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House 2B candidates split over taxes

Republican Dave Hancock of Bemidji responds to Rep. Brita Sailer's, DFL-Park Rapids, question Friday night during Lakeland Public Television's House 2B debate. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Republican House 2B challenger Dave Hancock accused DFL Rep. Sailer of not turning away any tax increases during a Lakeland Public Television debate aired Friday night.

The two sparred over taxes and also the bonding bill, which Hancock said included pork projects that Sailer supported.

Hancock said the Taxpayers League of Minnesota had given her a 0 percent rating for 2010 tax votes. "I see a tremendous amount of pork legislation," Hancock said, reading off a list of projedts in the 2010 bonding bill, most in the Twin Cities and involving theater upgrades and volleyball facilities.

"It seems to me you vote for tax increases on a regular basis," he said. "I would fundamentally vote against pork projects"

Bonding bills are considered separately from the state's general fund, Sailer said, and represent statewide infrastructure needs.

"Bonding issues are how we in the state of Minnesota invest in ourselves," she said. "It's how we put money back into education, for instance. Many bonding projects have come here to BSU, it's not just the metropolitan area."

Even though some questionable projects' may be in the bill, Sailer said she supports them because they also contain projects for this area.

"I don't view bonding as pork barrel, it is very carefully vetted," Sailer said.

Sailer asked Hancock to specifically detail his proposed education and health and human services cuts, and he walked around the question, saying education should have more local control and advocated for the voucher system where state funding follows the student to a charter school or home school.

"I'm not answering the question," he interrupted himself. "That's why we have managers in those areas," he said of what he would propose to cut. "We as legislators cannot cut, but we can say to the head of the department to control costs."

Sailer disagreed, saying it was up to the Legislature to make spending decisions.

"We as legislators must cut," Sailer said. "We are the ones tasked with setting the state budget."

Legislators set policies and funding decisions, she said. "We also have to prioritize on cutting, and it's a very painful thing to have to do and we've done it and will continue to do so."

"We cannot in good conscience take away the parents' obligation to provide their child with the best education, whether we use charter schools, home schools or private schools," Hancock said.

The Lakeland Television media panel included Dennis Weimann, news director of Lakeland News; Brad Swenson, political editor of the Bemidji Pioneer; and, Scott Hall, news director of KAXE Community Radio.