After the boisterous Almanac debate and the no-holds-barred GameFair debate, Minnesota’s Gubernatorial candidates met in a low-key debate sponsored by the state Chamber of Commerce. Topics included tourism, taxes, reducing the budget deficit, preparing an educated workforce, and leadership. The debate took place in Nisswa, Minnesota with DFL candidates Mark Dayton, Republican Tom Emmer, and IP candidate Tom Horner.
MinnPost Fact Checks this debate:
Minnesota Gubernatorial Debate, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Brainerd Lakes, MN, August 17, 2010
Speakers: Mark Dayton, DFL candidate; Tom Emmer, Republican candidate; Tom Horner, Independence Party candidate; David McMillan, moderator; Reggie Clow, business owner.
Moderator: Let’s bring our candidates up and get this started, beginning with U.S. Senator Mark Dayton. He’s right over there, next, (applause), let’s go ahead and recognize him now, that’s fine. Minnesota State Representative Tom Emmer, (applause), and former business executive Tom Horner (applause). All right. Thank you gentlemen. Jobs and the economy obviously at the top of mind of Minnesotans, not just the members that you’ve got here today.
(AUDIO SKIPS :46 -:1:15)
And really, 3 things that we see from a business perspective when we talk about jobs and the economy. Well, a competitive tax environment is obviously very important, a permitting process that works well, and a competitive marketplace. Those are all really critical elements (SKIP) when we start talking about jobs and economy what does that mean, those three things. Top of that list, I started with intentionally, is really the tax burden. How much of a tax burden can business in this state handle and if we’re gonna move forward and grow this state and grow the economy as you hear the people being interested in, we’ve gotta look at that tax burden. So here’s the question. As Governor, how would you make Minnesota’s tax climate more competitive for existing Minnesota businesses and for companies that we want to attract to Minnesota? Let’s start right in the middle there with Mr. Dayton. Go ahead sir 1:50
Mark Dayton: Well, I want to thank the Minnesota Chamber and all of you for your very very important contributions to our state, and for your distinguished citizenship and your leadership. You know, over 2,000 years ago the Roman philosopher said that in a democracy the most important office was that of citizen. So as US citizen leaders, I respect and I salute you. The tax issue has been one that I’ve been dealing with since I was Commissioner of Economic Development for Minnesota back in the 1970s and again in the 1980s. Where business climate concerns were raised consistently. Where Minnesota had progressive taxes and where we were then during that time consistently among the top third states in the nation usually in the top ten in employment growth. Where now, we’ve gone to a situation where according to Ernst and Young’s analysis, and the Council on State Taxation, a national organization of corporate tax attorneys, Minnesota has the 15th lowest business tax in the state – in the country. We have a nominal rate, 9.8%, but their analysis is that Minnesota collects only 30 cents of every dollar after all the deductions and exemptions. If the tax rate were the sole determinant of business growth, then obviously Minnesota would not be in the situation it’s been in historically. And yet, even after the two tax cuts of 1998 and 2000, where the top rate was cut by 8%, the result I’ve seen some of these billboards about South Dakota, is that South Dakota increased its GDP, increased its percentage of what Minnesota’s GDP is from 12.5% to 14%. So, you would have expected the opposite. If we had cut taxes as we have, that we would have received a benefit for doing so. In fact, the opposite is true. Meanwhile, we’ve sacrificed the quality of our education, the condition of our infrastructure, our highways, and so we have to achieve a balance between business taxation and individual taxation, solving a 6 billion dollar deficit and making the investments that we need for the future of Minnesota. 04:08
Moderator: Thank you Senator. Mr. Emmer, you next and stick with alphabetical order here. 4:05
Tom Emmer: I thought the question is, how would you deal with the tax policy to make it more business-friendly in the state of Minnesota 04:14
Moderator: How do we make sure that the climate the tax climate makes for more competitive businesses and enables us to attract business 04:20
Tom Emmer: Well first off I have questions as to whether Kwilas can keep time I’ve been watching myself but we’ll see (audience laughs). We obviously have a difference of opinion here. What we’ve been doing in this state has not been working. It has been the same model of government now for several decades. This is not a matter of pointing fingers or assessing blame, it’s a matter of looking at it whether it’s Republicans, Democrats or other. The model of business in the state of Minnesota over the past several decades has been grow government. When government runs out of money, go back to the hard-working men and women in the state and the businesses of this state and ask em to pay more. In order to make it a climate that is business friendly you have to put some stability and predictability into our economic environment. In the state of Minnesota that’s gonna start with setting priorities and getting ahold of the growth of government. And it’s been done. All you need to do is compare what Mitch Daniels has been doing Indiana over the past 5 years. And you can see even though it’s not always apples to apples it can be done in Minnesota. Mitch Daniels was elected by a very slim margin in 2004. When he was elected, state government had about 35,000 employees. He was elected by a wide margin in the last election. State government in Indiana now has about 30,000 employees. He has gotten control of the runaway spending train that was the state of Indiana’s government. He has created stability and predictability. So guess what. Now, more venture capital than ever is being invested into the state of Indiana and today the state of Indiana is responsible for 7% of all the new jobs in the country. That can and should be the state of Minnesota. What you have to do is set your priorities, you have to determine what it is you HAV to spend, not what you WANT to spend. Then you must purchase the priorities that you expect, the services, the essential services government’s supposed to provide. Out of the money that you have, that’s how you come up with a balanced budget. You create that kind of stability, you predict , create predictability. You will start to see investment once again.
