property taxes have gone from 4 billion dollars in Minneosta to 7 billion dollars. That the so-called No New Taxes has been proven to be a myth. That the Department of Revenue points out when you cut local government aids or you cut school aids, property taxes go up 67 cents for every dollar of cut. So these are the challenges that Rochester shares with the rest of the state. The next Governor, and I hope to lead in a better direction. Thank you. 08:11

Tom Overlie: Senator Mark Dayton, thank you. We begin our questions with Greg Sellnow of the Post-Bulletin. And again, candidates will have 90 seconds each to respond. 08:23

Greg Sellnow: Mayo Clinic officials have said that Governor Tim Pawlenty’s rejection of early enrollment in Medicaid and his oppositition to preserving the original General Assistance Medicare, Medical Care program, will cost the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health System about 25 million dollars. Do you disagree with the way the Govenror handled those issues? And if so, what would you do differently in regard to GAMC and implementation of the Federal Health Care Reform Act? 08:53

Tom Overlie: Tom Emmer, why don’t you start this one. 08:58

Tom Emmer: In 90 seconds! No, I don’t. We’ve got a crisis right now in financing in the state of Minnesota. To opt-in, there were 11 states given the opportunity to do an early opt-in. I believe eight states decided to do it, and not one of them to my knowledge has yet to get the money. The problem is threefold: one, it’s gonna cost the state of Minnesota roughly 430 billion –billion dollars over – 430 MILLION dollars over the next three years to implement this. Two, the system that the federal government uses does not reward Minnesota in a proper way. Minnesota’s figured out, and especially the Mayo, has figured out how to deliver healthcare services of the highest quality at the lowest cost. Federal reimbursement is based on volume of care. That doesn’t allow for the innovation Minnesota needs to do. And because we’re short, with 90 seconds, I’ll tell ya this: GAMC, there is a different way to do that, it’s gonna take a little more time to talk about it, it’s empowering the providers to actually provide the care and be able to claim uncompensated care on their bottom line, and then lastly, why don’t we talk about eliminating the sick tax as opposed to trying to take every federal one-size-fits-all solution that’s gonna put us in a problem in 2014 and 2017? Let’s start addressing the things we can here in Minneosta. Get rid of the sick tax. 10:15

Tom Overlie: Mark Dayton, why don’t you go next. 10:18

Mark Dayton: This should be the easiest, the most common-sense decision the next Governor would make. And on day one I would sign the early opt-in. According to the heads of the Minnesota Medical Association and the Minnesota Hospital Association, who wrote a letter to Governor Pawlenty urging him to choose the opt-in, the net cost to the state is 188 million dollars over the next 3 years. That money, I’m told by my running mate, State Senator Yvonne Prettner Solon, is already included in the biennial budget for the next two years. For that 188 million from the state, we would get $1.4 billion dollars in federal funding. It would provide for quality health care for about 102,000 Minnesotans, the poorest of the poor, and also importantly, as your questioner knows from the Mayo, Greg, it would provide sufficient funding to all of our hospitals that would enable them to provide better quality care for all Minneostans. And is especially important in greater Minneosta and the smaller communities that don’t have some of the property values and wealth. Many of the hospitals there are in serious financial condition, and this money is critically important to their financial stability and their ability to provide better quality care for all Minneosotans over the next three years. Y’know, we can get back in Minneosta about 72 cents for every dollar we send to Washington. Here’s an opportunity to get almost seven times return on the dollar we spend in state money in those federal funds. And provide better quality health care, better financial stability to our hospitals, it’s really about the easiest, most common sense decision the next Governor could make and I’ll sign it on day one. 11:48

Tom Overlie: Tom Horner. 11:51

Tom Horner: Well, I’m pleased that Senator Dayton noted the Minneosta Meidcal Assocaition, Minnesota Hospital Association, two other organizations that have endorsed me. And, and, again, why they’ve endorsed me is because I’m the one who’s talking about a long-term vision for health reform. We ought to take early opt-in. But not because we get federal dollars. Because it’s our opportunity to expand access. And that’s how we’re going to get true reform: is when we expand access, when we’re able to cover more people. I thought the decision on General Assistance Medical Care was one of the worst decisions the Governor made. In fact, I was asked at a table back here, what did I think was the worst decision, and that’s exactly what I pointed to. And it’s all well and good to say we have a secret plan to do something better, but you’ve been in the Legislature for six years. You were part of the decisionmaking process that led to this horrible decision on General Assistance Medical Care. Here’s the reality. Mayo Clinic, and other health care leaders in Minnesota, have been among those who have helped try to design a better health care system. By moving to a focus on quality, by moving to a focus on coordinating care for those with chronic conditions. That’s where we need to go. That’s where the future is. But we’re not going to get there if we put partisan politics in front of Minnesota solutions. Y’know this decision on Medicaid, on GAMC, that wasn’t about Minnesota. It was about Presidential ambitions. Let’s be honest about it! And to say now we’re going to make different decisions because we have a secret plan, that’ s also a partisan interest. We need to get beyond that. 13:29

