ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Jeff Johnson confronted one another Sunday over claims being made in their race during a debate that showcased differences on Minnesota budget and gun policy.Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Jeff Johnson confronted one another Sunday over claims being made in their race during a debate that showcased differences on Minnesota budget and gun policy.
The KMSP-TV debate at Hamline University also shed a more personal light on the pair: Dayton confessed to having smoked marijuana in his lifetime and to having a weakness for chocolate ice cream; Johnson shared his affinity for Dairy Queen Blizzards and declined to say how he would define the middle class. Both men acknowledged to having spanked one of their sons once in their life, an issue in the news given Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s legal troubles over corporal punishment.
Here are some highlights:
YOU’VE GOT ME WRONG
Dayton put Johnson on the spot over his associations with the tea party and a prior comment that he would “go all Scott Walker on Minnesota,” referring to the Wisconsin governor who curbed the power of public sector unions. Johnson has repeatedly tried to clarify those remarks.
“I look around the country and see governors all over that I would follow in certain areas. Scott Walker would be one of them in that he believes in less regulation and he believes in lower taxes,” Johnson said before adding other governors he would emulate.
Dayton wasn’t satisfied.
“You have this habit of saying something definitively at one point and then a few months later you equivocate,” Dayton said.
Johnson challenged Dayton’s competence, saying he “often times doesn’t seem to know what’s going on in his own administration.” He used Dayton’s stewardship of Vikings stadium legislation as an example because the governor later complained about seat license fees assessed to season ticket holders.
Dayton replied, “I know what’s in the bills. I know the big picture. The big picture for Minnesota is we’ve made enormous progress and we will continue to make progress.”
If Minnesota stays on track for another budget surplus, the candidates’ plans for the first $100 million differ.
Dayton said he would use it to expand a child-care tax credit so more families qualify. Last year, he proposed making it available to 170,000 families but the plan stalled.
Johnson said the money could make it easier to pull off “comprehensive tax reform” that dramatically alters the mix of what is paid in property, sales, income and corporate taxes.
If a deficit of that size emerges, Johnson said he would seek to cut spending. “We’re not short of money, we’re unable to prioritize,” he said.
Dayton said he too would look for savings first, but said the state could also dip into a newly augmented budget reserve.
For the first time in their four debates so far, they were asked whether they would seek to enact new gun laws.
Johnson said enforcing the laws on the books already should be the focus and he wouldn’t support adding new restrictions, saying it only feeds a “cultural war.”
Dayton said he favors extending background check requirements to private transactions made at gun shows to make those sales consistent with ones made at licensed gun dealers.
Both men said they own guns — Johnson a hunting rifle and Dayton two handguns and a shotgun — that they have each fired within the past year.
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