Not only coming from outside of Minnesota but more importantly, the existing economic courses that are still here, assuming we’re gonna talk about regulation before the day is over, will be allowed to run again and we’ll start to see our economy move (applause) 06:43
Moderator: Thank you Representative Emmer. Let’s hold the applause. Mr. Horner. 06:46
Tom Horner: Well, thank you very much David. Thank all of you for being here and for giving us this opportunity. So the question was, How do you make tax reform work to create jobs in Minnesota? And I come to this as the perspective of somebody who’s run a business. I’ve had to meet payrolls. I’ve had to grow jobs. I’ve had to decide whether to hire people, if we had the resources to do that. And let me tell you this Senator. If we kill tax, if we kill job creators with tax increases, we kill jobs in Minnesota. And we can’t afford to kill jobs. We need to understand that the kind of tax increases you’re proposing are job killers for small businesses. There is not a small business in Minnesota, the Sub-S’s, the LLCs , that can afford a doubling of their tax their tax rates as you’ve proposed. It will kill jobs. But we can’t continue the status quo either. We’ve had a republican party, and I know because I was there, that has become so absolute
on No New Taxes that we can’t do tax reform. We need tax reform. We have a tax system that is out of date that was created in the 60s and 70s for an economy that doesn’t work, for an economy that doesn’t exist anymore. We need to make the kinds of tax changes that allow companies to grow. That create incentives for investments. That incent investment in research and development. That removes the sales tax on capital equipment purchases. That reduces the corporate tax. And we need to do it now. And we need to do it with an eye to, How do we make Minnesota the job mecca of our country? We need to make the kinds of investments and smart reform that are going to allow the job creators to do what they do best 08:47
Moderator: Thank you Mr. Horner. And I want to thank all three candidates for watching our timelines there. You did very very nicely. Second question here (UNCLEAR, audio skip from 8:55 to 8:59, Minnesota business leaders, this Chamber for instance, and just about anybody that you talk to (audio skip, 9:06 to 9:20) Number there are many changed business is good there are water the emissions are some of the stiffest the country some of the most stringent. So when we talk about environmental process and environmental permitting reform I want to make very clear, we aren’t asking these candidates can we change those standards. Those standards are gold standards, we’re not talking about lessening them. What we hear from Minnesota businesses is that the process of getting a yes or a no out of our regulatory institutions has become very painful (UNCLEAR, audio skip at 9:34) …that want to look at doing things differently and perhaps more efficiently. So my question is, tell us how you’ll expedite the process in Minnesota if you’re elected Governor and let’s start with you Representative Emmer. 0:10:04.
Tom Emmer: First off David I appreciate the fact that you teed it up by making it clear whether you’re in business, or you’re employed in by somebody’s business or you are just living in this great state, nobody has the market cornered on the environment. We all want clean water. We all want clean air. We all want to be the best stewards we can possibly be of this state’s great natural resources. So it’s important that we put that aside right now. I don’t (aside to timekeeper) there’s something going on over here Tony can you take care of this? (audience laughs) But very quickly, what I talked about earlier today I’m gonna talk about again. We need to turn Minnesota into a one stop shop for business. You shouldn’t have to go through years of permitting in this state at astronomical cost in not only human time but also out of your pocketbook with no guarantee that you’re going to get through. Some of you watched the TPT debate the other night. I talked about Amos and Amon Baer and how they chose not to invest $40,000 of their money and 2 years of their lives to try and permit a new hog operation in this state. Instead they moved over to North Dakota and it was open within 6 months. And today it has a payroll of 1.4 million. My wife Jacquie reminded me of a friend of ours, he lived right across the street. He was a comptroller for a manufacturing business. A national wheel bearing manufacturer. This is what’s happening in this state. Bob is his name. Bob was charged with building a new facility for his company. He got a personal phone call from the Governor of the state of Iowa who invited him down, actually sent a bus up to take Bob and his leadership team down to Iowa. Show ‘em all of their, all of the things that iowa offers. Well, let’s not get into that, we’ll talk about that later. But seriously, they were recruiting him. Same types of calls from North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. He said he called the state of Minnesota and the response was in so many words, “This is what you must do if you’re going to expand in Minnesota.” He expanded in Iowa. These are jobs that need to be here and the permitting is a lot of the problem. Because again it’s the uncertainty. We need to create one-stop shop certainty so people know what they’re investing, how much time it’ll take so they can get up and running. And create new jobs. 12:13
Moderator: Thank you. Mr. Horner. 12:16
Tom Horner: Thank you. Well, I think the tone is set at the top. I think we need a Governor who has the leadership that says, This is going to be the style, the temperament, this is how we hold government accountable. (AUDIO SKIPS FROM 12:26, 12:30) We do have too much confusion, too much overlap, too much redundancy in our permitting processes. Something like 7 different agencies to evaluate water. We don’t need that. We ought to put it all into a single agency. Now, unlike Representative Emmer, I don’t think the agency is the Department of Agriculture as he has proposed. I think we need an agency that is focused on, How do we protect the environment and how do we create jobs? (AUDIO SKIPS, 12:58 through 0:13:06). We have smart people who know how to get this done. We also need flexibility. We need some common sense. A construction project in the Twin Cities. Was ready to go, had all of the permitting done, had problems with the credit. Usual in this day and age. Was taking longer than he anticipated. Had gone through a year of the approval process. Needed another maybe 30 days. The government came back and said “Sorry, you’re going to have to start all over again.” That’s not acceptable. We need to change that. We need to bring some common sense and we need to bring the mandate from the Governor that says “If you come to this government with a permit request, we’ll get an answer for you in 6 months. That’s the goal. And then we’re going to make it transparent. And hold this government accountable to that. We need to set those standards. 0:14:01
Moderator: Senator Dayton, your thoughts on expediting permitting processes. 14:04
Mark Dayton: Well, thank you for the question, Mr. McMillan. I’d point out that your company Minnesota Power has been a strong partner, a responsible partner with economic development. And the areas you serve, and you know I would share the view of my colleagues up here that you know that strong economic growth and sound environmental protection are complementary objectives, and that Minnesotans don’t want to see one sacrificed for the other. And I agree also with the failure of the state agencies to be responsive to the needs of businesses and so many others, and I guess I just have to point out that for 16 of those 20 years that those state agencies have been led by 2 Republican Governors and the other 4 years by an Independence Party Governor. And it has been a failure of leadership at the top. And it has been a failure to tell those agencies, starting with the Commissioners and all the way through, that they work for the people of Minnesota. And everybody that works for them, works for you, the people of Minnesota, paid by your hard-earned tax dollars. Can they satisfy every request? No. But can they be responsive and responsible and attentive? Yes. Should they meet deadlines? Absolutely yes. I agree with Representative Emmer, I think the duplication, the triplication of government overlap and reporting responsibilities afflicts individuals, small businesses, charitable organizations, local governments, and state and federal. My goodness when I was a Senator I found out that the Mayo Clinic that there are 110,000 pages of Medicare rules and regulations. I proposed an amendment on the Senate floor to reduce that by two thirds. My theory being, that if it could be said it 37,000 pages, it couldn’t be said. (audience laughs). It was opposed by groups like the American Medical Association and others. So I learned that there are individual organizational reasons why some of these are there but the fact is, it is too much. And that’s why I’ve asked my running mate, hopefully the next Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, Yvonne Prettner Solon, to beginning now, and I’ve extended this invitation to the board of the Chamber this morning to work with us, and invite other groups, environmental and others to work with Yvonne over the next period of time, past the election, but starting now so that by January first we can come forward with some specific reform proposals to reduce this duplication and streamline the procedures. 16:14
Moderator: Thank you Senator. So we’ve talked about 2 of the 3 issues that I said certainly dominate our agenda as we sit here the last couple of days as a Board of Directors of this organization and talk about business challenges. The third is workforce development. And what we face today is an inability and in some cases to find skilled workers even as the economy struggles to move forward. Even in the depths of the recession in mid 2009, many skilled positions we still struggled with. We also face rapidly changing demographics, different types of workers coming into the workforce, different a different educating skill needs to educate those workers. We gotta do a better job of making sure the people coming out of our education system have the skill sets we need to move forward. And the Chamber obviously, nor the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, we don’t employ a lot of people. But our members do. And rather than have this question come from me as a representative of the Chamber, we’ve got Reggie Clow here who owns Clow Stamping and Metal Stamping and Fabricating Company in Merrifield. So Reggie’s gonna ask this question. 17:19
Reggie Clow: Thank you. Minnesota invests millions, billions of dollars in our K-12 education system. Yet a significant portion of the students are not proficient in either math or reading. Our demographics make us more dependent than ever on these young people. What will you do as Governor to use our current resources to improve the K-12 system, so that a much larger portion of the K-12 population meets world economic standards for work or higher education when they graduate? 17:56
Moderator: Senator Dayton I think we’re back to you with the opportunity to start 18:03
(off camera announcer signaling it’s Horner’s turn)
Tom Horner: By popular demand! (audience laughs) This is this is one of many areas where Minnesota needs redesign. We need to start with the question, Not how much but what for? What are the outcomes that we want to achieve? What are we trying to accomplish, and you hit it on the nose. We need students coming out of 12th grade who are prepared for success. We need more people in Minnesota with degrees after high school, 2- and 4-year. And the challenge is, that we keep looking at education as a series of silos. Enough! We need to look at education as a seamless system, cradle to grave. We need to invest in early learning, we need to make sure that at the K-12 level we have teachers in charge of the classrooms, not Education Minnesota. Teachers are in charge of the classroom, who are held accountable to standards. We need to start changing some seniority rules. Y’know, I mentioned in the meeting earlier, the Hennepin, Anoka-Hennepin School District, wanted a waiver for 28 slots out of 2800 students. To save some critical programs. Couldn’t get it. We can’t accept