Q&A with Tom Emmer

MPR’s Web site was down during Rep. Tom Emmer’s appearance on Midday today (We’re told it had something to do with Qwest). So many may have missed it between that and people running around on the unallotment story. So here’s a recap of the GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate’s appearance, without the pledge drive interruptions.

Q: Did you expect to win endorsement on the second ballot?

A: We expected three ballots. It was hard work.

Q: What’s your reaction to the state Supreme Court ruling?

A: It puts the Democrats in a hot spot because they’re the ones who are supposed to be leading, balancing the budget. We’ve got literally a week from Monday as the constitutional deadline. I haven’t had a chance to read the decision. A couple of things that caught me quickly: It was a 3-3 decision. In effect they’re reading timing issues into the statute that aren’t there. We’ve got concerns about the judiciary when they read things into a statute that doesn’t exist. Judge Gearan said at the beginning of her ruling, the unallotment statute is constitutional.

The bigger issue is: now what do we do? What is their solution?

Q: Would you recommend that the Legislature adopt the program that the governor instituted? Adopt the delays in the state-aid payments etc?

A: Tim Pawlenty has done a good job trying to hold the line. There’s a lot of politics in this. There was a $6.4 billion deficit when we came into session in 2009, we worked on native earthworms, indigenous peepers and cocoa bean compost. There’s a proposal I put in January 2009 called first-things-first. The governor would have the ability to declare a fiscal emergency and if it has been declared, the Legislature would have 45 days to put its balanced budget out on the table. Now you have everyone’s cards out on the table and you can focus on those areas of disagreement for the rest of the session.

Q: Tom Horner said you’re the most conservative candidate for governor ever. True?

A: I don’t know. I’m just a guy from Delano. If conservative is just being consistent, I’m very consistent. People know best how to take care of themselves and should be given the opportunity to do that. We’re mainstream Minnesota. Government … there’s a lot of duplication. There are priorities to be set. You have to put people back in charge of creating their own opportunities and that’s not happening right now. The two issues that keep coming up around the state are taxes and regulation.

Q: Last week on Midday, you said you wanted to cut the state budget by a third. Still sticking with that?

A: What i said was we could do that. You have to listen to what people are telling you. There are a lot of people out on Main Street Minnesota who don’t think government is listening. My answer to you last week, I think you can do that. You have to look at the entire amount we’re spending, and not just the General Fund. We have a Department of Human Rights and an EEOC. They do the same thing.

Q: Does the government have any role to provide a safety net?

A: If you’re a constitutional purist, that’s not set forth in there. Article I says government will protect the citizens and their property, it says the government will provide an infrastructure, and it says the government will provide uniform education. But let’s be realistic. What’s happened in this country and in this state over many decades is the social safety nets that were originally provided by faith communities and community networks, more and more we became conditioned to believe the government was supposed to provide the safety nets. It’s not that we’re going to say “no’ to these in the future, it’s simply that we’ve seen that they’re not sustainable in their current form. I think you have to start moving back to solutions that don’t involve all-encompassing bureaucracies. MinnesotaCare was intended to be a health-care safety net for people who are between jobs. Rather than have a turn-key insurance program, we literally have taken into the program. We need to start looking at going to a private health care voucher system. We would still qualify for a certain level of benefits but we’d take that voucher and participate in the private health care insurance market with other Minnesotans.

Q: DFL leaders say there’s no support, even among Republicans, for further local aid cuts. Is that true?

A: I would change the question and be more direct. I would ask “why are we talking about cuts?” Why don’t we talk about the problem with it and why it’s become a political football. LGA was created with the intent that it provide for the #1 function of government: that we’d have basic police and fire services throughout the state. Now, you’ve got only half the cities in the state get local government aid. And only a handful get the lion’s share.

When I was on the Delano City Council, our general fund budget was about $2 million. I think Chisholm was close to that in local government aid. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

Q: Is there any circumstance where you would sign a statewide tax increase of any sort?

A: No, not under the circumstances we face. We’ve got to be able to go to the people and say it’s not a problem of revenue. It’s a problem of spending. Colorado, a state of similar population and size, is spending almost a third less than we are as a state. We’ve got to take a step back and say “why”?

Q: (Caller) I was a former criminal investigator for unemployment in Minnesota. What would you do as a candidate to return to the taxpayers of the state, all the six fraud investigator positions that have been eliminated?

A: This gets to the #1 priority of government: Protecting citizens and their property. We have other areas of fraud as well, and we’ve not been filling the positions internally. Agencies have been eliminating positions like yours.

