Candidates discuss issues at forumWORTHINGTON — A forum hosted by the Government Affairs Committee of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and the Nobles County Corn and Soybean Association brought candidates from House Districts 22A and 22B and Senate District 22 to the Worthington High School Tuesday evening.
WORTHINGTON — A forum hosted by the Government Affairs Committee of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and the Nobles County Corn and Soybean Association brought candidates from House Districts 22A and 22B and Senate District 22 to the Worthington High School Tuesday evening for a discussion of budgets, education, the state deficit and economic development in outstate Minnesota.
Republican Doug Magnus, the current District 22A Representative, is vying for the Senate District 22 seat against DFLer Kevin Vickerman. During introductions, Magnus touted his eight years of political knowledge, listing off committee assignments in agriculture, energy, transportation finance and veteran service. Vickerman countered with his six years of county commissioner experience.
“We touch on almost all of the aspects the state does,” Vickerman stated.
For House District 22A, DFLer Ted Winter squared off against Republican Joe Schomacker, a small business owner and public relations consultant from Luverne.
“Running my own business and helping my parents run their two businesses, you learn a lot about balancing a budget, taxes and regulations,” Schomacker stated.
A lifelong resident of Rock County, Schomacker said one of his personal philosophies of life is to leave things better than you found them.
Winter, who served 16 years as District 22A representative before being ousted by Magnus, has farmed for 41 years in Fulda and has spent the past eight as an insurance agent in Windom.
“I’m running because I think I can be an advocate … a good strong leader,” Winter stated.
Rep. Rod Hamilton, who is running against Lakefield DFLer Bill Brandt for the House District 22B seat, used words from well-known Worthington resident Hardy Rickbeil in his opening statement.
“Don’t spend more money than you have. And go into it with your eyes and mind wide open,” Hamilton said, quoting a conversation he had with Rickbeil, who died in May. “Great advice.”
Hamilton has served as the 22B representative for six years, and said in visiting his constituents one thing has become very clear.
“It can’t be us versus them,” he stated.
The six candidates were asked questions regarding health and human services expenditures, their opinion on what needs to happen at the next legislative session, their feelings on vouchers or tax credits for education and whether they think income taxes should be increased to reduce the deficit.
Hamilton said he is concerned human services will consume the entire state budget. While he has a passion for fighting for elderly and disabled citizens, he added, he would like to see able-bodied adults get on their feet and become self-sufficient.
Winter believes some health and human services can be cut to improve the overall value of the programs. Schomacker referred to the expenditures as “unsustainable,” and said Minnesota should look at options and examples from other states.
“There is no question that the growth (of health and human services) is not sustainable,” Magnus stated. “I would support reform.”
Vickerman thinks redesigning of the programs — the CHIPS (children in need of protective services) program in particular — could save dollars.
Each candidate had plenty to say about the budget, citing it as one of the most important subjects for the next legislative session — although none had a clear-cut answer as to how the problem could be fixed.
Vickerman said he favors utilizing the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) over the JOBZ program when it comes to bringing jobs and business into the area. Hamilton noted a thriving economy depends on high-quality education, while and Brandt and Schomacker said the state needs to live within its means.
“We need to look at a way to provide services in a better way,” Schomacker stated. “Many of the programs we use were set up in the ’70s and ’80s — things are different now.”
When asked what kind of legislation should be introduced to spur economic development in outstate Minnesota, the candidates discussed fair and equitable tax systems, the burden of an overzealous regulatory system, renewable energy resources and the lack of affordable housing.
“We also need to think about out-of-the-box ideas,” Brandt stated, “such as vegetable production.”
During closing statements, Hamilton and Vickerman each took the time to thank Sen. Jim Vickerman for his time and service to the state.
“You are my friend,” Hamilton stated to the senator, who was seated in the audience. “I appreciate you being a mentor. You are a great example, Jim, and I thank you for that.”