Candidates for Minnesota governor detailed their views on immigration, the state’s chronic educational achievement gap and the budget Sunday afternoon before a large crowd at Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul.
Upwards of 700 people watched as Republican Tom Emmer, DFLer Mark Dayton and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner spent more than an hour answering questions from University of Minnesota Prof. Larry Jacobs. The event was sponsored by a coalition of Jewish groups.
The discussion centered on the fiscal issues that have dominated nearly every meeting of the candidates this election season, but also delved into how they think the state should address its many minority populations — particularly in regard to immigration and closing the education achievement gap between white and minority students.
Dayton and Emmer both said Minnesota should not impose immigration laws similar to Arizona’s controversial requirements on police to check immigration status.
Emmer, who praised the law this spring, said he only did so because he thought it would put pressure on the federal government to enact immigration reform. “We’ve got all the laws we need right now in this state to handle immigration,” Emmer said.
Dayton said he agreed with the assessment of Twin Cities police chiefs that local law enforcement should not be “immigration detectives.”
Horner, who also opposes the Arizona law, criticized Emmer for wanting to make English the official language of Minnesota — legislation he said would “set up barriers to integration.”
As for how to close Minnesota’s achievement gap between white and minority students, all three candidates stressed the need to invest in early childhood education. Horner also called for less rigidity in the school system, Dayton pressed for state funding of all-day kindergarten, and Emmer said early-education dollars should be more focused on literacy.
With each candidates’ budget plan almost entirely laid out, their discussion of the deficit solutions Sunday tilted largely on the philosophical differences in approaches.
Dayton said the state needs to raise more money through taxes to respond to Minnesota’s growing population and an ailing private sector, which have made more people reliant on government help.
“These are real human beings that depend upon education [and] health care,” said Dayton, who has said he plans to seek income tax increases for the wealthy if elected.
Horner, who would like to see the sales tax expanded to clothing and other services, said Dayton and Emmer’s plans are likely to hit one echelon of society too hard.
“We are not going to reach prosperity if we continue to tax success or if we continue to punish the poor,” Horner said, adding that exemptions to his plan could be made for children’s clothing or items worth less than $100.
Emmer, whose is focused on reducing state spending, said his opponents are only raising taxes to feed a system that wants to spend more than necessary.
“You’re doing nothing more than throwing another tax life preserver to government as it drowns, without addressing what we have to address today,” Emmer told Horner.
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732