DFL governor candidate Erin Murphy shares her views

Erin Murphy sits for a portrait.
House Representative and gubernatorial candidate Erin Murphy sits for a portrait inside the Kling Public Media Center in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, May 4, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

As governor, DFL-endorsed candidate Erin Murphy said she would support moving the state to a single-payer healthcare system, legalizing recreational marijuana and raising taxes or fees to pay for transportation infrastructure.

Murphy, a state representative from St. Paul, is in a competitive, three-way DFL primary race with U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and Attorney General Lori Swanson. On the Republican side, endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty are competing in the primary.

Murphy sat down with MPR's Kerri Miller for an hour on Tuesday ahead of the Aug. 14 primary. Here's what they talked about:

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On healthcare

One of the centerpieces of Murphy's campaign for governor is her plan to eventually allow Minnesotans to bypass insurance companies for health care coverage.

Her plan for single-payer health care would let people buy into the state's publicly subsidized MinnesotaCare program. The state would also buy medicine directly from drug companies. No state has gone as far as Murphy is proposing.

"We need to use the power of purchasing here in Minnesota to get a better deal on drug costs," she said.

But Murphy stressed that her plan would be implemented gradually: "It's important we talk about it as a pathway, because Minnesotans are worried about losing what they have right now."

On recreational marijuana

As governor, Murphy said she would sign a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, but she comes at the issue from a criminal justice perspective. She would want any proposal that legalizes recreational marijuana to also include a way to expunge low-level cannabis possession crimes from people's records.

"There is a disproportionate number of people of color, specifically men of color, who are incarcerated for this crime," she said.

She said she also believes it will be easier to keep marijuana out of the hands of young people if it were "regulated and legal."

"Minnesotans are ahead of policymakers on this question," she said. "They are ready to make this move and if the Legislature puts it on my desk, I will sign it into law."

On gas taxes

Murphy said she would support some kind of dedicated fee or tax to support more spending on transportation infrastructure in the state, which she said is lagging.

"When you think about transportation, since we overrode Pawlenty's veto in 2008, we haven't really made a meaningful investment in transportation," she said.

Murphy said Minnesotans should expect her to raise taxes to pay for spending priorities like education and transportation to keep a "structurally balanced" state budget.

"A balanced budget is a high priority for me," she said. "When we are chasing deficits, that means we are not looking ahead and we are not prepared for our future."

Gun laws

As governor, Murphy said she wants to expand background checks, ban assault-style weapons and allow law enforcement and families to petition the courts to take weapons away from someone who is a danger to themselves or others.

"[People are] expressing a real frustration that the things they know Minnesotans are supporting across the state aren't getting in any attention at the Capitol," Murphy said.

She would not actively try to undo laws that allow Minnesotans to carry a concealed weapon, but she is interested in creating more restrictions around doing so inside the state Capitol.

On mining and clean water

Murphy said she's skeptical about copper nickel mining projects like Twin Metals, but she said her job as governor would be to "enforce the law" and follow the state's established permitting process.

"They should be able to go through the permitting process and use that tool to inform us," Murphy said.

"My job as the governor of the state of Minnesota is to protect our clean water, protect our future and look out for people's jobs," she added. "When politicians choose to circumvent the law, or go around the law, or change the law mid-process, it really destroys people's faith."