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Candidate forum: Republican gubernatorial candidates want smaller government

Rep. Tom Emmer didn't waste time Tuesday night in putting on a Bemidji State hockey jersey during a Republican gubernatorial candidate forum at BSU. Sen. David Hann, left, and former Rep. Bill Haas are all GOP candidates for governor, as well as Phil Herwig, Leslie Davis and Rep. Marty Seiftert, all at the Bemidji forum. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Six Republican candidates for governor differ little on the issues, but provided their own tweaks on issues ranging from the state budget to climate change.

A few candidates also sparred with some American Indian audience members over affirmative action policies, with Republican candidates saying affirmative action has been detrimental to equalizing opportunities in the workforce for minorities.

The six major GOP candidates appeared Wednesday night at a forum hosted by the Beltrami County Republicans and the Bemidji State University College Republicans at BSU before about 200 people.

They answered prepared questions posed by two moderators befor3 spending 20 minutes on audience questions directed at only one or two candidates.

"I believe the people who use governor services ought to be paying more of their fair share," former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert said to a question posed by former Bemidji schools Superintendent Rollie Morud about what blend of taxes he could support.

As examples, Seifert of Marshall said the indigent should pay something toward a public defender, and not leave it to taxpayers. And poor people on Medical Assistance should pay something toward their health care.

"We need to make sure there's skin in the game from the people using the service," he said. "When it comes to income and sales tax, I'm more of a consumption -based person because if you tax job providers, you will have fewer jobs."

Morud also directed his question to Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie, who said he favored a flat tax where everyone pays the same income tax rate.

"A very complicated tax structure needs to be simplified," Hann said. "I would suggest moving to a flat-rate tax structure. That would make sure everyone has skin in the game ... everyone is paying something."

Estate taxes and capital gains taxes need to be reduced if not eliminated, Hann said.

State government needs to be redesigned and restructured, Rep. Tom Emmer of Delano said to a moderator question on government reform priorities. "We must eliminate the excesses, the redundancies in government."

Taxes must be lowered, Emmer said. "We must eliminate excessive and unnecessary licensing requirements and overly burdensome regulation. We must have tort reform and we must have workers compensation reform."

"Under my administration, we're going to take the budget apart," said former Rep. Bill Haas of Champlin, advocating for zero-based budgeting where the new year starts with zero. Jobs and businesses are leaving Minnesota, he said, because of taxes, the cost of doing business and regulation.

"We're going to redo the tax system in this state," Haas said. The only way to grow jobs is to put more money into investors' hands, he said.

Tax cuts are needed, said Phil Herwig of Milaca, a former 8th District U.S. House candidate and real estate buyer. "I would get government out of it (to create jobs). We don't need a governor going to South America to massage the South Americans to bring their money here. Money goes where it gets the greatest rate of return."

Leslie Davis of Minneapolis, founder of Earth Protector, would print money. His "Davis Money Plan" would have state-regulated banks "create 'debt-free' money to pay all approved Minnesota public transportation projects." He'd rescind laws that require taxes to pay for transportation projects, and use those funds to balance the budget and to repay a "Minnesota Budget Bond" issued from state investment funds.

"Money is missing, and we can't go out and borrow the money, because you can't pay debt with debt to get rid of debt," he said. "You need to bring money into circulation in a new way, a paradigm shift. The Davis Money Plan will bring all the money into circulation that we need, to require the state-chartered banks to pay for our entire transportation system -- no debt and no taxes."

Davis was the loner when a moderator asked the candidates about climate change, saying he wasn't going to debate the merits of global warming but that conservation and energy efficiency is needed.

And he would veto legislation calling for new "central power stations" using nuclear or coal fuels. ":That's old-fashioned stuff. From people in the Legislature, that's the same old stuff. ... What about efficiency and conservation, and alternatives that are innovative with new ideas and new energies?"

All the other candidates debunked the concept of global warming and agreed that nuclear energy plants should be in Minnesota's future.

"This is a farce," Seifert said of the concept. "The reality is to deal with our energy needs. We should build another nuclear plant. It will create over 1,000 new construction jobs. It is safe and most of the wastes can be reprocessed, and the rest can go to Yucca Mountain after Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) loses in November."

Seifert said he wouldn't sign any bill that promotes "cap and trade" carbon reductions and would seek to repeal any law that "jacks up" energy bills and makes Minnesota uncompetitive.

Climate change "is nonsense and I think there is an ulterior motive here," Hann said. "We do not need to focus all our energies on programs that put power into the hands of few people. They say it's carbon dioxide, and we all breathe it out. That doesn't mean we need to managed by some bureaucrat in Washington."

The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal, Hann said, "and we're saying we can't burn coal anymore? We can figure out how to make it very, very clean."

Emmer said the climate change argument "has been proven to be nothing more than manufactured fear-mongering in creating financial gain for certain people who are involved in the business."

Haas said common sense is the answer, providing cost-effective energy with clean coal and nuclear. "We need to lead by example; we need some more power plants. Other nations are building them, why can't we?"

Herwig, a former farmer, said that "the world has been in climate change since time began. Man's ego is telling us that he really has a significant impact."

It was Herwig who was Greg Paquin and two others questions about affirmative action. Paquin is seeking the DFL endorsement in the Senate 4 race, a seat held by DFL Sen. Mary Olson of Bemidji.

"It doesn't work," Herwig said, adding he worked for a time at an American Indian casino in Mille Lacs. "You need to have people in jobs because of the ability and talents that they have that they can offer their employer what I required in the job."

"I couldn't help but notice that you answer was more based on competence of the worker and not really the legal hiring practices," said Nicole Beaulieu. Using Herwig's example, she said why would he question an American Indian's ability to assume a white person's supervisory position on the reservation, where preferential hiring is the law.

"Affirmative action, preferential hiring practices, preferential promotion practices, never work," Herwig said. "It's going to work to the detriment of the one getting the preferential treatment, because what happens in society is it polarizes. Rather than having advantage, you become the object, the target, of ridicule because you have an advantage over someone else for something not characteristic."

All of the candidates urged attendees to turn out to precinct caucuses next Tuesday.