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Senate 2 candidates follow party line

Republican Dennis Moser, right, outlines a response to a media panel question Friday night while DFL Sen. Rod Skoe listens during a Lakeland Public Television Senate 2 debate. Both are from Clearbrook. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Minnesota Senate 2 candidates followed the party playbook on state budget solutions during a Lakeland Public Television debate Friday night.

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, said solving a 6 billion budget deficit will take a balanced approach -- budget cuts, increased taxes and a third avenue of revenues to replace federal stimulus funds.

Republican challenger Dennis Moser, also of Clearbrook, said he wouldn't support raising taxes and called for a two-year freeze in state spending at 2009-10 levels.

"It's going to have to be balanced out between spending and revenue," said Skoe, seeking a third term. "The reason it's most important to have this balance is that most of the spending is not done in St. Paul. It's done in the local areas across Minnesota."

Much of Minnesota's budget goes to schools across the state and to nursing home residents or services to the most vulnerable adults and children. Also, money flows from the state to cities and counties.

"These are the things are going to be hard to resolve this coming session, because we have all this spending, and it was done with one-time money, and now if you don't have some sort of revenue to help offset that, it's going to mean serious reductions for Minnesotans that live in our area," Skoe said.

"I think we can get this done without raising taxes," Moser said. "We need a two-year freeze until we figure this out."

He would extend the two-year freeze to teacher salaries as well. "We need to keep that spending at the same level, without the step increases, without the increase in spending, without the increase in benefits for at least a couple of years."

State employees and teachers "can endure the pain this one time for the overall benefit of the state," Moser said.

Skoe said state unions did negotiate no increases for two years in the current budget, and said that was a good step. "But the idea we're going to have our schools go down the path that is occurring, going to four-day weeks, going to larger class sizes -- I just don't see how we prepare ourselves to compete in the global, knowledge-based economy when we're doing less to educate our kids."

A lot of automatic spending is built into the budget, Moser said. "Everything is set to go up if nobody does anything, One of the best thing we can do is we have to keep spending down."

Moser said he was "fundamental opposed" to raising taxes and doesn't like the idea of borrowing.

Both candidates also recognize that they have two American Indian reservations in the Senate 2 district.

"There are challenges representing Indian Country," Skoe said. "You do the things you see the most results from. We're trying to do the best we can to educate the young people so that they can move forward and better themselves."

Standard test scores at the elementary and middle school level are improving, he said.

Skoe has carried bonding bills for school improvements at Red Lake only to have them vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Moser said, if elected, he would represent "everyone I'm legally supposed to represent. ... There are certain areas where we're talking about reality. Wehave to have that balance between legality and the reality of what takes place up there (Red Lake) and what they need and how to best meet those needs,

"It is in everybody's best interest to get anyone, whether it's on Red Lake or anywhere else, off of welfare and get them to where they can become productive citizen and taxpayer in our community and in our state," Moser added.

He added that there is some discontent with the DFL on the reservation, citing the Warriors for Justice group which failed to gain access to the ballot as a separate political party after failing togain the DFL endorsement in House 4A and Senate 4.