1/31/2018 12:15:00 PM Gubernatorial candidates forum highlights rural issues
By Karen M. Jorgensen
Rural issues took center stage last Friday as nine candidates for Minnesota governor participated in a forum at the Minnesota Newspaper Association Convention in Bloomington. Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities Public Television interviewed the candidates.
The forum was sponsored by the MNA, Center for Rural Policy and Development and Compeer Financial.
Participating were Erin Murphy (DFL), Paul Thiessen (DFL), Jeff Johnson (GOP), Keith Downey (GOP), Mary Giuiliani Stephens (DFL), Chris Coleman (DFL), Tina Liebling (DFL), Tim Walz (DFL) and Rebecca Otto (DFL.
Each candidate was interviewed separately with questions submitted earlier by MNA members.
Among the topics addressed by all candidates was the issue of workforce shortages in greater Minnesota and also related issues of workforce housing.
All candidates agreed there is a lack of workers in the outstate areas.
Murphy was among the candidates who said childcare is one of the big issues. Making childcare more accessible, she said, would put more people who want to be employed back into the workforce.
Emphasizing the need to educate people in the trades was also a common theme among candidates.
Schools need to be teaching the skills the business community needs, said Johnson. Many have the belief, he said, that if a student does not get a four-year degree they are not successful. The governor, Johnson said, can help change that by using the "bully pulpit."
Coleman proposed programs where students "earn while they learn."
Walz pointed to Fairmont where the school district has partnered with industry in the community.
Several candidates, including Thiessen and Liebling also mentioned a lack of broadband capability as a hindrance in rural communities.
For several candidates, the workforce shortages and housing shortages are directly connected.
"We have to start paying decent wages to people," Thiessen said. Otto pointed out that the proportion of people paying more than one-third of their income on housing is "far to high."
Liebling said she believed in raising the minimum wage and subsidizing small employers to help them pay it.
Johnson said that government has created part of the housing shortage because of the mandates put on builders, a belief reiterated by Downey who added the public sector is crowding out the private sector.
Candidates touched on a variety of other topics, including health care, immigration and international trade agreements.
The process to elect a governor in November starts next month as the political parties hold their precinct caucuses on Feb. 6.
Posted: Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Article comment by:
Thank you for your coverage of the gubernatorial forum. Your article incorrectly lists Mary Giuliani Stephens as a DFL candidate when she is a Republican candidate. We would appreciate a correction. Thank you.