that. We can’t afford that. We need to make sure we’re investing in our 2-year schools. And our 4-year schools. We need to invest in research at the University and other 4-year schools as a separate line item. Next year we will have a new Chancellor of MnSCU, a new President of the University, and a new Governor. If we don’t use that as an opportunity to have a statewide discussion about what we need from education, and higher education in particular, shame on us. What a wasted opportunity. We need to make these investments by starting with What we want to achieve? What’s the outcome? And then working there. And then a lot of these areas because we know the challenges of Education Minnesota. We know the challenges of a 6 billion dollar shortfall. It is leadership that will be in demand. It is a Governor who is going to need to set the agenda and then be the advocate. A Governor who, look, if you had a dispute between two warring parties you don’t bring in a mediator who is vested in one side or the other. You bring in somebody who can build bridges, who has the experience, who can say, This is how we’re going to build consensus, this is our common ground, this is how we move forward. 20:30
Moderator: Tom, I got ahead of myself, I’m glad the audience is onto this. Y’know, they’re countin better than I am, and so is Tony. Now we’ll go to Senator Dayton. 20:38
Mark Dayton: When I was Commissioner of Economic Development, and I’d ask businesses why you are locating or expanding in Minnesota, the number one reason was always, well-educated, hard-working productive employees. It’s a great value of Minnesotans. Best quality education system to give every child, every young person a full and equal opportunity to achieve the American dream. And I think Minnesotans would be horrified if they knew the facts about how we have reduced in real dollars per pupil, our investment in education in their futures. In total nominal dollars, the education spending has increased. But so has student population. And the per-pupil state aid in real after-inflation dollars has been reduced by 1300 dollars per student, on average, over the last 8 years. Those are the facts. While schools go to 4-day school weeks. Why do I go to Rochester Minnesota into a 5th grade classroom and see 36 children in 1 classroom with 1 teacher. In a school where there’s 17 different languages and dialects. And I’ve seen those overcrowded conditions all over the state. Because we’re not making the investment necessary to reach those children and provide you with the employees that you need. When the tuition at the University of Minnesota is 50% higher than tuition at the average of the state universities in our surrounding 4 states. And one third higher than the next highest, Wisconsin. When the tuition at our 2-year public colleges is the third highest in the nation and in the top 10 of state universities, and Minnesotans, hard working men and women, cannot afford to send their own children to our public colleges and universities, then the employees that you want to hire are not going to come out of our educational system with the skills and abilities they need to be competitive in this global economy. We have to increase our investment in education, it’s half the state budget, and that’s the other side of the coin from the tax question. How are we going to make those investments that the future of Minnesota depends upon, that the future of our people depends upon. 22:43
Moderator: Thank you, Representative Emmer. 22:45
Tom Emmer: Y’know, I think Minnesotans are tired of assessing blame. Politicians attempt to point the finger behind and say It’s this person’s fault, It’s that party, or It’s this one. I think they’re tired of that. I think what they’re asking us for is to point a new direction and not get caught up in whose fault it is, that this is why we’re here. The fact is we have great students in the state of Minnesota. We have a wonderful infrastructure, education infrastructure. We have great teachers but we are not succeeding the way we should. In the United States of America we invest more per pupil than any other country on the face of the planet. We are no longer competing with just Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota. We are competing with the world. And the reality is that our kids are coming out of our schools falling right into the middle of the pack despite the investment. Senator, if dollars were the answer then we would not have a 60% dropout rate in the Minneapolis schools. And those kids would be succeeding in closing the achievement gap. And it’s not happening. It’s time to recognize that we’ve got to do things differently. Those kids are not succeeding in closing the achievement gap. It’s not happening. It’s time to recognize that we’ve got to do
things differently. We must concentrate more. We know science tells us that a child’s brain is wired for learning before the age of five. We need to make more of an investment at those earlier ages in terms of preparing kids for school. Then we need to look at what we’re doing in the last year for sure. Several people say it’s wasted time in terms of early graduation and other incentives for our kids. I will give President Obama some credit. The issue is not dollars. The issue is the union is standing in the way of any real reform in this state. And Senator I would respectfully suggest that if you follow the path that the union that just endorsed you wants you to follow. We will not get alternative teacher licensure which they’ve blocked in the last legislative session we need. We will not get the accountability measures that we must have. And we’ve gotta have pay for performance in some fashion. Where else in our society is there somebody get to keep their job simply because they’ve been there the longest. It is based on production and we have to go back to looking at what is best for our children’s future as opposed to what the union wants. 24:50