Tom Overlie: Thank you Tom. Julie Fiesel from the Chamber of Commerce, your question, and Tom Horner, you will go first on that. 13:37

Julie Fiesel: Do you believe our free enterprise system is currently threatened? 13:40

Tom Horner: Well, I think our free enterprise system is currently threatened IF we don’t make good decisions about how we reform tax policy in Minnesota. And I know my friends have have taken me to task for how they define my tax proposal. So let me tell you what my tax proposal really is. We have a tax system in Minneosta created in the sixties and seventies for an economy and a population that doesn’t exist. And to put more dependence on the income tax, more dependence on property tax, as both of my opponents have suggested, is the wrong way to go. In a global marketplace, in which ideas, jobs, and capital are highly mobile, we need to create incentives for individuals and businesses to invest in growth. And Senator, that’s the problem with your tax proposal, and just ask one of our sponsors today, Pharmaceutical Specialties. Under your tax proposal, their growth would be significantly reduced – and they would tell you that. We need to move toward more incentives for investment in growth, in the engines of growth. And then we do need to go more of a consumption tax. Lower the rate of the sales tax. On big-ticket items, people pay less, and broaden the base. And here’s what it does among many other things. It stabilizes the revenue for the state. And secondly, at a time when fewer people are paying any income tax at all, this gives everybody a connection to the cost of government. It gives everybody a sense that when we pay taxes, we’re paying it because government costs us something. And to control the cost of government, we better make that connection. 15:15

Tom Overlie: Senator Dayton. 15:17

Mark Dayton: Mr. Horner, your, the specifics of your proposal are that you’re gonna extend the sales tax to clothing, and to consumer services such as haircuts and car repairs. And I can’t tell you the number of small businesses and their owners who have come to me and said “Don’t extend the sales tax. That will impact our business. That will impact negatively our bottom line. At a time when the economy is recovering sluggishly, and one of the reasons for that is lack of consumer spending to put additional costs on consumers, and particularly on middle-income taxpayers. The Minneosta Department of Revenue’s analysis is that middle-income families pay 2 ? times the percent of their income in the sales tax as they do in the top income people. And so my goal is to make taxes less regressive as they are today in Minnesota, the state and local taxes combined. And in terms of volatility, again, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently came out with a report just the last two weeks that said that consumer income has remained basically even over the last two years, whereas consumer spending for clothing and services has dropped in each year by over four percent. So it’s a more volatile tax and therefore a more volatile source of revenue for the state than is the income tax. 16:40

Tom Emmer: I believe the question is, is our free enterprise system threatened? Yes! It is! Too much government. Too onerous a regulatory system and too high of taxes. It absolutely is. Government needs to be structured, it needs to get out of the way, you gotta reduce taxes, not what these two gentlemen suggest. I respect them but disagree entirely. It’s not time to increase taxes to preserve the growth of government, it’s time to reduce taxes, streamline government, and free the entrepreneurial spirit that’s in Minnesota to start creating jobs! People who come out running for office say “We need to invest here, we need to invest there.” Government doesn’t create jobs! People create jobs. We gotta free people to do what they do best. Which is create new opportunities in the state of Minnesota. Not by raising taxes to yet again try to sustain unsustainable growth in government. 17:35

Tom Overlie: Thank you gentlemen! Okay our next question is from Mackenna Shafsky from the eighth grade. Mackenna, raise your hand … back there. Welcome! Eighth grader at Kellogg Middle School and Mackenna says, “What would you do to increase grade point averages and graduation rates in Minneosta schools?” An education question. And, Senator Mark Dayton. 18:01

Mark Dayton: Well thank you for being here, Mackenna. Y’know I tried to get my sons a number of years ago to come to an event like this to hear me speak. They were about your age. And my younger son Andrew looked at me seriously and said “Dad, I really don’t want to go. I heard you speak once. Dad, you were really boring.” (audience laughs) So I commend you for being here! And I want everyone to be as successful through eighth grade and beyond, as I know you are from being here today. And I think the way we do that, to begin with is with more investment in early childhood education. First, we’re going to have to balance the state budget, the deficit of some 5.8 billion. But in the future, as the opportunity presents itself, I would like to increase the investment in early childhood education. Studies show that’s really important for kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Again, one of my goals, as revenues permit, would be to provide state funding for optional all-day kindergarten. We’re one of a relatively few number of states that does not provide state funding for that. And we have about, only about a third – I’m sorry, about a half the number of children as the national average of children in all-day kindergarten. So that’s again important. Help for children to come to Minnesota from all over the world, in different grades, to learn our language through individiual small-group assistance, I remember going to Rochester Mayo School a few eyars ago. The principal said, in this school of eighteen hundred students we have 54 different languages and dialects spoken here. Go to the Wellstone Inernaitonal School and you see children come from different parts of the world who’ve come here as teenagers and never had any education. And with the excellence commitment there, they graduate with high school degrees and can go on. So those are the kinds of commitments we need. 19:38

