Cutting state government isn't the issue, says Republican Tom Emmer. It's reforming state government to end up with a smaller one.
"People in this state realize that government has gotten too big, "Emmer said Thursday night in a rally in Bemidji. "They understand this isn't a part thing. This isn't about being a Democrat or a Republican. This is about being a Minnesotan."
Emmer, the Republican Party's endorsed candidate for governor and a state representative from Delano, brought his Freedom and Prosperity bus tour to Bemidji, which included all GOP constitutional officer candidates. He was joined by judicial candidates and local legislative candidates.
"They recognize government has gotten too big and they recognize that we have an economy that's underperforming," Emmer said. "Frankly, in the state of Minnesota, and in many respects in Beltrami County, it is not performing."
He said he's being told on his three-day bus tour of Minnesota, which ended Friday, by the people if the politicians are listening. "Are they listening to us, or are they just choosing not to listen to us?" Emmer said he was told. "Because the people we have been electing to office seem to be more concerned with protecting government at all costs at the expense of the people that put them there."
It's time for government to go back to serving the people, he said, instead of people serving the government. "And that is what this team is all about," Emmer said, sweeping his hand over the GOP candidates standing behind him at the Beltrami County Courthouse cupola.
"Every other candidate out there talks about one thing -- and it doesn't matter if it's a Democrat or Independent or other -- they talk about one answer," Emmer said. "You must raise taxes or we're going to have to cut services. We don't believe that's true."
Lawmakers must look at government itself and redesign government, he said, "so it is a smaller, more efficient government that actually delivers the services that people expect from it in an affordable and sustainable manner."
Emmer said fellow GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty "did a great job under the environment he was given" for two terms. "We're going to have an opportunity to do some things that Tim Pawlenty would tell you he wishes he would have had the opportunity to do.
"It's not about holding the line on taxes anymore, it's not about holding the line on the growth of government anymore, it is time to reduce taxes, it is time to reduce the size of government and it's time to put people back in charge of their own opportunities," Emmer said.
Another candidate said in a TV spot -- Emmer didn't identify the candidate -- that if small government, lower taxes and less regulation were the answer, Mississippi should be No. 1.
"If bigger government and higher taxes and more regulation were the answer, then Greece should be leading the world and California should be No. 1," Emmer said.
"The debate is over -- there is no debate any longer (because) big government doesn't work," he added.
Emmer's vision is a positive growth agenda, said his running mate, Annette Meeks.
"It's not about trimming the sails of government," she said. "It's not about cutting here and cutting there. If all we needed was a green eye shade, folks, we could have solved the budget mess that we have in St. Paul a long time ago. Our problem is much more fundamental."
Voters have a choice, she said. "We can choose the old way, the way we've been doing things in Minnesota the last 40 years. And that way involves taxes and spending. More spending and more taxes, and we see where it's gotten us.
"It hasn't made us a prosperous state that we once were," Meeks added. "It's made us a state where we end up working for government instead of the government working for us."
Eight of those last 40 years, however, have been under Republican Pawlenty, who has held steadfast to his "no new taxes" pledge the entire time.
"Or we can listen to Tom Emmer and his vision for Minnesota," Meeks said, "that is a positive growth agenda that says we're going to stop that old way."
All of the candidates issued the same theme, that of a team approach behind Emmer for smaller government.
About 35 people attended the twilight affair, a crowd that doubled when the Emmer bus stopped. Iced tea and cookies was served to the crowd.
"This entire Republican team is going to St. Paul and on Jan. 2 we are going to bring fiscal responsibility back to this state," said former State Auditor Pat Anderson, who is seeking her job back.
There is a huge deficit facing lawmakers, and finger-pointing continues, she said. "We've got to shrink government, we've got to live within our means and we also need to provide essential services."
Changes haven't been made in decades and now is the time Anderson said. Changes haven't been made in decades and now is the time Anderson said.
Secretary of state candidate Dan Severson alleged that current DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie "elected Al Franken" and "used his position to maneuver to get Al Franken into office."
He said that in the state's longest recount, the voter margin for Franken went Coleman leading to Franken winning by 312 votes.
He urged photo ID for voting as a way to prevent voter fraud.
"It's time to change horses," he said.
Also speaking was Dr. Chris Barden, who will oppose DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson. He talked mostly about state's rights and that Minnesota needs to enjoin into the suit charging Congress unconstitutionally enacted health care reform.
In addition to local legislative candidates, also speaking were Supreme Court candidates Tim Tingelstad and Greg Wesel, who seek to keep voters electing judges rather than a special panel, which has been proposed.
Under that scenario, the only time a judge would be voted on is in a vote of confidence, under which if the judge loses, the panel would still pick a successor.
Lee Byberg, the 7th District GOP candidate seeking DFL U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson's seat, also spoke. He will return Sunday for a meet and greet session at the Courthouse cupola after the Grand Parade.
"I like him, I respect him" Byberg said of Peterson. "The challenge facing us is moving forward which requires a new type of leadership that will not vote first for Nancy Pelosi as the leader of the House."
Emmer will also be back in Bemidji on Tuesday, where he will announced a jobs and economy agenda at Bemidji Woolen Mills at 12:30 p.m.