Gov Debate focuses on past statements and public employees

The three candidates for governor debated compensation for public sector employees today at a debate in Golden Valley. Independence Party candidate Tom Horner also worked to suggest that his DFL and Republican opponents are shifting positions.

When asked for ways to solve projected deficit in the state’s public pensions, Republican Tom Emmer said he thought the state needed to shift state employees to a 401k style retirement package. He also complained that public employees are making too much than their counterparts in the private sector.

“This is where the imbalance comes in. Not only do our public employees make on average thirty to forty percent more than private sector employees in the same positions but then they have health care insurance that’s gold plated health care while people in the private sector are lucky to keep theirs…”

Emmer was citing studies by two conservative groups and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Democrat Mark Dayton said he didn’t think it was fair for Emmer to denigrate public employees.

“People who work their entire careers in the public sector don’t make a lot of money in total and they don’t have a lot of retirement income but they have secure income. They bargain for those retirement benefits as they bargain for their health insurance and the school districts in this state buy their insurance in the private market.”

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner said he would work to fix the state’s public pension system through benefit cuts, higher employee contributions and more public money. He also said Democrat Mark Dayton has repeatedly criticized him for extending the state’s sales tax to some services but pushed to extend the sales tax to legal services when he ran for governor in 1998. He also criticized Republican Tom Emmer for repeatedly voting no on bonding bills during his six years in the Legislature but now telling voters he supports a bonding bill.

“I’m impressed that it took Senator Dayton a decade to change some of his core positions. Representative Emmer seems to do it from debate to debate and that’s not what Minnesota needs. We need a clear vision. We need a clear focus on where we are going.”

Dayton said he is older and wiser than he was in 1998. Emmer said he opposed the bonding bills during his time in the Legislature because it didn’t include the right priorities.

You can listen to the entire debate, sponsored by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, here:

  • Lindsey

    I read in the Star Tribune that Horner would like to phase-in younger state workers to a defined contribution plan. Isn’t that already happening? I thought they made that change years ago, or at least they did for legislative employees. The comment section in the Strib isn’t really worth leaving comments in, but I figured someone at MPR might actually have real information about this.

  • Tony

    It’s always the same story; some organization has agreed to fund a pension and then failed to live up to its agreement.

    Conservatives would let large organizations that fail to live up to their agreements off the hook.

    Investing for retirement is complex and risky, far more so than garden-variety savings accounts.

    If you let conservatives have their way you’ll end up with lots of people who undertake individual efforts aimed at replacing the function provided by pensions.

    All too many of those individuals’ efforts will fail, just like with foreclosed houses.

    What will be the solution then?