Tom Overlie: Senator, thank you. Represenative Tom Emmer. 19:40

Tom Emmer: Mackenna, congratulations for being in the eighth grade, Jacquie and I have an eighth grader as well. At Delano Public, in fact we have almost every other grade covered. (audience laughs) Our daughter Katie, who’s a sophomore at Delano, is actually here with Jacquie and I today. So Mark, I guess we, she must not think I’m, or you’re not that boring. She must have shown up to hear you. (audience laughs) Here, it’s not just about throwing more money at it. Y’know the budget I put out not only maintains the state’s current commitment at 13.3 billion dollars but increases our commitment by another half a billion dollars. And I made the statement, we need to bring our history, our trdition of great education into the twenty-first century. We can talk about early childhood, it’s important. But in the K-12 system that you’re in right now, it’s not just about throwing more money at the issue, it’s about making sure that we can measure outcomes. We’ve gotta know what the performance is because we expect you to be ready to drive the economic engine that we’re creating. In three words, measure, report, reward. We’ve gotta measure outcomes, we’ve gotta be able to report those outcomes to parents so they can make choices that are educated about where their children will benefit the most, and we’ve gotta reward schools and teachers that are actually showing the performance that we expect. I’m doin’ better on that timer, that thing, yeah. 20:54

Tom Horner: There must be, (Emmer laughs) there must have been an electric shock there. It’s kinda Pavlovian when you see that yellow light go on. 21:00

Tom Emmer: I saw ya itchin’ over there. (Horner laughs) 21:03

Tom Horner: Mackenna, thank you for being here. And so this is where I lose your vote. Because I suspect you’re here because of Education Minnesota and their convention. One of the things we need to do, if we’re going to raise grade point averages, is have more classroom time. One of the ways we’re going to have more classroom time is to ask teachers not to hold their conventions not in October, but sometime other than September to June. We need to put more time into the classroom. But we do need to go beyond that. Y’know, I think there are a couple of things that are important. First of all, we do need more money invested in early childhood education. But we need to do it in a right way. There’s a great program at Fair Oaks Elementary School in Osseo and some other schools around the state that is an age-three-to-grade-three school. They bring kids in at three to four. They serve largely an underrepresented, poor community of new Minnesotans. They’ve also figured out how to engage the parents to give them the materials to help them take home the lessons to their children. Secondly, we need to let teachers teach. One of the problems with No Child Left Behind is that it has imposed such a rigidity on the classroom. We have effective teachers, but then we tie their hands. We don’t let them teach. Go into a classroom and see how many children are disengaged because not that the teachers aren’t great, but because we don’t allow them to be great. And thirdly, every great school has a terrific principal. And we need to make sure that schools are led by great principals who then have the autonomy to run those schools. I think if we do those three things we’re on the right rack. 22:40

Tom Overlie: Thank you, Tom. Our next question comes from Greg Sellnow of the Post-Bulletin. And why don’t we begin with you, Tom Emmer. 22:46

Greg Sellnow: Where do you stand on the proposal here backed by Mayo Clinic, Olmsted County and the city of Rochester but opposed by some farmers and rural residents in the area to build a freight-rail bypass around Rochester? And secondly, if you have time in 90 seconds, where do you stand on the issue of passenger rail in the state? 23:06

Tom Emmer: The, first on the local issue, this question was asked to me two-three months ago. And I think it’s important that we recognize that people that are running for statewide office in St. Paul should have input at some point. But you gotta start to respect the local community and what they’re doing. And there’s a feasibility study going on right now, my understanding is the work is in progress. So before you step out, and maybe my colleagues will differ with me, before you step your foot into that bucket and tell the local people, “This is what I think you should be doing,” I think we owe it to the community to wait and see what it is YOU think and what you propose. Which is the next step, when you get to passenger rail. When we look at transportation, especially when you’re talking about the third largest city in Minnesota, and you’re talking about the fastest-growing community in the United States, you’ve gotta look at every transportation option with this ideal in mind: that we need the highest return for the money that we’re spending to move people and product. If rail ends up being that, great. But I haven’t seen that so far. If it does get built, regardless, if high-speed rail gets built, it absolutely should come through Rochester. 24:15

Tom Overlie: Tom Horner. 24:18

Tom Horner: Well, and