The League of Women Voters event, moderated by Grant resident Liz Nordling, touched on several topics, though job growth and bolstering the Minnesota economy were common themes throughout. The Republican- and DFL-endorsed candidates for Senate District 53 and House Districts 53A and 53B attended.
Below are the responses from the Senate District 53 candidates. Republican incumbent Ted Lillie is taking on DFLer Susan Kent.
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Kent said her focus is on jobs, the economy and education.
“The things that will help us build a strong future,” she said.
The incumbent in Senate District 53 said the state is at a “historic crossroads” and must foster a “sense of order and trust” between the government and people. Lillie said government services should be run in a “businesslike manner.”
Kent is against the measure that would require voters to show ID at the polls. The costs outweigh the benefits, she said, and it would disenfranchise the elderly, young and those who use mass transit. It’s also an unfunded mandate, Kent said.
“It’s not no cost,” she said.
Calling it a “common-sense thing,” Lillie said people have to show ID often anyway.
“This is something we do automatically so many times in our lives,” he said.
Referencing former President Jimmy Carter, Lillie said the state should ensure that people are voting once at the right place.
“We must find a way to make this happen,” he said.
The government shutdown was frustrating, Lillie said. “Nobody is happy about that.”
He spoke about his proposed bill that would effectively eliminate government shutdowns, and put the blame for inaction on Gov. Mark Dayton, whom Lillie said vetoed workable budgets.
Kent said there must be a greater commitment to “people, not platforms," and legislators must do a better job of listening to one another.
“That is a lesson we should all follow,” Kent said.
The state has become more regressive with its tax code, Kent said, and is placing more of the burden on the low and middle class.
“Strategically, that is a problem,” she said.
Those groups tend to spend money and boost the economy when they pay fewer taxes, Kent said, while high-income earners tend to keep those funds.
The poor economy is a major factor when it comes to taxes, resulting in less money for state coffers, Lillie said.
It’s a matter of improving the economy and creating jobs, he said.
“That is how we grow out of this,” Lillie said.
Too often people “demonize” organized labor, Kent said, noting unions’ “tremendous history in our country.”
Right-to-work states typically have a lower standard of living, she said, and Minnesota should find ways to partner with labor groups.
As a small-business owner, Lillie said right-to-work states have low unemployment and more private-sector jobs.
People should have the right to join a union, but shouldn’t be forced to participate, he said.
On the topic of the proposed amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman, Lillie said marriage too important an issue to be decided by lawmakers or a judge.
He said he hasn’t decided how he will vote, but did say that “people have the right to decide.”
Kent said she will be voting no.
The constitution, she said, is “about expanding rights, not curtailing them.”
The state shouldn’t say one couple can marry and another cannot, Kent said.
“It’s a matter of civil rights,” she said.
Increasing class sizes and not keeping up with education spending factoring inflation is the wrong direction for the state, Kent said.
It was a “lack of leadership” and a bad message to have the state delay payments to schools to balance the budget, she said. An educated workforce will help bolster the economy, as well, Kent said.
It’s not uncommon for states to delay or shift funding for schools, and DFL-controlled legislatures have done it in the past, Lillie said.
Minnesota is on the right track, Lillie said, noting decreased unemployment and the elimination of a $6.2 billion deficit.
“We need to continue this,” he said.
Kent said she has been “deeply frustrated” that lawmakers often “represent a platform, not people.”
If elected, Kent said she would work toward common ground and build coalitions.
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