Minnesota’s economy was the main theme in Wednesday’s Gazette-sponsored forum between State Senate District 39 candidates Julie Bunn and Karin Housley at Stillwater City Hall moderated by Stillwater School Board member George Dierberger.
Bunn, a Democrat who served in the state House from 2007 to 2010, stressed that the state faces a $4.5 billion deficit because, in addition to the national economic slump, Minnesota’s senior population
on fixed income is expanding as health care costs are rising and revenue is not increasing to keep up. She said she would work to bring down health care costs such as supporting the new Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange, to make insurance more affordable to small businesses.
Housley said the state “needs to file for a waiver from Obama Care” and open health insurance to “consumer-driven solutions.” She said the state’s economic problems are only on the spending side, and the state as “plenty of revenue” and no need to further “tax anyone.” She said cuts could be made in state administration costs and state departments operate in “silos,” duplicating costs.
Both Bunn and Housley touted their support from small business groups. Bunn twice received the Guardian of Small Award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses in 2008 and 2010. Housley said she is supported by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
On the issue of education funding, Bunn wants to make sure the K-12 public schools fund is “repaid” the $2.4 billion the state “borrowed” from it. But she added that without more revenue, it’s not possible without cutting state programs for seniors, the disabled, veterans and public safety. Bunn wants to meet with people on tax reform commissions to figure out how to “modernize and reform” state taxes to bring revenue “stability.” She also said that properly trained and effective teachers are the “number 1 thing we can do for our children” in school.
Housley repeatedly said she’s the daughter of two public school teachers and her four children have attended Stillwater public schools. Housley said the funding formula for schools is “73 pages long” and that “throwing money” at schools has not accomplished higher test scores or lower class sizes.
On the state voter registration card ballot initiative, Bunn said she opposes it because it doesn’t have bipartisan support, there isn’t strong evidence of voter fraud, it should be addressed by the Legislature and she’s concerned it would suppress voting of students, seniors and the military.
Housley supports the initiative because she said it’s common sense for voters to have identification when identification is required for many other transactions. If Voter ID passes, Housley said students, seniors and the military should be protected in keeping their voting rights when state lawmakers set up implementation of a voter identification system.
Bunn, 54, earned a master’s degree and PhD in economics from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. She was an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics four years and came to Minnesota to teach at Macalester College from 1992-2000, where she co-coordinated the Environmental Studies Program, and taught International Trade and Finance, Environmental Economics, and Public Policy. While in the state House, she served committees focused on licensing (vice chair), health care, human services, and funding. She also has been a policy analyst and advisor to non-profit organizations, and served four years on the Lake Elmo Planning Commission, where she lives with her husband.
Housley, 48, has a bachelor’s degree in communication from State University of New York. In addition to owning a real estate firm and a hockey facility, she has broadcast the “The Karin Housley Show” on KLBB- AM 1220 for seven years. The program features businesses, non-profits and events in the area. She’s president of Let’s Go Fishing with Seniors, is on the Community Thread board, and volunteers with Canvas Health. She founded a women’s investment club, is a chamber ambassador, and published a book on business. She is from Minnesota and lives in St. Mary’s Point with her husband and family. They are members of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.
To read more about these candidates stances on the issues click here to read about an earlier candidate forum at Boutwells Landing this month.