Entenza talks health care, budget deficit on Morning Edition

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza said Thursday that a single-payer, state government health care system in Minnesota would cost too much to set up.

Entenza, who spoke on MPR's Morning Edition, said it would cost $15 billion a year, which would force lawmakers to raise taxes.

"There's a $6 billion budget deficit," he said. "That (plan) would require a massive, massive increase in taxes."

Entenza's DFL opponents, Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Mark Dayton, have said they're in favor of exploring a single-payer system for Minnesota, which they say would save the state money in the long run.

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But Entenza said it's not time for such a plan.

"I think what folks want across the spectrum is a candidate who's going to say, 'Here's what we can do, here's what we can afford, let's try and make sure we have a great education system, but let's not be promising that everyone can get everything absolutely free when we don't have the money to do it,'" he said.

"I'm going to be realistic and stay focused on the things that folks want: get jobs created and let's make education No. 1 in Minnesota again," he added.

Unlike Dayton and Kelliher, Entenza has declined to release tax returns showing his sources of income. Entenza's financial disclosure statement reports no compensation. It lists five mutual funds as the only securities in which he holds an interest.

The former state House minority leader is largely financing his own campaign. His wife is a former UnitedHealth Group executive, but Entenza said they don't own UnitedHealth stock.

"The key thing is is there a conflict of interest, and we release that data," Entenza said, adding that he'd be open to stricter financial disclosure laws for candidates.

Entenza also talked about several other issues that have come up on the campaign trail. Below are excerpts from those comments.

On negative campaign advertising:

Entenza recently started airing an ad attacking Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

"I think it's important that I have a positive message about what we're going to do," Entenza said. "But we also wanted to find what the alternative is, and the alternative is the Tom Emmer politics of slash and burn and cut and cut and cut, and I think you have to have a clear alternative to that."

On balancing the state's budget by deferring payments:

Entenza agreed that delaying payments to school districts and other accounting shifts isn't sustainable in the long term. But he said it will be necessary again next year because state lawmakers have relied on it for so many years.

"I want to handle it the way we've traditionally done it, and a piece of that unfortunately is going to have to be deferrals because (lawmakers) have allowed the problem to get so big," he said, adding that he has a plan to pay for the school payment delays so that eventually schools are paid on time.

"We're going to have to take care of it over a couple of years," he said.

On raising revenue:

Entenza said he would raise taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans and also wants to implement a sales tax for Internet purchases.

The current system "discourages folks from buying things on Main Street Minnesota."

Entenza said the state should help create so-called green jobs, especially in the wind energy industry. He said encouraging a wind energy market in Minnesota could eventually bring the state additional tax revenue.