Moderator: Thank you Representative. We have chatted about workforce development, permitting reform, and fiscal policy. I have a quick a very very close fourth on that list. As the business community looks at what its challenges are and how we’re going to try and help state government move forward. It is a 6 billion dollar deficit and I will say I admire all 3 of you for pursuing a job that the first thing on your short list as CEO of the state is to solve a 6 billion dollar shortfall. We would be not doing our audience fairly though if we didn’t tackle that today. I know you’ve had a couple of debates already where this has come up. But Minnesotans and businesses alike expect a high level of service obviously, and we also know that too much taxes are going to stifle business growth, or you know, worse yet, will lose growth and lose businesses. So, the question, as Governor, how will you resolve the budget deficit and how can you set Minnesota on a stronger course by doing things differently, whether that’s reform, prioritization, whatever the audience would love to hear. Let’s start now with Representative Emmer. Cause I think I have my choice now, don’t I? Now that we’ve been through all of ‘em once so. Representative. 26:05
Tom Emmer: I will receive, thank you. How do you balance it? I mean this is a great opportunity. I know that everybody starts with, Why would you want this job. There’s gonna be a 5 to 7 billion dollar deficit. It is the greatest opportunity that your and I have ever had to actually make a difference in government. On the one side you have that the argument, of business as usual. It’s a Minnesota Miracle model of government that started in the 70s which is a tax-and-spend model of government. Just grow government. When it’s out of money, tax people more. We need more revenue. That’s the argument. It’s time for a new direction in the state of Minnesota. It’s time to bring government into the 21st Century. I’ve made this very clear for the past year. We have to ask those questions, Why do we need a Department of Public Safety and a Department of Corrections, why do we need a Department of Health and a Department of Human Services? Why do we need a state OSHA when we have a federal OSHA? And the list goes on and on. We have duplicated government and triplicated government. That’s the problem. You must redesign government from the bottom up so that it delivers the services that Minnesotans have come to expect, in the most efficient and sustainable manner so that we turn something over to our children other than our debt. And then the thing that my colleagues have missed because they always talk about We’ve gotta have more revenues, and I use this example, of Minnesota and Colorado, 2 states of similar size and population, one spending close to 60 billion dollars, the other one spending close to 40 billion, it’s not just about redesigning government, you’ve got to have more efficiencies, and you’ve got to be able to measure those, but then you’ve gotta get your private economy moving again. It’s about growing jobs in this state. When government’s the number one growth sector of your economy you are not destined for success. The state of Minnesota has added over 2200 jobs since 2005. There is no other sector of our economy that has grown by 7% during that time. During the same time period our government payroll has gone up by almost 25%. Time to get the private sector moving. Grow jobs in the private sector and you will grow additional revenues to drive what you expect out of government. 28:07
Moderator: Senator Dayton. 28:08
Mark Dayton: First, let me just say that the teachers’ union spent the last several months trying to defeat me (audience laughs). And if I’m elected Governor I don’t owe anybody anything, except the people of Minnesota, to do the best job that I possibly can. That’s a promise. To you and everyone in this state. Y’know, 2 minutes for this budget is a limited time. Y’know, no question, job creation is the key, and something that we all want for the sake of this state and the sake of this nation. The economic experts who do the state forecasting have said that the jobless recovery will mean that we will not return to our pre-rate recession level of employment until early 2013. Hopefully whoever is the next Governor can help accelerate that. Along with all of you. But the reality is whoever’s the next Governor and the Legislature are gonna have 5 months to balance the state’s budget, it’s almost a 6 billion dollar deficit. That’s about 16% of the projected budget for the next biennium, and that’s 1 out of every 6 dollars that the state government spends. Now the hard reality is that 92% of that money, almost half of it, 48% is spent on education, 30% is spent on health and human services, 9% is spent on local government aids and property tax relief, and 5% is spent on public safety. Add in the 3% for debt service and that’s 95%. You could eliminate every state agency and fire every state employee and you’d eliminate about two-thirds of that deficit. So those of you who are saying to all of you, blithely and rhetorically, that this is all gonna be solved without any real consequence for people, real people’s lives: larger class sizes, higher property taxes, layoffs of police and fire, other real consequences, it’s just fictional. And so my plan has been spelled out, it’s there, I asked the Minnesota Chamber today, to help me find additional cuts. And I look forward to working with your members, of who you designate to do so. But let’s get real here, I would like to hear a plan, once again, from Representative Emmer about where he’s going to cut 6 billion dollars from the state budget. 30:14
Moderator: And Tom Horner. 30:17
