The three candidates for governor discussed early childhood education, health care for children and the state budget at a debate Monday afternoon in St. Paul.
Democrat Mark Dayton, Republican Tom Emmer and the Independence Party's Tom Horner took part in the debate, sponsored by MinnPost.
At one point, Dayton criticized Emmer for his constant disparagement of state government.
"If you don't believe in government, why do you want to be in charge of it?" Dayton asked Emmer. "My thesis is government needs to be better, provide services more cost efficiently and cost effectively, yes. But there is a role."
Emmer responded that he's running for governor because too many candidates and interest groups are ignoring the needs of average Minnesotans.
Horner argued that he's the best candidate to get things done, because Emmer and Dayton represent the extreme wings of their parties.
Horner, who has called for expanding the sales tax to clothing and unspecified services, criticized Dayton for promising to spend more money on programs without detailing how he'll pay for them.
"You have to set priorities. If everything is a priority, Senator Dayton, nothing is a priority," said Horner. "You can't promise to spend a billion dollars on more students, $150 million on all-day kindergarten, and still pretend that you're going to solve the budget deficit without raising taxes more than you're proposing."
Dayton said fixing the state budget is one of his top priorities. He has called for raising income taxes on the state's top earners. He said spending more on education and other programs are his goals.
Both Horner and Dayton say they want to direct more state taxpayer money to early childhood education and K-12 schools. Emmer said he thinks the state spends enough money on education, but he argues it should be better targeted.
"We've got existing resources that are being used to try to attack the achievement gap problem," said Emmer. "We've got to look at those resources, and any other resources, and make sure that they get focused in this area."
Horner said there are a lot of people in early childhood education who would take issue with Emmer's claim that lots of money is being spent on early childhood education.
The three candidates are scheduled to debate again Tuesday on MPR's Midmorning program.