Horner shoots for voters in the middle

Published 9:04 am Monday, August 23, 2010

With gubernatorial candidates on the far left and far right winning the Aug. 10 primary election, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner said he thinks Minnesotans will have an easy choice for governor during the November general election.

Reaching out to moderate voters, Horner said he wasn’t surprised Mark Dayton, a Democrat, and Tom Emmer, a Republican, won the primaries for their parties.

“I think this sets up a very clear choice for Minnesotans,” Horner said. “There are three very distinct choices.”

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On one end is Emmer, who Horner said will take the status quo — cut the government as much he can and get it as small as he can. On the other end is Dayton, who wants to increase the status quo and tax the wealthy.

Differing from those opinions, Horner, however, said he thinks the status quo needs to be changed altogether.

During a campaign stop in Albert Lea Friday, Horner explained he thinks there needs to be a redesign of the state’s government that should be outcome-based.

He said he thinks there needs to be tax reform, including eliminating sales tax on capital equipment purchases and creating other incentives for investing in startup businesses.

He noted he also thinks the state should lower the sales tax rate but broaden the base and tax things like clothing and services that previously have not been taxed. With this in place, there would also need to be some safeguards in place for people meeting low-income guidelines.

This would create additional revenue for the state.

“You can’t take a ‘no new taxes’ approach,” Horner said. “But I think Dayton is equally as wrong. Taxing the wealthy taxes small businesses.”

Jobs Opportunity Building Zone program

Horner said if he was elected governor, he would let the JOBZ program phase out but still honor the commitments that are in place.

He said he thinks the program has more often than not simply moved jobs from one part of the state to another, without creating new wealth and new jobs.

More than that, he said he thinks it is an expensive program.

He noted he thinks the state would be better off helping cities — like Albert Lea — build out its economic assets, including reducing taxes on business creation, creating incentives for business and investing in research.

Eliminating the sales tax on capital equipment investments can be the difference between a business being able to stay competitive, he said.

He said legislators need to think more long-term when they revamp the program. The program should build permanent economic development opportunities.

The state needs to invest in things such as research, technology and health care and then create some incentives for new ideas to be commercialized and make sure cities have the infrastructure that can sustain those ideas.


Horner said he thinks legislators need to think of education as a seamless system beginning with birth and ending with death.

“We need to think of education as lifelong learning,” he said.

The state needs to make sure that every child is going into kindergarten with the skills to succeed, he said.

In high school, the state needs to help students in the 11th and 12th grades use that time more effectively.

“The earlier you can make the investment, the more return you’re going to get,” Horner said.

He said he thinks the state needs to look at all of the higher education institutions and have a broad discussion about higher education, defining the core mission of vocational schools, community colleges, state colleges and the University of Minnesota.

He noted he thinks two-year schools are critical components of the education system and that colleges need to provide training for opportunities that are available in the area.

Renewable energy

Horner said he believes the state needs to make investments in energy technology.

“Biomass, solar, wind — all of it,” he said. “And we need to do it in a way where taxpayers are being given the opportunity to get a good return on the investment they’re being asked to make,” he said.

He noted he thinks the standards made by the Legislature are good, but what’s more important is that they drive new thinking and may be a catalyst for innovation.


Horner said he favors a short-term bonding bill next year — out of the traditional cycle — that would focus on money for local and state bridges and highways.

“We need to figure out a better approach to funding our infrastructure,” he said.

He noted he thinks legislators need to address transit as a statewide issue, not just a metro issue. Different transit options will be important in the future, he said.

Local government aid

Horner said he thinks the state needs to have an ongoing commitment to LGA, but he noted there may be some common-sense changes that need to happen with it.

He said legislators need to look at the LGA formula and make sure aid is getting to the right communities.

And instead of requiring cities to collect sales tax, turn it into the state and then get money disbursed to them, maybe cities could stop turning in their sales tax money to the state and eliminate a step.

He asked if there is a point where a city becomes too dependent on LGA.

Young voters

Horner said he has been aggressive to reaching out to younger voters through social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. He has conducted Twitter town hall meetings.

“We have the channels to reach them, but even more than that, I believe we’re connecting on the issues,” he said. “I talk about the opportunities Minnesota ought to provide … That’s what’s going to resonate with them in the long-term.”

Prior to his visit in Albert Lea, Horner made a stop in Austin. After Albert Lea, he was headed to the Steele County Fair.