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Backer, Smart agree, but disagree, at forum

Rep. Jeff Backer, left, and Democrat challenger Murray Smart at the Oct. 3 candidate forum at the University of Minnesota Morris. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times

District 12A Rep. Jeff Backer and his challenger Democrat Murray Smart agreed with some of each others answers during the Oct. 3 candidate forum at the University of Minnesota Morris.

The state still has work to do when it comes to expanding broadband in Minnesota, particulary in House District 12A, Smart said.

"We both agree on this," Backer said. Backer said larger companies that provide access to broadband have been more difficult to work with then smaller companies.

Smart said broadband access is a key piece of economic development in the region.

The two candidates also agreed that the greatest assest of District 12A is the people.

"We have people who are willing to help other people. Strangers who are willing to help strangers," Backer said.

Smart also pointed out the willingness of people to help others.

Backer and Smart agreed that funding for education is important but differed slightly, Backer said instead of just giving more money to school disticts he'd like for local school boards and districts to have more control in how they spend their money.

Superintendents that he's spoken with want a basic funding formula that treats all districts fairly, Smart said.

When asked about the renewable energy mandates, Smart said "we need to encourage" people to find ways to develop green renwable energy.

The development of renewable energy, "needs to be more market driven instead of government driven," Backer said.

If renewable energy causes prices to rise, those increased costs can have a negative impact on lower income families, Backer said.

Backer complimented Smart, who is a retired school counselor and one of Backer's former teachers, for providing good guidance to students considering after high school plans. Not every student needs to attend a four-year college and Smart understood that, Backer said.

Backer acknowledged the high cost of college and said students need to be encouraged to earn money before college to help pay for some of the cost.

Students need to investigate college costs and possible career choices to help make sure they are making the best choice in education and to learn if their career choice will pay for the expense of a degree, Smart said. Some students may find it more feasible to attend a two-year school and then, a four-year school to complete a degree, Smart said.

Smart and Backer said farmers do not want to harm the soil, air or water in the region in response to oversight of farming operations in the state.

Backer said a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency official told him that dairy and hog producers in the region were doing it right.

Smart said in terms of agriculture and oversight, "we to work together to make sure that everyone is heard."

For a story on candidates for Sen. Amy Klobuchar's seat click here.  For a story on Jerry Trooien who is running for Sen. Tina Smith's seat, click here.