The three major party candidates for governor were in Brainerd today for a debate about health care issues.
At the debate, which was sponsored by the Minnesota Hospital Association and Aging Services of Minnesota, Democrat Mark Dayton challenged Republican Tom Emmer's assertion that planning for a $3 billion increase in health and human service spending is another example of out-of-control government spending.
Emmer defended his proposal to sharply reduce the projected growth in health and human services spending in the next two-year budget cycle. He declined to say exactly how he would cut $2.2 billion from the projected $3 billion increase.
"We have put a specific number on the table and understand that you have to work within the legislative process," Emmer said. "Once we get back, if we are in the governor's office, we will be working with the Senate and the House as to those details within that budget."
Dayton said that's practical, but that the increased spending has nothing to do with government waste.
"You know this is just not a matter of government trying to increase its budget to expand its waistline," Dayton said. "This is about real people, real crisis situations and people desperate and turning to whatever they can to get the health care that ought to be a basic right in this society given all of our resources."
All of the candidates said state government should not mandate nurse-to-patient staffing levels. Last summer, thousands of nurses from Twin Cities-area hospitals walked out on strike over staffing ratios and other issues.
Tom Horner from the Independence Party said staffing should be determined by hospitals not lawmakers.
"The state should not be mandating staffing levels," Horner said. "The evidence is very clear in California where it has been tried that it does not improve quality of care. It has driven up costs."
Horner said he wants to redesign the way the state provides health and human services programs, but he did not say what, if anything, he would cut from the projected $3 billion spending increase.