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Senate, House candidates take part in local forum

Depending on the results of the November 6 election, either Dan Skogen or Bill Ingebrigtsen will be representing the new state Senate District 8 in St. Paul. Bud Nornes or Chet Nettestad will represent State House District 8A.

This past week, Democratic candidate Skogen, Republican candidate Ingebrigtsen, Republican Nornes and DFLer Nettestad participated in a Meet the Candidate Forum in Fergus Falls.

Questions to the candidates related to the state budget, taxes, economic development, energy, environment, health care and labor issues. They were then each allowed to give closing comments.

Job creation

Nettestad said Minnesota needs to invest more in education (colleges and technical schools), which will lead to growth in jobs, he said. His opponent, Nornes, responded that Minnesota needs to improve its business climate to assist in job creation. Skogen said investment in education, in previous years, led to the growth of Fortune 500 companies in Minnesota. His opponent, Ingebrigtsen, said business taxes are too high, and this hurts job growth.

The prevailing wage

Prevailing wage is the hourly rate, plus benefits, required by law to be paid for each trade or occupation while performing work on state-funded construction projects. These projects can be highways, roads, wastewater treatment plants or any other construction project funded by state government.

Wage rates must be comparable to wages paid for similar work in the area where the project is located.

Ingebrigtsen prefers to do away with the prevailing wage, instead saying the free market bidding process for a project should be the determining factor. Skogen said reforms could be made, with individual contracts, but reminded attendees that "rising water raises all ships."

Nornes said the prevailing wage law is confusing and adds to the costs of construction projects. Nettestad said he believes in the concept of the prevailing wage, adding that collective bargaining is needed for people to receive livable wages.

Energy costs

Ingebrigtsen voted 'no' as a legislator to a bill calling for 25 percent alternative energy by the year 2025. He said this would lead to higher energy bills. Skogen added that the state needs to adhere to reliability, fair rates and environmental protection. Nornes puts his trust in the state Public Utilities Commission, and Nettestad said higher energy users should help subsidize lower users, through the trickle-down theory.

Health care exchanges

Health insurance exchanges are the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act. States such as Minnesota are required to have a plan in place by Jan. 1, 2014. If they function as planned, these exchanges will expand health insurance coverage, improve the quality and reduce costs.

Skogen encourages the state to develop its own health care exchange, citing the benefits of state control. Ingebrigtsen said the exchange plan is up in the air, until the presidential election is over. Nornes said Minnesota will move forward with the plan only if Obama wins in November. Nettestad supports insurances exchanges as a way to attain health care affordability for consumers.

Health care spending

Skogen wants more emphasis on wellness in order to control health care costs. Ingebrigtsen calls for restructuring the private health care system. Nornes wants more patient options but with less government control. Nettestad reiterated his call for health care affordability for state residents.