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Campaign 2010: Horner, Mulder work from middle

Jim Mulder, right, running mate to Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner, visits with several local government officials Saturday morning in Bemidji. He explained the role of local governments in a Horner administration. At left is Beltrami County Board Chairman Jack Frost. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

Now is the time to elect a third-party governor, says Jim Mulder, running mate to Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner.

"We're feeling better," Mulder said Saturday morning in an interview. "We're feeling like there's a real movement of people who are starting to recognize that we are about solutions. We're not traditional party folks."

Neither Horner nor Mulder, a retired head of the Association of Minnesota Counties', have ever run for office before, Mulder notes. Horner is a former chief of staff to Sen. Dave Durenberger who then successfully ran a public relations firm until running for governor.

"We really are a different kind of wonkie," he said. "We don't have to do this, but we're doing it because we want to."

Horner is trailing in third in most polls, with Democrat Mark Dayton in the lead, followed by Republican Tom Emmer.

"With both candidates in the extremes, this is the time for a third-party candidate," Mulder said. "If it can't be done now, the future of third parties is doubtful."

Mulder used a Saturday morning breakfast at a Bemidji restaurant to try to woo several local government officials, with the Horner administration wanting local governments to form a partnership with the state.

He met with Beltrami County Commmissioners Jack Frost and Joe Vene, Bemidji City Council member Roger Hellquist and Mayor Richard Lehmann, and County Administrator Tony Murphy.

"We bring real solutions that are practicable, that actually can be accomplished," Mulder said. "The proposals coming from the other two candidates are very high in hyperbole but don't have real solution is attached to them."

Horner and Mulder have issued position papers throughout the campaign that detail everything from the budget to plans for conservation. Such detail is lacking from Dayton and Emmer.

"We have specific ideas and we think they are specific directions and things we need to work on," Mulder said. "There are some things that we know we have to sit with the Legislature to bring it to closure."

Unless people have a plan on paper to work from, "people have a tendency to stay away from the piece of paper," he said. "They just stay in the argument."

Horner plans to give the Legislature a plan and outline of what the administration wants to do. "Then let's work to fine-tune it, both Republicans and Democrats," Mulder said. "They do have good ideas."

With no Independence Party legislators, Mulder said there is an opportunity to bring Republicans and DFLers together. "We're going to invite legislators to be a part of our process, because it's in their interests to solve problems for their constituents."

Legislators want to do that, but sometimes the party and caucus get in the way of that, Mulder said, suggesting that caucuses need to have less power so that the session end isn't controlled by about 15 party leaders.

Mulder said Horner plans on forming an Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The head of that agency will work with Mulder as an ombudsman or liaison with local government -- townships, cities, school boards and counties.

"There's about 15 work groups that need to be put together almost immediately," he said. "We should not be adversaries in this process."

Also proposed is $2.5 billion in state spending, with a third coming from counties. Through a government redesign program, counties would be able to levy local sales taxes and have programs reorganized on an outcome-based performance.

Cities would receive Local Government Aid in the amount before unallotment last year, Mulder said. The Horner administration would repeal that local governments pay sales tax on purchases.

While Emmer looks at budget cuts and won't raise taxes and Dayton wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans, Mulder said the tax structure must be analyzed and made more progressive.

Horner's plan is to expand the state's sales tax to, among other things, clothing. But he would have a $350 million low-income tax credit to offer sales tax rebates based on income.

"I don't like raising taxes, we don't want to raise taxes," Mulder said. "But to solve Minnesota's problems, to position Minnesota where we need to be to compete nationally and internationally, we do have to raise some taxes."

By broadening the sales tax base and lowering the sales tax rate by 1 percent, putting $350 million into a low-income tax credit, "allows all Minnesotans to share in both in the hard part of wha's going to be happening in raising taxes, but they'll share in kind of the better part.

"We're not going to have to make the kinds of cuts and we're actually gling to position Minnesota to be in a better place," he said.

"We believe that by balancing this out, we're going to lower the rate, they'll (clothing merchants) actually be able to grow the economy as more and more people can actually buy that clothing," Mulder said. "If we just do this through cuts, or if we just tax the rich, we don't think that's going to help (clothing) businesses that much."

It's about building a new economy in Minnesota that reflects the Minnesota of today, he said.