COL Questions for candidates
Education funding, taxation are pertinent issues
Candidates for Rochester area seats in the House of Representatives have been knocking on doors, shaking hands and passing out campaign flyers. It has been a quiet campaign, but when a candidate comes knocking, there are some questions that should be answered.
First and foremost is the dire need for higher funding for education. Will a candidate pledge to vote for a bill that would provide the Rochester school district with enough money to meet the demands of a growing and diverse district?
Next, and tied to all spending decisions, is the question of taxes. The state can no longer live with a no-new tax philosophy. At the same time, with marginal economic conditions, now is not the time to expect taxpayers to foot steep spending increases.
A question for a Democrat: Why should a Rochester voter back a Democrat when Republicans likely will maintain control of the House? This matters because it is the majority that controls legislation. To the cynical, a legislative majority means control over the benefits.
In truth, Democratic House candidates need to carry a simple message to voters. They have to say why they deserve a chance. Republican House candidates have to explain past actions.
Last winter, the Legislature failed to deliver a bonding bill for the state and several key provisions for Rochester. Because all Republican House candidates are incumbents, all were players in the debacle that was the 2004 legislative session.
Republican House candidates should be asked: What about funding for Rockenbach Gymnasium on the University Center Rochester campus? This building would have housed science and health-care classrooms. Without it, UCR continues to suffer from chronic underdevelopment.
There is also the loss the city's downtown suffered when an expansion of the tax-increment financing district failed. In addition, funding for the Olmsted County garbage burner was another casualty of the 2004 session.
Then there is the granddaddy of all failed projects -- funding for the Mayo Clinic-University of Minnesota bioscience partnership. Republican candidates need to explain why their majority control in the House was not successful at reaching an agreement with the Senate DFL leadership on a bonding bill.
Democrats should not be let off the bonding bill hook that easily, though. Voters should question Democratic candidates why, in general, their party seemed to be more interested in opposing Republican action rather than working for compromise.
Neither party's candidates should be given a free ride. Questions need to be answered from both sides.