Two challenge Langseth for Senate
State Sen. Keith Langseth has 26 years of experience in Minnesota state politics.
The DFLer from Glyndon said experience gives him an edge when it comes to answering tough questions, such as how to balance a state budget deficit that could reach $3 billion in the next two-year budget cycle.
But his opponents in Senate District 9, Republican Brad Monson of Detroit Lakes and Independence candidate Daniel Stewart of Wolverton, believe Langseth is part of the budget problem.
"I think Minnesota's government, flush with cash from a strong economy in the late 1990s, spent lavishly and is now unwilling to cut back now that the revenue projections didn't pan out," Monson said.
The winner of the District 9 election will serve a four-year term and be paid $31,141 annually.
There are no easy ways to solve the state's budget crunch, Langseth said.
Taxpayers can expect temporary revenue increases to deal with the deficit, he said.
"I am willing to be honest with the voter and explain they are going to experience some pain before our economy improves," Langseth said.
The veteran legislator said he supports the need for a
5-cent gasoline tax increase to help fund needed highway and bridge projects and lists transportation funding as one of his top three priorities.
Unlike Gov. Jesse Ventura, who said the state should only borrow money for statewide or regional projects, Langseth said bonding dollars should be made available for local projects that are good investments, such as the Fergus Falls Convention Center.
Langseth's other priorities include providing for education, transportation, nursing homes and local government aid.
Monson said tax increases should be a last resort in balancing the state budget deficit. He would prefer to cut costs.
"There are a lot of things that we duplicate," he said.
For example, there are several agencies responsible for environmental reviews, Monson said.
The Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency all conduct similar review processes.
"How many agencies do we need doing the same things," Monson said.
Regulations that are driving families and businesses to other states also need to be eased, he said.
Stewart said the first task the Legislature must tackle is balancing the state budget.
His aggressive solutions include weeding out unnecessary school administrators and reducing remaining administrator salaries by
His plan would not touch teacher salaries.
Stewart would also enact a temporary user fee for parents of public school students to cover some student expenses.
"I am developing a formula that charges about $7 a month for a family making around $20,000 and gradually up to about $50 a month for a family making over $75,000," Stewart said.
"Hey, are we serious about fixing the budget or not?"
Stewart would reduce homestead credits by 5 percent while creating a property tax formula based on the population and net income of each county.
"Worse off counties could then have an additional statewide tax reduction," he said.
Recipients of public aid should be allowed to find additional revenue sources, Stewart said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Baird at (701) 241-5535