Charley Bruce

.Mike Hatch, DFL

What are two or three of the most important issues to you in the election?

Health care, cost of higher education, quality K-12 education and I guess No. 4 would be transportation.

How, specifically, would you change health care in Minnesota, if at all?

I want to reduce costs. I see a lot of poor behavior by these nonprofits and I want the commissioner of commerce and the commissioner of health to immediately go into these institutions and start looking at some reductions, which they have the authority to do.

In the meantime, I would like to have some legislation proposed with regard to pharmaceutical purchasing, with regard to an assigned risk plan for smaller businesses to be able to buy policies for high-risk employees to steady their premium, with regard to government appointment of the three nonprofit HMOs in the state.

Where is the line separating funding public interests from special interests?

My priorities are, as I mentioned before, the education, health care, transportation areas. I think there was a tremendous waste of resources of the state when we focus on special interests like casinos and stadiums. My goal is to keep this legislature so busy on the infrastructure issues I just mentioned that they’re not going to have time to be debating stadiums.

Do you think the state needs to invest more money in highways, mass transit (like the Central Corridor) or neither?

Yes, the state clearly has to invest more money in transportation and mass transit. I do believe that, with regard to mass transit, the state should adopt a plan similar to that utilized in Denver and Atlanta, where they established a mass transit district within the metropolitan area.

By asking rural Minnesota to finance a mass transit system, you create tremendous division and resentment. To address it, you have to do it through a transit district within the area that’s being served.

Should higher education be more affordable? And, if so, how?

I want to close a corporate loophole as it relates to foreign investments, and take that funding and reduce college tuition, dollar for dollar.

Would you support an amendment banning gay marriage?

The statute that currently exists, which says that marriage is between a man and a woman, has already been held constitutional in Minnesota. However, I don’t believe in discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Would you change Minnesota’s tax policy? And, if so, how?

I believe that over the last four years, we’ve been incredibly regressive in our approach to revenue.

We have taxed senior citizens to the tune of $2,800 a year when they go into a nursing home.

We have taxed our children to the tune of $300 million a year when they go to a public college.

We have thrown off 37,000 people from Minnesota Care, a subsidized policy for the working poor. The governor took them and threw them off Minnesota Care, many of whom ended up on welfare.

We have imposed deductibles on Medicaid recipients so that they cannot even afford their prescriptions that they’re supposed to get.

I think that’s wrong and it has to be changed.

Peter Hutchinson, Independence

What are two or three of the most important issues to you in the election?

Health care reform is No. 1 by a long shot, education – particularly early childhood – and then the funding of higher education Ö transportation and transit and the environment.

How, specifically, would you change health care in Minnesota, if at all?

If you’re going to change health care in Minnesota, you have to do it … I guess the polite word is comprehensively. I think the less polite word is it’s got to be big, it’s got to be bold, it’s got to be brash and it’s got to be now.

It means doing five things: You got to drive the cost of all the administrative activity down by half – what I’m talking about is all the paper, all the forms, all the repetitiveness of being asked questions. Every health plan has their own codes and their own software and all these folks working in the back rooms. You do that by standardizing Ö insisting that everybody use the same set of standard administrative procedures.

The second thing is quality. Quality in medicine, as in a lot of other things, if you do it right, is actually less expensive. So, we want to drive up the likelihood that when you go to the doctor or the hospital and something is done, that it’s the right thing and it’s done right the first time.

Third, related, is if you do those first two things you’ll save over a billion and a half dollars just in the government’s cost of health care and you can use about a third of that money to see to it everybody has health insurance. It ought to be the law that you’re required to have health insurance. Government doesn’t have to run the health care industry, but it can make these changes in the rules so that people get the care they need and deserve.

Fourth is public health. There are two epidemics going on: tobacco Ö and obesity. We’ve got to crack these two things and we’ve pulled back from our commitment to ending smoking and we haven’t really started investing in obesity. So, statewide smoking ban, we support it. Raising the price of cigarettes, we support it. Investing in (fighting) obesity, we support that we’ve got to have it.

The fifth thing is personal responsibility. The best health care system in the world won’t make up for the things we do to ourselves. So, we want the health care system to send signals to each of us about the things we’re supposed to do. Provide premium discounts on health insurance for things like not smoking, keeping your body weight down and getting your preventative service.

Where is the line separating funding public interests from special interests?

The government has no business – absolutely no business – taking money out of your pocket and putting it in the pocket of somebody else. I would not have supported the stadium legislation.

The government’s not good at this. So what we know how to do is build roads and sewers and water and infrastructure. Government would do that for any business, simply because the business is going to be there, but putting money in to their pockets – I don’t get it and I don’t support it.

Do you think the state needs to invest more money in highways, mass transit or neither?

Absolutely; what we’ve proposed is that the Legislature pass again the transportation bill that the governor vetoed.

First, it would have increased the gas tax by 10 cents over a couple of years that money would have been invested in roads. It would have dedicated the sales tax on automobiles to highways and it would have dedicated – for the first time in state history – a revenue source, in this case part of the sales tax, to transit.

So, for the first time we would have had real significant funding both for roads and for transit statewide, which we have just not had. That would have been a very good move. It was shameful the governor vetoed that bill.

Should higher education be more affordable? And, if so, how?

Absolutely. My point of view is really three things: double the availability of needs-based financial aid Ö that means everybody gets twice the shot at getting needs-based and I’m talking about grants, not loans. There’s a state grant program and we would double that.

Secondly, you got to cut the cost and time that students bear, because, in a third of the cases in Minnesota – probably not at the U, but across the state – a third of the students are taking remedial courses when they get to college, which means they’re paying tuition and using up their credit hours and everything else, but they’re taking high school courses over again. It costs $20 million dollars a year for that. Huge savings if we could Ö (make) sure that, when you’ve graduated from high school, you’ve taken the courses at the level that actually means you’re qualified to go to college.

The third thing we’d do is actually expand the ability of high school students to take college courses while they’re in high school.

They don’t have to pay any extra for that and that allows students to get a real jump on finishing college without having to pay for it.

Fourthly Ö you got to cut health care costs if you want to get tuition under control.

Health care costs are actually one of the main drivers behind tuition increases and if we can get health care down 20 percent, we might actually be able to get tuition to stop rising at these insane rates.

Would you support an amendment banning gay marriage?

I do not.

Would you change Minnesota’s tax policy? And, if so, how?

I wouldn’t do anything immediately, because I think that before we get the right to change taxes in Minnesota, we have to show the taxpayers that we’ve changed the way we spend money in Minnesota.

Show the taxpayers we can use their money much more effectively than we are today, then I think we get the right to change tax policy. So, it’s not a top priority from my point of view.

But if I were to examine it, what stands out to me – one of the big problems we’ve got in Minnesota is because we’re so reliant on income taxes to fund government, in good years government has lots of money, because incomes are up and Ö that means more money comes in.

But, when times are bad, we’re broke. We rely too much on the income tax. If we made our sales tax base broader Ö we could lower the rate and still collect the same amount of revenue, but it would help make the whole funding system more stable than the one we have today.

Tim Pawlenty, Republican, incumbent

Pawlenty was unavailable to be interviewed.