With Election Day just around the corner, the MNAAP hosted two conversations with the major party candidates for Governor: Congressman Tim Walz and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. The hour-long forums were dedicated to discussing children’s health issues.
Joining the MNAAP in hosting the event were Children’s Minnesota, the Children’s Defense Fund, and UCare. The conversations were moderated by Marsha Pitts-Phillips, a leading Twin Cities public relations professional, former KSTP journalist, and United Way executive. Over 250 guests attended one or both of the events. MNAAP leaders Sheldon Berkowitz, MD, and Lori DeFrance, MD, provided closing comments for the events.
A Member of Congress representing Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District since 2007, DFL candidate Tim Walz was the featured speaker at the October 25th forum. Representative Walz was joined at the event by State Rep. Peggy Flanagan, the DFL candidate for Lieutenant Governor and a past Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Minnesota chapter. The GOP candidate for Governor, Jeff Johnson, was the featured guest at the October 26th forum. Johnson serves on the Hennepin County Board and was the 2014 GOP candidate for governor.
A number of issues dominated the discussion, particularly health care financing and racial and ethnic disparities. The two differed on how to best finance health care for vulnerable children and families. Congressman Walz indicated his support for extending the provider tax, the two percent levy on health care services used to fund health care coverage for low-income Minnesotans, while Commissioner Johnson expressed his support for the tax’s sunset, currently set for December 31, 2019.
The candidates differed on their general approach to health care and government, with Commissioner Johnson noting the power of the free market in reducing costs and promoting innovation. He also stated his belief that state government must better prioritize child health and safety, noting that state government spending has increased by 52 percent over the last eight years. Walz indicated more support for government in expanding access to health care, noting that there is a “difference in how you deliver health care than how you deliver a flat screen television.”
Both candidates were well schooled on Minnesota’s racial and ethnic disparities in health and education. Johnson noted that Minnesota’s disparities are amongst the worst in the nation, saying, “What we’re doing isn’t working, so we should try something else.” Walz spoke of his intent to continue to align resources to better deliver social services alongside schools and the medical community.
Similarly, both candidates were well-versed on early childhood development. Reflecting on the recent deaths of two corrections officers in Minnesota prisons, Walz argued that spending on programming for child health and education, particularly in the formative early years, is an investment in making a healthier state, which ultimately reduces the need for jails and prisons. Johnson spoke of his concern that the state has made it very difficult for child care providers, driving many out of business.
The candidates also fielded a question regarding immunizations. Commissioner Johnson emphasized the importance of education and information to dispel vaccine myths. Congressman Walz, speaking about the role of herd immunity in protecting the most medically fragile, stated, “Your rights to have your children healthy should not be impinged upon because someone else chooses not to.”
The wide-ranging conversations also included questions about immigrant health, concussions, tobacco prevention and control, and others.
Hear the candidates’ responses to the questions yourself.
Watch the archived interviews at www.facebook.com/MinnesotaAAP/videos