Candidates debate over state elder care system

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 17, 2002

Local candidates for the state legislature gathered Wednesday for a debate hosted at the Good Samaritan Center and answered questions from the audience about their views on senior care policy.

Candidates for the House: GOP Dan Dorman and DFL Allan Halvorsen, and for the Senate: Grace Schwab, GOP, and DFL Dan Sparks, were present.

The nursing home industry is facing high insurance costs and a pressing need for higher wages for employees. While various laws for the nursing homes don’t allow them to have much flexibility in addressing these problems, there is another problem which stands in their way; a lack of sufficient state funding is possible due to the budget crisis.

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Halvorsen attributed the current funding shortage in social infrastructures to the tax cut that he thinks benefited mostly wealthy Minnesotans. He suggested a tax increase, particularly for income tax, would be necessary to secure funding, and stressed that a total cost the society would bear through a tax increase would be lower than losing services through decreasing the state funding.

Sparks stressed a need for government commitment to staff training.

Dorman stated that regulations result in increasing costs that the industry needs to sustain. He promised to fight against government bureaucracy, eliminate excess mandates, and encourage enterprise, competition in the market place, and more consumer choice.

Schwab emphasized that she would make efforts to fix the imbalance in nursing home funding between metro and rural areas and encourage new technology to be employed in the industry.

Independence Party Senate candidate Terry Kelley didn’t attend.