With eight candidates and more expected to join, Minnesota’s gubernatorial race is well under way, with more than seven months to go.
Candidates have already laid out their platforms, which emphasize education as a big theme. With five Democratic and three Republican candidates, the race has already begun.
Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey
Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III, has been in the news lately for taking the tobacco industry to court.
“I want to see Minnesota tobacco-free, through education and understanding,” said Humphrey, the son of former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.
Humphrey, a Democrat, has a plan to provide full state funding for college students. He proposed that the state pay for two years of college tuition for all students, calling it K-14 education.
In addition, he recommended an increase in the cost-of-living figure used to calculate state grants. The additional funding would come from the state budget surplus.
“I look at it as an investment,” he said. “The ability to get that high-paying, good job turns back more tax dollars than any other means. In terms of the public investment, education is truly the best.”
Humphrey also said he will target violence, and that one way to prevent violence is to keep children in school.
Lieutenant Governor Joanne Benson, a Republican from St. Cloud, has educational plans that focus on coordinating the transition from students’ K-12 education to college, and into their professional careers.
“Sometimes we compartmentalize, and the institutions don’t talk to each other about the needs of the student for today and into the future and how to make sure we take care of them all the way through.”
She questions the value of offering free college tuition.
“I know so many students who enter as freshmen and already don’t appreciate the opportunities they have,” she said. “I think if it is absolutely free, they might not think about this as their responsibility and their investment.”
Rather, she suggests using tax credits and deductions to give money back to the students after they enter college and work on it for a while.
Other goals include expanding “restorative justice,” which says that criminals must admit their wrongdoing and make restitution to both the victim and the community.
Benson also said she has heard from many people that Minnesota legislation is overbearing.
“Many citizens have told me they feel overtaxed and over-regulated, and underestimated and underappreciated,” she said.
Benson said she plans to reduce the tax burden and lessen state regulations.
Mark Dayton, who has been actively involved in Minnesota politics, said the state is breaking its own law regarding funding for higher education.
Dayton, a Democrat, said the state has a law requiring the financial burden on students to be less than 33 percent and that it is actually closer to 44 percent.
“It is inexcusable that the state, which has been feasting on the windfall revenue, is not using that money for public education,” he said. “It is a tragedy and an outrage.”
Dayton said funding needs to increase for both K-12 and higher education.
The state has been increasing per-pupil funding at half the inflation rate, Dayton said. This has put the burden on the cities. Some localities have had to pick up the additional costs for social services, he said.
Dayton would have K-12 education funded through income tax rather than property tax, so the distribution would be more fair.
Dayton has sharp criticism for the Public Utilities Commission and the Pollution Control Agency, which he sees as protecting business at the expense of the people.
Another large initiative he started was a plan to provide more financing for Minnesota’s roads.
According to his plan, “The poor condition of Minnesota’s highway and mass transit systems is one of the most serious and expensive problems which the next governor will inherit.”
Republican Senator Roy Terwilliger will focus on jobs and education in his campaign.
“The specific issues will come and go, but experience, ideally both private and public, is an overriding necessity for leadership,” he said.
With a 34-year background in banking, Terwilliger said he has more experience to provide leadership.
“We should expect everyone to have a good job, make a good wage, live in a good neighborhood and raise a family in comfort,” he said. “We won’t accomplish that without education and the development of a skill.”
The other thing to worry about is to make certain the market for jobs is here, Terwilliger said. He said the market is controlled by the state through tax and spend policies.
“The University is the economic engine for the state of Minnesota,” he said. “It helps to foster a high number of high-tech jobs, a highly skilled work force, and a highly educated state.”
He said it is important the University be nurtured and funded properly.
The latest to join the race, Democrat Ted Mondale said education is his top priority.
The former state senator and son of former Vice President Walter F. Mondale has a plan called “Greater Opportunities For Education Recognition (GOFER).”
The plan would offer full scholarships to high school seniors with a “B” average who performed some community service. Students would continue to receive year-long scholarships for up to four years if they continue to meet the standards.
“I don’t think we should deny people the training they need to get ahead,” Mondale said. “And I don’t think we should ask people to take on serious debt to achieve the training they need to be successful.”
Mondale said his plan, which would pay for public college tuition or the same amount toward private school, would cost the state $90 million each year. He said the money would come from reallocation of the existing budget.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has suggested the state pay for the first year of college.
“I want every Minnesotan who graduates from a Minnesota high school to have a chance to go on to higher education,” he said.
Freeman, a Democrat, said the $88 million program would come from the budget surplus. The plan would not require a grade average beyond college entrance requirements.
“I know far too many people who didn’t have a “B” average in high school; When they got to college, things started improving a lot,” he said.
He also mentioned University President Mark Yudof’s bonding request. Freeman said he authored and helped pass bonding bills when he was in the state Senate.
Other plans include funding all-day kindergarten classes and limiting classroom size to 20 students for grades K-3.
Allen Quist, former state representative, will also be competing in the Republican primary.
“I intend to prioritize funding for student financial aid, and for the higher education system,” he said. “The funding increases have not begun to keep up with inflation.”
Education, public safety, and transportation should be the state government’s main priorities, Quist said.
“Unfortunately, the state government has gotten involved in way too many things,” he said. “We should emphasize the basics, like a core curriculum in schools.”
Quist also said he supports major reductions in both income and property tax.
He also said he is calling for an end to the second part of the new high school graduation standards, which require students to fill out education evaluation packets from the state.
“That teacher has to take a very substantial section out of the sequential development of the course,” he said.
Quist will also call for an end to the marriage tax, a higher tax rate for married people. The issue has caught on since he began discussing it.
John Marty, a state senator from Roseville, was the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate in the last race.
Marty also mentioned the state is not in compliance with its own law regarding a tuition burden on students.
He said rather than giving tuition to everyone, including some who might not need the assistance, the state should work on making tuition affordable for everyone.
“(Free tuition) is easy to sell, but may not make the most economic sense on how to make higher education affordable to people,” he said.
Marty cautions against ignoring faculty at the University.
“When I hear that we have given so few raises to people…that does not build strong feelings of support,” he said. “Once you lose a good faculty, it is very expensive and difficult to build up a reputation again.”
Marty also plans to change priorities in government. He has been a longtime supporter of campaign finance reform and serves as the chair of the Senate Election Laws Committee.
“Education, the environment, health care, and fighting crime all deserve a higher priority than some of the corporate welfare that we do in this state,” he said.
ù Others are expected to join the race in the coming months.
State Senator Doug Johnson has recently shown interest in joining the DFL race.
St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman is also expected to join the race for the Republican primary.