More than balancing the books
WORTHINGTON — Minnesota State Auditor DFL candidate Matt Entenza came from humble beginnings here in Worthington, where he was raised by his mother and grandmother. Entenza was back in his hometown Wednesday as part of his campaign tour across southwest Minnesota to discuss the key issues that he will tackle if elected as state auditor and how he will make sure the needs in greater Minnesota are heard.
Entenza has a long career championing progressive policies as a state legislator for 12 years and as founder of the Minnesota think-tank, Minnesota 2020, which advocates for rural Minnesota investment and issues. As a prosecutor, he put corporate criminals in jail, while he took on corporate interests as a state legislator and was the chief author of the bill creating a “Do Not Call” list to stop telemarketers.
“I’m running for state auditor because southwest Minnesota needs an advocate in St. Paul who will do more than just balance the books,” Entenza said. “I graduated from high school here (Worthington) and have three generations of family who lived in this area, and I know that southwest Minnesota doesn’t get the attention that it deserves at the Capitol.”
Entenza said that he feels the auditor’s office has been quiet for the past eight years and Minnesota needs an auditor who will be more aggressive. He focused on three issues that he stated are essential for the auditor to tackle.
“The first issue is pensions. A lot of people are afraid that they will never see Social Security money, so it’s crucial that the next auditor be a stronger advocate to protect pensions,” Entenza said. “With the recession in 2008, the state pensions took a big hit, and I think we need an auditor who is going to be very strong in stopping attempts to privatize them.”
Entenza explained that privatizing Minnesota pensions will allow more fees to be in the hands of out-of-state bankers.
“We also need to recognize that unless younger people understand the importance of saving for pensions and support pensions, (we) can’t keep our pensions strong,” he said.
The second issue for which Entenza is advocating is the vitality of rural communities.
“The auditor looks at the finances of every rural community, county and township, and areas like Worthington need a stronger advocate who understands their finances,” Entenza explained. “The reality is we don’t have the wealth in southwest Minnesota like some of the wealthy suburbs of the Twin Cities do.
“For the last 20 years now I have been one of the big promoters of government aid — state payments that help regional centers like Worthington,” he added.
Entenza said his campaign is all about going beyond balancing the books and using the financial information to which the state auditor’s office is privy to help rural communities.
The third issue on Entenza’s agenda is education and quality public schools.
“As a graduate of Worthington High School, I know how important good public schools are, and they are the future of our rural communities,” Entenza said. “The auditor’s office has the power to look at the finances of all the public schools, and these smaller rural schools always have to worry about declining enrollments.”
“I think the auditors office should not only use the financial information to make sure the budgets are in order, but looking to make sure there is equity between rural and suburban districts. ... It’s important that rural schools get an equal shot.”
Entenza said the entire state’s economy doesn’t only depend on the metro area; it needs a strong rural economy.
“That helps build the whole state, and I believe the bedrock of that is strong public education,” Entenza added.
Entenza explained that, in his opinion, the biggest distinction between himself and the incumbent, Rebecca Otto, is that the auditor’s office now is very quiet and focused exclusively on balancing the books, and Entenza believes that is only the beginning of the job.
“My values have been unchanged on the issues that DFLers care about. Like Gov. Dayton has said, the wealthiest Minnesotans must pay their fair share, and as state auditor, I’ll work hard to make sure they do,” Entenza said.
If elected, Entenza would be the first state auditor in two generations from greater Minnesota. Entenza will face Otto at the Aug. 12 primaries. The winner will face the GOP candidate in November.
Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.