Bob Gunther, the 12-term Republican incumbent from Fairmont, and Heather Klassen, a Jackson-area Democrat, met in a forum at Fairmont’s City Hall  on Wednesday evening as they seek the District 23A seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives. On the topic of hearth care Klassen said, I believe health care is a right, not a privilege, Klassen says that what is needed is a “Minnesota health care solution,” which she describes as a basic level of universal coverage, to be offered by the state if it cannot be done on the federal level.

Gunther agreed that there are “tremendous needs” among his constituents, who call him to express worries about their lack of access to health care or about its costs. He says he has worked on a case-by-case basis to get people the help they need. He also touted the work of his Republican colleagues for passing reforms that have led to a second straight year of premium decreases in the individual insurance market.

The questions they faced also touched on health care-related topics, such as nursing home care and funding cuts affecting those who take care of handicapped individuals. Both said the funding cut should be restored to help the providers of services for the handicapped. Gunther suggested that an additional 3 percent funding be added.

The candidates offered their views on K-12 education. Klassen said state funding is not keeping up with the rate of inflation, and schools routinely have to go to voters to ask them for more money. She noted that no other government entity — city, county — has to ask for funds like this when it has needs. Gunther said he would continue to push for the same amount of funding for schools regardless of where the schools are located. Schools in his district receive less than in places like Minneapolis, he said.

Asked whether they support a preschool option for 4-year-olds, Gunther said this would have a detrimental effect on daycares, where the 4-year-olds currently spend their time. Klassen rejected that notion, saying all-day preschool for 4-year-olds makes a lot of sense, especially given the shortage of daycare providers. She said the school setting has much to offer these youngsters in terms of enrichment, and the investment is worth it.

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