Tom Horner: Well, when I was in business before I was unemployed (audience laughs) ah, I learned that as a consultant if you can get away with just describing the problem and get paid for that, you’re golden. (audience laughs) Y’know, we understand what the problem is. What we need are solutions. We need to figure it out. And Representative Emmer, Colorado isn’t the answer. And COLORADANS don’t think that it’s the answer. They rejected most of that a couple of years ago. Because it wasn’t working for Colorado. We need to be better than that. And Senator Dayton, let me remind you. The answer isn’t to tax small businesses through the ceiling. When you put a tax doubling the individual income tax on small business, on the Sub-S, on the LLCs, you’re killing job creators. And when you kill job creators, you kill jobs. And we can’t afford that if we want to solve this problem. So how do we solve it? We start by asking the question, What do we want to achieve? What are the outcomes? What as a state do we need to accomplish? Then we can start asking how much. And part of it has to be tax reform. And with all due respect Representative Emmer, it is not assigning blame to say that the Republicans have dropped the ball for the last 8 years, it is holding the party accountable. We haven’t grown jobs in Minnesota. We have lagged in job creation for the last decade, in good years and0bad. We need tax reform that incents entrepreneurs, incents our great corporations to grow jobs here. Gives them the, the resources for investment. On the spending side, we do need to make some tough decisions. We need to start saying, that not every problem has a government solution. And we are going to terminate some programs. But mostly we need to redesign. And that’s not just juggling a few departments here and there. I mean those are rounding errors, the savings you get from that. Not 6 billion dollars. We need to fundamentally go in and restructure how we pay for things, who pays for things, and how we deliver services. And all of us are going to have to be involved. And all of us are going to have to be accountable. 32:31
Moderator: Thank you. Let me, let me follow up with one question. A year ago the Chamber the Board of Directors brought a Washington, state of Washington budget manager in. And he talked to us about a process that they’ve used in Washington state to prioritize spending. And I’d like to go in the same order we just did and talk about whether you think that’s feasible in Minnesota. But let’s keep it to 1 minute. I think Mr. Kwilas can readjust his watch there. And just tell us quickly what you might do to reprioritize state spending, if that’s possible or not. Tom? 33:03
Tom Emmer: Well, I think what you’re talkin about David is where you start with how much money does the state have. I think this is what – is this the POG, ah, P-O-G or whatever it is, ’cause I was looking at it the other day. What does the state want to accomplish? In other words your spending priorities; how will the state measure its progress in terms of accomplishing those things; and what is the most effective way to do it. It’s really what we’ve been talking about from day one and I guess what I would suggest, Senator Dayton, it’s not “blithely” talking about it. We’ve talked about taking different services that right now are provided exclusively by government. For instance, in the health care area, we’ve talked about changing the way those services are delivered so they are more directed to the individual instead of the large bureaucracies that actually run them. With enormous cost savings without affecting one of the services that you provided. I think the thing that’s being missed here David is it, that a, when that the Senator talks about you know needing more revenue and not being able to balance the budget, it’s not just about eliminating things excess and duplication in the budget, it’s also about the cost savings you will get by creating the efficiencies in the budget. And then the thing that my colleagues ignore is that ultimately what drives what you expect out of government is the revenue that you will generate by creating new jobs. If you go back – oh, is it one minute? Is that my minute? 34:35
Moderator: Just a minute on this one, Tom. So. 34:38
Tom Emmer: I’m sorry but I just didn’t trust Mr. Kwilas. I apologize. (audience laughter) 34:42
Moderator: Mark Dayton, thoughts on whether we can somehow re-prioritize or come up with a process to differently prioritize what the state does and doesn’t do? 34:53
Mark Dayton: Well, let me just say, Representative Emmer, I’ll drop the word “blithely” when you spell out the 6 billion dollars that you’re gonna save, where, how much, in real dollars, in real world terms, I’ll be glad to drop the word. Dave, I just got someone much better than a consultant from the state of Washington. I hope today, I hope I got the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. (audience laughs) And I also made the same request of the Minnesota Business Partnership. To provide a working group to sit down with myself and Yvonne Prettner Solon in the next month. Go through that budget, line item by line item, I’ve been through it twice already, and let’s identify the cuts. And I’ll be honest with you, all of you, about where those cuts will be made. And how they will affect real peoples’ lives in Minnesota. But not pretend with a bunch of words of “redesign” and “reform.” And that somehow, miraculously, out of the heaven, 6 billion dollars worth of reductions are gonna occur. This is going to be tough. This is not gonna be easy. We shouldn’t pretend that it is. But there are honest answers and there are evasions. There are better and worse answers. Right and wrong answers. And I’ll deal on those terms over the next 77 days. And I challenge my two opponents to do the same. 36:09
Moderator: I can assure all 3 of you, speaking on behalf of the Chamber, that we do stand ready, willing and able to provide you all the feedback we can about how to reprioritize. Mr Horner, thoughts on what we might do to prioritize differently? 36:21
Tom Horner: Well, absolutely and because I firmly believe that these forums ought to make all of us smarter, including the candidates, let me tell Representative Emmer that POG is not a person, it is the Price of Government. And that really is the issue that we stand here to try to resolve. How do we figure out what is the right price of government? But that’s not a process issue. (Laughs) That’s not a technocratic issue. Look, we’ve got Bill Blazer and Dane Smith from Growth and Justice who are figuring this out. If Bill and Dane can get together, don’t you think that somebody like me can bring these two guys together and the respective parties and lead Minnesota through this discussion of what is it that we want to accomplish as a state? What do we want to be? I mean, I think the critical issue in the 2010 election goes right to the question you asked, David. The question is leadership. Who has the ability, the vision, the strategic sense to create a road map for Minnesota?
