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District 11A candidates differ on deficit cures

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Minnesota House District 11A candidates have drawn clear lines between their positions as the final week of campaigning approaches.

Incumbent Republican Torrey Westrom, DFL challenger Bennett Smith and Independence Party candidate Dave Holman met at a candidates forum in Morris last week.

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A report on the Minnesota Senate District 11 debate was published last week.

Taxes, cuts and how to best balance the state's estimated $5.8 billion deficit dominated almost all facets of the discussion between the District 11A candidates.

Westrom said he believes raising taxes will only hamper any economic recovery efforts and that governmental reforms and budget cuts are the only way to approach the deficit.

"It's easy to say just raise taxes," Westrom said. "Anybody can do that."

But Smith said that the idea that taxes haven't been raised during Gov. Tim Pawlenty's two terms is misleading. Tuition has been steadily increasing at state universities, fees have been raised and local taxes are also rising as the state cuts aid to local governments.

Holman has been cautious is his approach to deficit fixes. The first thing he'd do, if elected, would be to find out "where did the money go that we don't have." The deficit problem can't be solved until the state fully understands what the total problems are, he said.

As for their priorities, Westrom proposes a "back to basics" approach, with the focus of state spending on roads, schools and care for the elderly.

Smith said "nothing can be sacred" when it comes to deficit reduction and that all state residents will have to share in cuts.

Holman said it's "almost irresponsible" to be throwing out ideas for reducing the deficit when it's not clear what the scope of the state's problems are.

All three said the supported putting any changes in county offices to voters through referendums. Counties are contemplating making offices such as auditor and treasurer appointed positions rather than elected.

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The Sun Tribune and the Echo Press are Forum Communications Company newspapers.

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