The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Election 2008

October 23, 2008

Budget shortfall tops debate issues

Bidwell, Morrow verbally battle in District 23A

ST PETER — Legislative sessions might go a lot more smoothly if they followed the same course as the debate between Democratic Rep. Terry Morrow and Republican challenger Mike Bidwell Thursday night.

The discussion between the two state House candidates in District 23A started with sharp disagreements and ended with them repeatedly on the same page. At one point, Morrow suggested a duet of Kumbaya.

The most significant point of agreement between the two candidates was that the next Legislature will be facing a severe budget shortfall (Morrow predicted between $2 billion and $3 billion), that budget cuts would be the first tactic in dealing with it, and that tax increases shouldn’t be ruled out.

But before the agreement on issues ranging from changes to union organizing rules, the importance of environmental protection and the need to adequately fund education, the candidates clashed on spending, taxes and the transportation funding bill passed earlier this year.

“I’m not sure if any of you out there got a 10 percent increase in your pay last year, but the government did,” said Bidwell, a North Mankato resident who works as a car salesman at Lager’s Chrysler World. “With government growing faster than people can afford, that leads to problems.”

Bidwell said he would work to make the Legislature work harder to prioritize spending than did Morrow and other Democrats who control the House and Senate.

Morrow said there was plenty of cutting in the 2008 session, and he’s ready to do the same if re-elected.

“... Government needs to live within its means — it’s a constitutional requirement in Minnesota that budgets need to be balanced,” said Morrow, a professor at Gustavus Adolphus College. “And I’ll be straightforward, we’re going to have to make more cuts. We made 3 percent across-the-board spending cuts at every agency the past year.”

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