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Senate candidates differ on taxes, jobs

Both Minnesota Senate District 57 candidates agree that budget cuts are an essential part of solving the state's budget deficit, and that bringing back jobs to the state is a top priority -- they just disagree on how to do it.

Karin Housley, the Republican challenger in the race who cites her business acumen as a key qualification, said the state's projected $5.8 billion budget deficit isn't caused by lack of revenue, but overspending.

"There's a lot of waste in government spending," Housley said. "There're a lot of agencies that are doing double-duty."

Housley said she couldn't name specific examples of waste or duplicative services before getting into the position and "seeing the numbers."

Her opponent, incumbent Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said she favors a combination of cuts and tax increases on the wealthiest Minnesotans -- who she said pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than middle-income earners -- to fill the projected hole.

"I think we should have a balanced approach," Sieben said, "that relies heavily on cuts, but also seeks to put some fairness back into our tax system so that more of the cuts aren't passed onto property taxes or our schools."

Because schools comprise 40 percent of the state budget, Sieben said, it will be hard to avoid cutting K-12 education without bringing in new revenue.

Aiding job growth ranks high on both candidates' priority lists, they said.

Sieben said having a bonding bill this year that funds transportation projects will be key to creating thousands of jobs in the construction field. She points to her vote to override the governor's veto of the transportation bill in 2008, which she said sped up construction of the new Highway 61 Hastings bridge by 10 to 15 years.

"That's a real, tangible example of a policy that I pushed hard for that encouraged job growth and created jobs," Sieben said.

Housley -- a St. Mary's Point author, Realtor, radio show host and business owner -- said she questions whether building projects are creating "real jobs" and thinks politicians are getting pre-occupied with projects like rail transit at a time when the state can't afford it.

"Are they real jobs ... or are these just jobs that once the project is over, then the people are out of work again," Housley said. "(If) you get the whole light rail done and there's nobody working still, who's going to ride it?"

Housley said cutting taxes and fees and easing regulations for small businesses is the key to job growth.

"Our small businesses need help," she said. "Those are the job creators."

Sieben also said she supports targeted investments in small businesses.

Here's how the candidates stand on a couple of other issues facing the state:

Vikings stadium: Housley --"I'm probably the biggest sports fan out there, but I think alternative ways of financing it really do need to be looked at."

Sieben -- "I believe it would provide up to 14,000 construction jobs and with bids coming in low it may be a good time to do it, but it certainly isn't a top priority as a Legislature."

Racino: Sieben -- "If it makes sense for Minnesota and it would help with our budget deficit, it's something I would certainly consider."

Housley -- "I really do think it needs to be looked at."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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