For two candidates with very different political philosophies, State House District 39A hopefuls Bob Dettmer and John Bruno had a decidedly low-key debate Tuesday night at Stillwater City Hall.
In fact, the Stillwater Gazette-sponsored forum could be described as a conversation without conflict between Republican Dettmer and Bruno, Dettmer’s Democratic challenger.
On the issue of taxes, Dettmer and Bruno were both asked what situations would they raise taxes and they offered very different views.
“There are a number of ways to go about this and I think we need to look corporate versus personal taxes,” Bruno said. “Right now corporations are only being charged four to five percent, which is nothing for large companies. I don’t believe in increasing corporate taxes but I think we need to close the loopholes that allow this to occur.”
Dettmer disagreed. “I would not raise taxes especially with the economy right now,” he said. “We need to move people back to work and raised taxes won’t help with that. We have one of the highest tax rates in the country with corporate and small businesses especially. And we need to reduce spending,” he said.
Forum Moderator Marguerite Rheinberger asked the two candidates education-related questions.
Regarding unfunded school mandates, Dettmer cited situations where they asked school boards to tell the state about unfunded mandates and said lawmakers wanted to do more for schools, so they drafted a bill to help this past year.
Bruno said he agreed with helping schools, but added that ultimately an unfunded mandate ends up affecting the schools.
When asked what education reforms, short of adding more money, are needed, Bruno said he’d like to do some more research on that topic before commenting.
Dettmer said education reform has been a big part of the last legislative session. One example he cited was lawmakers working to help people from the private sector become certified teachers. He added that local control at the school district and state Department of Education level needs to be increased.
When asked if they realistically see the legislature paying school districts the $2.2 billion lawmakers borrowed for the state budget. Dettmer said lawmakers are currently working on that.
Bruno said that in the short term, he did not see that happening.
“It’s as though we have $23 in our checkbook and our credit cards are maxed out at this point,” he added.
When asked what issues the candidates might disagree with their party on, Bruno said the Democrats’ approach to personal rights is an issue with him.
“Personal rights need to be on a parallel course. People talk about wanting to restrict gun owners rights and in the same breath, talk about what can be done with women’s health rights. You either are for personal freedoms or against it. You can’t have it both ways,” Bruno said.
“When my wife and I decided to run for office, I took a close look at both parties and I fit in the Republican platforms role of government. I’m pro-life and I’m pro-marriage between one man and one woman,” Dettmer said. “Sometimes I do disagree with my party. I didn’t vote for the Vikings stadium, and when you look at my pieces of legislature, about 80 to 90 percent of the bills I’ve authored have had Democratic sign-on.”