Apparently our DNR is taking buses of metro women on camping trips. I think that’s great, but it shouldn’t be a priority of government.

Q: (Caller) Do we really need 855 cities in this state?

A: We may disagree on this. The problem isn’t the number of cities or counties, but we’ve consistently pushed authority up from the most local level — the individual — up to the county, up to the state, and the state is collecting everything and sending mandates down. You need to get rid of those mandates and give more authority at the local level. It’s really easy for someone in St. Paul to spend your money. It’s a lot harder for the person you see in church or the grocery store.

Q: (Caller) We’ve become reliant on government but at the same time are you going to ask people if they’re sure that’s what they want? (Caller cited floods, hurricanes, health crises etc.)

A: We have become conditioned as a society to believe we go to government for help. But it’s not sustainable. What you leave out of your statement is the fact that why is this happening? Why can’t we sustain the safety nets? You can’t sustain it because of something called wealth. The trailer that they’re pulling is way overburdened. That ultimately is what creates wealth. You have to have jobs that allow people to improve their quality of life.

Q: Would Gov. Emmer kick grandma out of the nursing home?

A: No, this isn’t about kicking grandma out of the nursing home. What Gov. Emmer would do is recognize that what the federal government created may not exist when our children are ready to access it.

Q: What makes a good governor?

A: A good leader is someone who can articulate where they need to be. Someone who is willing to stand up against strong public opinion that may lean a different way. It’s somebody who can draw others to the message and help move it. It’s not one person who’s going to change anything.

We’re at a crossroads and we can’t afford to continue doing things as we’ve been doing them. It’s time for a fresh, new view. We have to take control of our own future again.

Q: Is it going to be tough to get your message out this summer with the Democrats having a lively primary that will get media attention?

A: We have the benefit of reality and people are with us. The Emmers are just another family. We’ll do it one handshake at a time. The truth has a wonderful way of coming to light.

Q: What about the people who tell you we need to raise taxes. Do you listen to them?

A: i do. But that’s where leadership comes in. Everyone’s got a program. We have plenty of revenue in this state if we’re willing to set our priorities. Do I expect every person in Minnesota is going to agree? No. The question is who is going to be most credible over the next few months.

  • MR

    Maybe I missed something. Were there any specific proposals for what he would cut that would actually make an impact, if he is opposed to raising more revenue?

    What does he believe that government should do, and what services does he no longer want?

    I don’t understand his answer about a safety net. He says that there isn’t a constitutional requirement for it, that churches and other private entities traditionally did it, and that we need to change it. But then he’s talking about the government providing health care vouchers. What does that mean?

  • LC

    No real answers here. I wish MPR interviewers would make the candidates answer the questions.

    What cuts will you make if you are gov? Cuts to Health and Human services? If so what programs? Lets see details from ALL candidates, esp those that don’t want to raise revenue.

    Also, he talks about You have to listen to what people are telling you. There are a lot of people out on Main Street Minnesota who don’t think government is listening. then goes ahead and completely contradicts himself later Q: What about the people who tell you we need to raise taxes. Do you listen to them?

    A: i do. But that’s where leadership comes in. Everyone’s got a program. We have plenty of revenue in this state if we’re willing to set our priorities.

    So if a majority of MN want to raise revenue, he will play daddy and tell us no? Thanks Mr. Govt for being “our” govt….

    Avoiding any comments on the rest of this junk.

  • John

    Can someone please tell me what “indigenous peepers” are?

  • SH

    I think it is so refreshing to see a politician who understands whose money the government is spending and believes in well defined, local government. Any candidate with those principles deserves the people’s trust. Go Tom!

  • Jim Meyer

    I wish the full copy were available. I was willing to give this guy a fair try. I agree with him on AZ immigration, for what it’s worth to Minnesota. Then I heard him say that as he went around the state, he heard people complain of two main things: 1) over-regulation and 2)…I can’t remember the 2nd because my mind was so blown by #1. Really? In the wake of the financial meltdown and sub-prime loan orgy, Minnesotans are, ABOVE ALL ELSE (health care, rising costs, school financing, crime, job losses galore and shrinking wages) most fed up with regulation? I can’t call Tom a liar until I or someone does a reliable poll. It appears he is an EXTREMELY selective listener. “Taking Minnesota Back”. . . in time.

  • Jamie

    Where are the interviews with Margaret Anderson Keliher and Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza?