Legislative candidates touch on jobs, taxes, health care, marriage amendmentWhile GOP incumbents Sen. Ted Lillie and Rep. Andrea Kieffer cited legislative experience and asked voters to continue the support they started, DFL opponents for Senate District 53 and House District 53B said a change would be good for the state.
By: Riham Feshir, Woodbury Bulletin
While GOP incumbents Sen. Ted Lillie and Rep. Andrea Kieffer cited legislative experience and asked voters to continue the support they started, DFL opponents for Senate District 53 and House District 53B said a change would be good for the state.
A legislative candidate forum hosted by the Woodbury-Cottage Grove League of Women Voters Tuesday night gave candidates a chance to answer questions on voters’ minds.
Lillie and his DFL-endorsed opponent Susan Kent, Kieffer and her opponent, Ann Marie Metzger, along with House District 53A candidates Joanne Ward and Pam Cunningham tackled questions on the economy, jobs, health care, education, the voter ID amendment and the marriage amendment.
Metzger, a Woodbury Democrat, disagreed with Kieffer on most of the issues and indicated she was part of a Legislature moving in the wrong direction.
Kent, also of Woodbury, said those currently in office don’t put voters first, but rather continue to work on their initial platforms.
Kent said she could not see why one couple can have the right to marry while another can’t.
“Our Constitution is about expanding rights and not curtailing them,” she said, after expressing her opposition to the marriage amendment.
“We can’t say one couple can have these rights and another couple cannot based on gender,” Kent said.
Ward, a Woodbury Democrat, echoed Kent’s sentiment and said if gay couples are allowed to marry, it wouldn’t do harm to society.
“It should not be part of a Constitution,” she said.
Metzger also said she will be voting “no” and added if passed, it would be one of the laws that would close the door on a growing society and take the country in the wrong direction.
Republican candidates Lillie, Kieffer and Cunningham, on the other hand, said they prefer to let the voters decide.
“It’s a very private decision,” Cunningham, of Maplewood, said. “I’m glad it’s in the hands of the voters.”
Kieffer said she voted to let the voters decide and encouraged voters to take it “very seriously.”
Lillie also said it’s a private issue that he himself hasn’t decided which direction to go yet.
“I think you have a right to decide this for the state,” Lillie said.
During the discussion regarding taxation and balancing the budget, Kieffer said the state does not have a revenue problem, but a spending problem.
The incumbent said she is not in favor of penalizing high-income earners by raising their taxes.
Before answering the same question, Lillie explained how the tax system works and said during the down economy, a number of people were not paying as much income taxes but were still paying property taxes.
To make up the difference, the solution is to create jobs and put more people to work, not by levying heavier taxes, he said.
Metzger said the last thing she’d want to do is borrow millions of dollars from the schools to balance the budget.
She also said it’s unfair that property owners have to carry the burden.
When it came to the voter ID amendment, Kent said there is a “tiny percentage” of voters who don’t typically vote with identification, and it would only add costs to the system.
Lillie said although there is no evidence of voter fraud, it’s still happening. The amendment would ensure voters are registered in one place.
“Photo ID is a common-sense thing,” he said. “This is something that we do automatically.”
Cunningham agreed it’s not too much to ask for ID when voting and said she would support the amendment.
“I gave blood yesterday and was asked to show ID,” she said.
Ward, on the other hand, said there is not enough data to prove voter fraud in Minnesota.
“I understand people think it’s very simple,” she said. “It does sound very simple but it does disenfranchise an enormous number of people.”
Kieffer, who co-authored the bill, said she hasn’t had one constituent say they won’t be able to vote because of the amendment.
Her opponent Metzger said Minnesota is consistently seeing a large voter turnout rate and the amendment would have a negative effect on that.
“This amendment would turn us backwards,” she said.
Health Insurance exchange
The candidates were asked to address a health insurance exchange system and how that would affect Minnesotans.
Cunningham, a registered nurse for 30 years, said a system like that has not proven to be successful. She said she has concerns about it because she’s not sure of the economic impact it would have.
Metzger said a health insurance exchange program would allow small businesses to buy insurance of their choosing. She said she would support a system that allows individuals to choose what works for them in a broader health care market.
But Kieffer explained that “access to insurance is not access to care.”
She said the Legislature “needs to proceed very cautiously” and would have to make sure it’s not “fencing out competition.”
Finding common ground
Lillie’s closing remarks touched on some of the positives that Woobury has seen in the last couple of years including increasing new home construction.
He also said the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.1 percent to 5.9 percent and that the Legislature needs to continue improving the economy.
His opponent Kent said she’s running to serve “frustrated citizens” and to collaborate with others to reach a “path to common ground.”
Metzger said she is running to put citizens’ priorities first in St. Paul, while Kieffer closed with the argument that she’s found common ground during her time at the Capitol.
The candidate forum brought out dozens of residents to the Woodbury City Hall Council Chambers who submitted a number of questions that weren’t all answered due to the restricted time frame.