Who has the temperament to bring people together? Who has the ability to build consensus? That’s the challenge. That’s the issue. That’s how we figure out outcomes. 37:35
Moderator: Thank you. We are in the quintessential heart of tourism country here in Minnesota and it might surprise you but ah 16% of their revenues that these gentlemen, one of these gentlemen is going to be wrestling with in coming years comes from or is related to tourism. An 11.2 billion dollar industry across the state. And about 245, almost 250,00 workers, so a quarter of a million people employed in one way or another in connection with tourism. There’s a lot of folks in the room today that have their businesses invested in this, and a lot of people around the state watching. What will each of you do, if elected Governor, to ah foster more growth in tourism, and to move us forward and grow that industry? And this time I think we’ll start with Tom Horner. 38:26
Tom Horner: Well, thank you. And let me offer one correction. It is not 16% of the state’s revenue, it is 16% of the state’s sales tax revenue. And I’m the only one that says, I got a plan to make that bigger. I can figure that out. Y’know. Because it is part of tax reform. It is part of how we deal with the tax structure and some more revenue does have come out of taxes, sales tax from all of us. Lookit, tourism is a critical industry. And we all know that. So I think we need to do a couple of things.
First of all we need to be creative in finding new partners. In figuring out how we can share some of the responsibility. Right now, Minnesota I think has a tourism budget that is about 29th in the country. Y’know, we need to figure out how we can leverage that, how we can get more money by engaging some of the smart partners. By sitting down with those folks who have an investment. We need to be collaborative. Y’know, why do we keep debating every year whether schools should start before Labor Day or after Labor Day. We can meet both needs. We can reduce some of the in-service training days that occur in September October November and on and on. And allow our students to have the educational time they need and still allowing our tourism industry to thrive and flourish. And we are going to need to look at sources of new funding. And thankfully my time is out on that point. 39:44
Moderator: Tom Emmer, let’s go to you next. Tourism, how do you help it? 39:48
Tom Emmer: Well, first off when you redesign government you’ve gotta look at what we’re doing with our fines and fees. Take a look at what the health department has done in the last few years. They have TRIPLED the fees that are being charged in the inspections that are directly affecting this industry. Take a look at what the fire marshall charges are. Take a look at the hard costs and let’s stop talking about the way we’ve been doing business with big highfalutin words. Let’s talk about reality. Let’s talk about the reality that these people are running businesses. You need a Governor that’s not only to promote the state of Minnesota. But everything in the state of Minnesota that’s worth doing and experiencing. We got to get back to allowing our state folks to have have meetings in the wonderful conference centers that are up here. You gotta promote all the opportunities
for tourism in the state. And you’ve gotta quit killing jobs because if you kill jobs in the state, by chasing people across state lines for taxes, by telling our companies here in the state of Minnesota, “We’re gonna tax ya on sales across state lines.” You kill jobs in this state, you kill tourism at the same time. We got to promote jobs. That’ll promote tourism. 40:52
Moderator: Thank you. And Mark Dayton, you’ve got a minute to talk about tourism. 40:56
Mark Dayton: Well, I’m very proud that when I became Commissioner of Economic Development, and at that time, back in 1977-78, the advertising agency for the tourism office, which was under the Economic Development back then, was the advertising firm for the winning Gubernatorial candidate of either party back then, and there was no political turmoil, no professional operation going on. I brought in a professional, Hank Todd, within the agency, I set up the first tourism advisory council, and then the credit goes to Rudy Perpich who understood the importance of tourism, and coming out when we came back again in 83, coming out of the recession of 82, he understood counterintuitively that we needed to invest more, we needed to spend more state dollars, on tourism, and particularly on the advertising and the promotion, which back then under Governor Perpich was over half of the tourism budget. Now the budget’s been cut, it was 50% higher in 1990 in real dollars than it is today, only a third of it goes for advertising. I met with tourism owners, business owners, from Lutsen and Grand Marais to this area in Brainerd, and I will be a tourism Governor for this state, working with the industry to advance tourism and compete with these other states which we’ve fallen behind now. 42:09
Moderator: Thank you gentlemen. Tony, let’s reset that watch to 2 minutes here for our for our last question. As the CEO of the state, or as the leader of any business, compromise is an important part of getting things done. Finding ways to bridge gaps, to bridge differences in opinions, and to move forward and show the people that you are leading, that you can indeed move us in a progressive direction. So the last question I’d like to focus on is tell, tell this audience and the folks watching on the media, what you will do to lead this state – without getting into the specifics of what you might do with tax or fiscal or spending priorities. What capabilities, background, and strengths, character strengths, do you, each of you bring to the job? Because it’s going to be a leadership challenge of the highest, the highest type. So with this one I’d like to go back to where we started and begin with you, Mr. Emmer. 43:05
Tom Emmer: And how much do I get? Fifteen minutes? 43:08
Audience, moderator laugh
Moderator: Two minutes, sir. 43:10
Tom Emmer: All right. Ah, leadership qualities. I think I’m going to start it this way. I think there’s a misconception out there about what leadership is. Leadership is selfless. Leadership is giving your team credit when they are successful and taking responsibility when your team is not successful. More importantly, my short time the Legislature, what I have seen is people misunderstand what the word “leadership” means in that context, and the word “compromise.” Leadership is not about leading people to where they already are. We can talk about consensus, we can talk about these wonderful things. It’s about working with other people but leadership is about setting out a course that others can see, and then leading them to where they need to be. And you have to use every tool that you have. Your ability to communicate, your ability to reach across and tell somebody “I respect your point of view.” But this is where we’re different. Here’s the problem with compromise. People in government believe that compromise is the answer. No, it’s not. It’s about negotiating outcomes. You’ve got to set what your best outcome would be, and you have to realize if you’re a leader, that you may not get all that. But you need to be moving in that direction. In this case, it’s smaller government. In this case, it’s a business friendly environment, it’s less regulation, it’s a tax policy that works, that attracts new investment and grows existing opportunities. It is not about giving everybody a little bit of what they want. We joke about this, Jacquie and I. That we’ve been married for 24 years. We have 7 kids. We’ve compromised. I wanted 4 kids, she wanted 3. We compromised, we have 7. (audience laughs) All right. That is not the way it should work. In government when people compromise everybody gets what they want and then we got a lot of things we may not need and can’t pay for. It’s time to start negotiating outcomes based on where we need to be. And leadership is about leading people to where they need to be, not where they are. 45:08
Moderator: 2-minute rebuttal for Jacquie, I think, huh. (audience, moderator laugh) Senator Dayton, your thoughts on leadership. 45:15
Mark Dayton: Well, I listened to what the people of Minnesota were describing in your excellent film there. And first of all they said they want leaders to listen. And I’ve been listening to the people of Minnesota for 35 years. I’ve been involved in public service in this state. And most recently traveling through all 87 counties in 87 days. I’ve held over 110, I’ve held 110 community meetings.
Where I’ve listened to people and what are their concerns. And I will keep listening, and I will keep going and promise that i will continue to travel this state extensively as Governor. And continue to listen to everyone. Rudy Perpich had a sign on his wall in his office that i’m going to put back up. It says “None of us is as smart as all of us.” And that sign will go back up and I will listen to everybody with all different points of view who have ideas to improve the state of Minnesota. The other comment that was made was “Do what is right for the long term. Do what’s right not just for now, that’s important yes. But also for our children and our grandchildren. And I see this state going in the wrong direction. And I see the disinvestment in education, I see the deterioration of our infrastructure. I see the loss of job opportunities. I’ve been to China 6 times in this decade. I’ve seen some of the 3, 1.3 billion people willing to work, work hard for 60, 70 cents an hour, jobs that used to be here. We’re not going to compete with that by lowering g wage standards. We’re going to compete with that by having well-educated people become the next entrepreneurs. Create the businesses. Grow and employ hard working Minnesotans successfully. I’ll work together with people. I’m very proud, that in my last year in the Senate, I worked with Senator John McCain of Arizona, Senator Ted Stevens of Arizona, two Republican Senators, Senator Stevens, may he rest in peace, chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee. And we got the funding, the first Congressional funding for Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, a pioneering project of the Minnesota National Guard to provide supportive services to the heroes coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. To their communities here in Minnesota and for their families. I’ll work cooperatively, bipartisanly, tripartisanly, with anyone who can work with me. To make this a better state. 47:21
Moderator: Thank you Senator. And Tom Horner. 47:24
Tom Horner: Well thank you very much. And again, thank you for the opportunity to to be with you. You know, leadership, it’s great to talk about the theory of leadership, Minnesotans need the experience of leadership. They need somebody who’s been there, done that. Look at my 35 career, 35-year-career in public policy, in community service, running a business. It has been about forging consensus, about creating innovative ideas, and then taking them to completion by bringing people together, by identifying the leaders who are going to come together and invest their credibility in what is needed to make Minnesota a better state. That’s what leadership is. It’s what I’ve done. It’s my career. It’s what I offer as a candidate for Governor in Minnesota. And I do think that leadership in the 2010 election is the critical issue. Who creates a vision? Who has the temperament? Who has the ability to forge consensus? To bring people together? I look at one of the the politicians I admire greatly, Arne Carlson. What would happen when jobs really were moving to South Dakota 20 years ago because of workers’ compensation? It was the Chamber, it was unions, and Arne Carlson who brought them together to say, “We’re going to get this done. And if I DON’T get it done in this legislative session, on July 1, businesses, I’ll pack the bags for you.” He was willing to put himself on the line, to hold himself accountable, to bring the right people together, and after 100 years he got it done. That’s what leadership is. That’s what we need in Minnesota. Why would we continue the same failed pattern that isn’t working? We’ve lagged in job growth for the last 10 years. We don’t have a tax structure that collects too little in taxes from individuals, we have a tax system that taxes jobs too highly. We need to change that. We need that kind of leadership. That’s what I offer. That’s what I hope that I can, I’m going to bring to Minnesota as the next Governor. 49:39
Moderator: Thank you. One of the things that we never forget at the Minnesota Chamber and none of you should as citizens is that these individuals are committed to public service. We’re very very thankful for that. We’re thankful that they’re willing to try and tackle these problems. And I would like to thank them for putting together a very nice forum, for watching the timelines and for listening to our ground rules. So let’s acknowledge these candidates.