CGMC board meets with gubernatorial candidates (Round 2)

The CGMC Board of Directors met with gubernatorial candidates Keith Downey, Rebecca Otto and Paul Thissen on Wednesday, the second in a series of meetings with candidates running for governor. As we mentioned in last week’s CGMC in Brief, three candidates met with the board before the CGMC Fall Conference in November (read about those meetings here) and others are slated to meet with the board in January. Additional meeting dates may be added in the future if need be.

Keith Downey, the former chair of the Minnesota Republican Party and a former state representative who currently lives in Minnetonka, said his campaign theme is “Make Minnesota Work for Everyone.” His main priorities are reinvigorating the business climate by reducing taxes and regulations, fixing the achievement gap in the urban core and health care. As governor, Downey said he would reduce state spending by 15 percent and eliminate the commercial/industrial property tax, corporate tax and estate tax. Stating that “LGA is not something I would have dreamed up,” Downey said LGA funding should be only for “core services,” not “quality of life” items like community centers, swimming pools or libraries, and he believes the first-class cities are not as dependent on LGA as other communities. He discussed a proposal from when he was a legislator which would take 50 percent of LGA and convert it to a grant and loan program for cities. Some of the grants would be awarded based on specific projects and some would be based on innovative collaborations between local governments.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto, a DFLer from Marine on St. Croix who has served in her current position for three terms, says “Renew Minnesota” is her campaign theme. Her top priorities are health care, attracting jobs and manufacturers through the “clean energy economy,” and providing two years of paid tuition to any Minnesota high school graduate (provided they maintain certain stipulations). She emphasized her goal to move the state to a single-payer system, claiming it would attract businesses and reduce health care costs, particularly for local governments. She said she supports LGA and that small communities in particular need it due to the economies of scale. On the issue of environmental regulations, Otto stressed the importance of good science and the need to work with local governments and other stakeholders. She also expressed concern that the state needs to do more to address aging infrastructure, particularly in smaller cities that don’t have the population necessary to spread out costs.

State Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) has served in the House since 2002, including a stint as Speaker of House in 2013-14. He emphasized his commitment to “getting stuff done” and said he wants all Minnesotans to prosper and feel a sense of belonging, no matter where they live. He cited a number of priorities, including economic security, education, health care, infrastructure, child care and housing. He expressed concern about the state budget deficit, noting his accomplishments in balancing the budget as Speaker. He further stated his biggest regret from his time as Speaker is not passing a comprehensive transportation bill including a gas tax increase. Thissen said he is a strong supporter of LGA, calling it a “critical component of what keeps Minnesota great.” On environmental regulations, he said it is important that city leaders have a “seat at the table” and that he wants to fashion the regulatory process so that resources are used wisely to reach clean water goals.

You can learn more about the candidates and their priorities at their campaign websites: