The candidates for congress in Minnesota's 7th Congressional District made their pitch to voters this morning on MPR's Midday program.
Wednesday's debate is one of only two held in the mostly rural district that covers nearly the entire western half of the state.
Democratic candidate Collin Peterson is pursuing his 11th two-year term. Republican challenger Lee Byberg is a business manager from Willmar, and the Independence Party candidate is Glen Menze, an accountant from Starbuck.
All three candidates agreed the federal debt is a critical issue for the next congress.
Byberg said out of control spending and rapidly growing debt threatens the country's future.
"Collin Peterson has been there about 20 years, when he started it was $3 trillion; now it's $13 trillion," Byberg said. "And when we count unfunded obligations we are talking $100 trillion. That's about $300,000 person. This is unreal and will cripple the economy moving forward. It's really generational theft."
Byberg supports tax cuts for business as a way to generate economic growth. He also favors cutting the size of the federal government.
Peterson said he opposes any new government programs until the deficit is reduced. Peterson said as chair of the House Agriculture Committee he cut billions of dollars in waste from farm programs.
Agriculture is the primary economic force in the 7th District, and Peterson said farmers are doing well.
"The ag economy is the shining star of our country, and I like to think those of us on the ag committee have some small part in that because we put together a farm bill that backed that up," Peterson said. "And I think the results speak for themselves."
Peterson said he would consider further cuts to farm programs if other federal programs are cut as well.
The candidates disagreed on the topic of global warming and what to do about it. Byberg said there is no scientific evidence to show humans are causing global warming. Byberg supports expanded production of all sources of energy.
Peterson said it's critical to reduce dependence on foreign oil and increase domestic energy production.
Menze chastised Peterson for voting for an energy tax. Menze said energy taxes will stifle economic growth.
"You don't do it by having an energy tax that would put people out of jobs or drive gasoline, heating fuel or diesel over $7 a gallon," Menze said. "That would put people out of their homes, they couldn't heat them, and businesses would close. We have to use some common sense and we have to take care of the people right here in our district."
Menze does not support extending the Bush tax cuts. He said that would favor Wall Street bankers. Republican Lee Byberg and Democrat Collin Peterson both favor extending those tax cuts.