Jeff Johnson, the GOP nominee for governor, said during a forum Thursday hosted at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs that he would focus on comprehensive tax reform, the state's transportation infrastructure and education policy if he is elected governor.
The forum, moderated by political science professor Larry Jacobs, touched on a wide range of topics -- including the state's business climate and the creation of well-paying jobs -- but Johnson did not deviate from well-established positions on taxes and education.
Johnson told a small crowd of two dozen students that he would be an "engaged governor" and would work to reduce tax rates in Minnesota, including the corporate tax rate which he said discourages businesses from coming to the state.
The state's tax climate, Johnson said, needs a major overhaul. "We have a tax system that is decades old," he said. "It's about being competitive with other states."
On transportation, Johnson said he would oppose new forms of revenue, including a gas tax, and instead would pay for infrastructure maintenance through the issuing of state bonds. He said the focus would be on roads and bridges, not light-rail construction.
"I'm not an anti-train guy," he said. "I'm a cost-benefit analysis guy."
On education, Johnson favors more local control for schools and said schools should be able to follow best practices to work in narrowing the state's achievement gap.
With five days left until the election, Johnson will be busy meeting with voters. His schedule Thursday also included stops in Red Wing.
Another series of mailers targeting DFL House members up for re-election has again drawn the ire of the party after saying Democrats are responsible for “putting convicted drunk drivers back on the roads” for passing legislation requiring people with multiple DWI convictions to use an ignition-interlock device. The mailers also triggered a response from the national president for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and, locally, Minnesotans for Safe Driving.
The mailers, which again target at least half-dozen DFL House members, give various accusations that they voted to make it easier for convicted drunken drivers to get back behind the wheel. One calls St. Cloud Rep. Zach Dorholt a "bar owner" who “weakened penalties for horrific drunk driving crashes,” while another says Eagan Rep. Sandra Masin “Weakened penalties for dangerous drunk drivers. Putting our families in harm’s way?” imposed over a background of a shattered windshield. The mailers are each marked as paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota.
DFL House caucus spokesman Michael Howard said the mail pieces refer to HF 2255, legislation that requires people with multiple drunken-driving convictions to use an ignition-interlock device, which requires a breath test by the driver before the vehicle can be started. The bill passed 71-57 in the House and unanimously in the Minnesota Senate.
“These last-minute attacks are designed to leave candidates with no time to respond and set the record straight, and they are shameful,” House Speaker Paul Thissen said in a statement.
The mailers are the second in a row that drew ire from the DFL, after others accused lawmakers of making it easier for felons to work in schools. The mailer was in reference to a bill reforming the state’s expungement laws. The DFL alerted representatives of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, who in a letter called the mailers “misleading.”
The Republican Party of Minnesota did not respond to a request for comment.
The mailers also triggered a response from MADD National President Jan Withers, who said the organization backed the legislation because she said requiring an interlock device is more effective than license revocation alone.
“MADD supported these measures because simply hoping that convicted DWI offenders will not drive on a revoked license is bad public policy,” Withers wrote in the letter to Thissen. “License revocation without an interlock requirement is like using cancer treatments that were best practices 25 years ago. If this ‘treatment’ were effective, there would not be over 63,000 Minnesota residents with three or more DWI convictions on their driving records.”
The letter does not appear to address the mailers, but instead thanks lawmakers “for working to reform the state’s drunken-driving law.”
Nancy Johnson, legislative liaison for Minnesotans for Safe Driving and a victim of drunken driving, expressed similar support for the law in a letter to Thissen, while condemning the mailers.
"The idea that the Legislature was being soft on drunk drivers when they passed a bill in 2014 which allowed those arrested and/or convicted of (criminal vehicular operation) to have Ignition Interlock available to them is ridiculous." Johnson wrote.
Read the MADD letter below:
With days to go until the election, U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Wednesday said that a proposed travel ban to and from Ebola-stricken west African nations, should be extended to third-party countries for travelers not on direct flights, with special considerations for U.S. aid workers.
“I believe that we should have a travel ban on people who are coming from those third (party) countries who aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t medical personnel who are doing that work,” Franken told reporters after a Minnesota DFL Get Out the Vote event. “I think that makes sense but that’s insufficient because most of the people coming from those three countries are U.S. citizens and of course we want to incentivize people do to that work and we want them to be able to come back.”
Franken applauded Gov. Mark Dayton’s Ebola restrictions, which requires a 21-day home quarantine for health workers returning to Minnesota after treating afflicted patients.
Franken’s opponent, Republican businessman Mike McFadden, who supports a travel ban, has repeatedly hammered Franken over Ebola, alleging a lack of leadership, and barraging voters with mailers and phone calls regarding Franken’s early departure from a congressional Ebola hearing last month.
Yesterday the McFadden campaign launched a radio advertisement featuring audio from last Sunday’s debate on WCCO TV when Franken struggled to say whether he supported a travel ban, finally saying that he had “nothing against it” but that he believed it would be insufficient because the majority of travelers from West Africa don’t fly directly to the United States.
In the last week, more than $780,000 has refueled Minnesota's political campaigns, much of it to influence the heated contest for control of the Minnesota House.
WIN Minnesota, a funding arm of the Democratic Alliance for a Better Minnesota, has received almost $142,000 since Oct. 21. Most of that money has come from unions.
The Minnesota Jobs Coalition, which has campaigned to win a Republican House, has brought in more than $110,000 in that same time period. The coalition's largest contributor was the Republican State Leadership Committee, which focused on legislative races. The RSLC gave the group $75,000.
Other outside groups, largely ones that support Democrats, are bringing late cash to bear in Minnesota.
A host of union-driven organizations has seen more than $300,000 flow into their coffers of late. Many of those donations came from the union's parent organizations. Among them:
Education Minnesota, which generally spends more on elections than any other Minnesota union, notified the state it brought in $100,000.
Public Safety Matters received more than $110,000, including $75,000 from WIN Minnesota.
The Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund brought in a $108,000 check from its related organization.
The two men who would be governor are also making late fundraising pushes.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton received $28,000 in large donations since last Tuesday. Republican Jeff Johnson received $22,500.
In a fundraising pitch sent on Tuesday, Johnson told Republicans in a video he needed $50,000 for Greater Minnesota radio ads and $75,000 to complete his digital campaign plans.
In the text of the appeal, Johnson told supporters: "Don't let the Democrat driven media fool you -- this election is going to come down to the wire."
Asked to delineate the specific complaints against the media and the media-controlling Democrats to which the appeal referred, Johnson spokesman Jeff Bakken declined.
Instead he said, "This is a fundraising email to Republicans and our donors. Jeff's comments in the video and note speak for themselves."
Minnesota's top Democrats gathered in front of the Capitol Wednesday morning to launch a six-day, 31-stop bus tour of the state that's aimed at firing up the party's supporters and motivating them to vote next Tuesday.
Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken, both of whom face voters next week, joined with the party's other statewide candidates, members of Congress and congressional candidates, legislators, the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and party and union activists.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, not on the ballot this year, teased her colleague Franken, whom recent polls have shown sitting on a comfortable lead over GOP challenger Mike McFadden.
"The latest polls have him not 10 votes ahead, but 10 points ahead," Klobuchar said, a reference to Franken's razor-thin win in 2008, which led to a months-long recount and lawsuit.
Dayton's running mate, Tina Smith, related a discussion the two had a day earlier about the governor's view of where his race against Republican Jeff Johnson sits in its final days. Smith said Dayton often jokes that she's "hope" and he's "reality."
"I said, 'how do you feel?'" Smith said. "And he said, I feel like it's a hockey game, and I'm the goalie, and we're one point ahead and we've got two minutes, and anything could happen."
The red, white and blue bus chartered by the party has a busy schedule of stops in the coming days, with rallies on Wednesday alone in Mankato, Albert Lea, Rochester and Winona. Ensuing days bring stops throughout the state, as statewide, congressional and legislative candidates take turns participating.
Minnesota Republicans are not mounting a similar bus tour, but state GOP chairman Keith Downey said on Tuesday that its candidates would be canvassing the state in the coming days and at times making joint appearances, as well as appearing with local legislative candidates.
Johnson campaigned Wednesday morning at a suburban bus rapid transit station, and had plans to do retail campaining later in the day in New Ulm, Fairmont and Worthington. McFadden is campaigning in Duluth with Becky Hall, a local state House candidate.
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