Governor candidates: their positions on big Downtown projects

Yes from Penny, Moe, Pawlenty and Pentel on state financing of a riverfront Guthrie; mixed views on planetarium, Twins stadium

Tim Penny would partially fund a new Twins stadium. Roger Moe would not add new lanes to I-35W heading toward Downtown. Ken Pentel wants to stop building any new roads in the seven-county Metro area. And Tim Pawlenty is leaning away from funding the Downtown planetarium.

These are just some of the positions revealed in a series of Skyway News interviews with the four major candidates for governor conducted last month. (Of the four, only Tim Pawlenty failed to appear for a scheduled face-to-face meeting; his interview was conducted by phone.)

All candidates were asked the same basic questions, with follow-ups directed at candidates based on their unique answers.

This week and next, Skyway News is publishing full transcripts of the interviews with DFL candidate Moe, Republican Pawlenty, the Green Party's Pentel and Independence Party hopeful Penny on our website:

Following is the first excerpt from our conversations:

Skyway News: Would you favor state funding for the Downtown planetarium? The new Guthrie Theater on the riverfront? The baseball stadium? [Note: last year, the city sought $9.5 million for the planetarium, and the Guthrie requested $35 million from the state for a $125 million project.]

Roger Moe: I am in support of the Guthrie Theater. … I gotta get juice in the economy [immediately]. It doesn't do any good to say we can get this planned out and this can come online in September of '04 -- it's got to be able to turn dirt as soon as possible. If that's the case, then it's very viable, yes. I don't know the answer to that for the planetarium, but I supported it. … The only qualifier … on the baseball issue is … in spite of what happened with the avoidance of the strike and this new plan that's in place, I don't believe we should change the priority of these venues [baseball first, then a new football stadium]. … I would want to look at [Major League Baseball's] new revenue-sharing package, to see if there is a possibility of capturing some of that for debt service.

Tim Pawlenty: The Guthrie, yes. The Planetarium, I don't know, I'd lean against it at the moment. And as to the baseball stadium, I have been opposed to public subsidies for a Twins stadium, although the last financing package, while I didn't support it, if the only issue was to allow Hennepin County to compete [for the stadium] on the same basis as Ramsey County in St. Paul, I may be open to that.

Ken Pentel: Easy one first: baseball stadium. I do not think that public money should be used for private stadiums. … I think that the public's tax dollars should be going to youth, the young people first. We've seen a lot of stress in our schools, they're already pinched. … If the Guthrie Theater is a natural draw for other actors and creative people that come to the state, then I probably wouldn't have a problem giving some money to [it]. … Of the three, I would support the planetarium. I think it offers a diversification of educational


Tim Penny: I haven't thought about the planetarium, so I don't know. The Guthrie, I'm OK with. It sounds to me like they are asking for a rather minimal investment from the state, and because I think the arts are part of our broader cultural and economic base, I think a state investment there can be justified. … I've always said that for sports facilities, I'm comfortable … with [public funding] in the range of 20 to 25 percent, whether that's county or city or state, as sort of a public investment.

Skyway News, to Penny only: [Gov. Ventura, a fellow Independence Party member] seemed to be opposed to the Guthrie philosophically.

Penny: I'm not. I think there is a broader public benefit both economically and culturally, but I would be leery of too heavy a public investment here because, like a Twins stadium, it is not entirely a public need, but there is public benefit.

Skyway News: The vast

majority of commuters travel to work by themselves in their own cars. Do you agree that's a

problem? If you do, what would you do about it?

Pawlenty: Well, whether it's a problem or not, it's a reality. Ninety-five percent of the people get around by car, and it's true that we can't build our way out of congestion, but we can certainly make it better. And even if you doubled transit ridership in the next 10 years, 90 percent of the people are going to get around by car. … We're not going to escape that in pretending it doesn't exist. … For those people in Minneapolis who say we're not going to expand roadways in and out of Minneapolis, we're eventually going to choke on congestion.

Pentel: Yes [it's a problem]. I would say to people, if you want to reduce your taxes and you want to reduce the cost of government and you want to reduce your overall costs of living and create more time in your life, then we've got to stop depending on the car as the main vehicle. … In the seven-county metro area, I want to stop building roads. Take care of the existing roads. … Short-term stuff will be park-and-rides, HOV lanes, Metro Mobility and low-income support with free bus passes. [Also] heavy rail, light rail, monorail, and I'll look at other technologies like personal rapid transit. Let's get everything on the table here.

Penny: Yes [it's a problem]. But you have to give [people] a good reason to get out of the car, or they won't. … You have to have a bus system that gets people where they need to go quickly, and for the most part we don't have such a system today…. I've talked with Ted Mondale of the Met Council about building more park and ride systems…. It's working in Burnsville, where they've opted out of [Metro Transit] and they can't bring the buses in fast enough, and they can't build the parking garage tall enough to take all the riders that are ready, willing and eager to get on that bus because they know within 20 minutes or so, they're downtown…. longer term it's a transportation-mix problem. … Light rail needs to be developed.

Moe: If you're one of the 165,000 who come into Downtown Minneapolis every day and you idle for 20 minutes, a half hour, 40 minutes coming in and going out, I would say that yeah, that's a problem. … I'm a supporter of light rail and commuter rail. We may need trolleys. I don't think you're restricted to any one way of addressing it. … I would prefer other options [to expanding I-35W through south Minneapolis]. I would prefer, like I said, rail options, some other transit options. … I don't know how you could even afford to do that [expand


Skyway News: The state's aid to local government (LGA) is a major source of revenue to cities such as Minneapolis [$111 million, or 34 percent of the city's general-fund budget in 2002]. But many people say that to balance its budget, the state will have to cut LGA next budget cycle. Would you? If so, how much?

Moe: I support local government aid…it's not only having the state kind of pay for the services it's getting from local units of government, but it's also designed to keep the burden off the property tax. … I've been a supporter of that partnership. I think that when it comes to local government aid there are some very stark differences between myself and the other candidates. Mr. Penny certainly was one of the architects of the "Big Plan," and as you know the Big Plan suggested cuts in local government aid. I think Mr. Pawlenty has had a fairly documented legislative career as it relates to reducing local government aid, unfortunately with more of a punitive nature toward the center cities.

Pentel: At this point, I have actually gone to a position where I will actually increase LGA in my budget. … I'm into decentralization if I can make it happen, and that means getting more money to local governments to pay their basic needs. So that would be kind of my general prism that I kind of work through: attempting to decentralize. … I'm also looking to reduce the sales tax, property tax and move toward a higher state income tax. So, overall LGA will increase.

Penny: It will be on the table. And I think the goal here would be to bring the local government leaders to the table and talk about the formula. These funding formulas have to be based on something, and it's been a long time since we've visited this issue. … We need to revisit the funding formulas and decide what the right formula is for the future. … I don't know enough about the local government aids formula to tell you how I would change it. But I know enough to tell you that we need to move beyond the status quo.

Pawlenty: We need to slow down the spending train in Minnesota and we need to have a leader who's going to hold these programs accountable, not just for how much money we are spending, but for the results that we're getting. There's a reason for LGA, it's a good program. It's to kind of smooth out disparities and economic resources and tax base between communities and provide some assistance to equalize that. But we need to also make sure that we are approaching it in a responsible fashion. I don't have any plans to cut LGA. But … everything has to be on the table.

Next issue: The candidates talk about taxes and schools, and describe how well they know Downtown Minneapolis.

Click below to read transcript from each interviews,