For all intents and purposes, the campaigning for governor is over - and by campaigning, we're not counting the attacks through the media that will continue this week and into the weekend. That's not really campaigning anyway.
The campaigning we're talking about is the issues. Heading into the summer, we all knew what the main ones were. Now we know where each governor stands on those issues and what they promise they'll do to address them if elected. We've heard about their stances and plans so many times we can almost recite them ourselves, which is probably a good thing considering we'll be putting that knowledge to use in a week when we close the curtain behind us and make our choice of who we think should run this state.
One of the three candidates - Democrat Mark Dayton, Republican Tom Emmer, or Independence candidate Tom Horner - is a week away from winning a race that will inherit them the state's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression in the form of a nearly $6 billion budget deficit. It's like drawing the short straw to see who gets to stay behind to keep the hole in the ship plugged.
All three candidates have spent plenty of time out in the garage building detailed budget plans they think will best close the gap - from major tax increases, to gouging service cuts, to the way those services are delivered.
None of the budget plans are perfect, and, with all due respect, neither are the candidates. The perfect candidate doesn't exist. He or she would have to be the ideal mix of Democrat and Republican. Some would argue that's exactly what Independents are, but that's not entirely true, either. If it were, we might have IP candidates running states all over the country.
Dayton, Horner, and Emmer each have flaws - you don't need a fine-tooth comb to find them. If you're a Republican and you can't poke any holes in Emmer's plans, or a Democrat and find nothing wrong with any of Dayton's ideas, you're being naive.
Dayton's plan relies on taxing the wealthy but reportedly comes up millions of dollars short of eliminating the deficit. Emmer has proposed spending the same amount in the next two years as the state is paying out in the current biennium, but state finance officials project it would cost $5.8 billion more to fund currently-mandated programs. Horner wants a mix of tax increases and spending cuts, but it's still unclear where a lot of new revenue from his plan would come from - a sales tax to consumer services? Which ones exactly?
Education funding is in the same boat as the budget. More than $1 billion in state aid payments was delayed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty this year, and those payments could once again be delayed next year. In fact, you can count on it.
Even though you want your guy to win, you know there's no quick fix to the state's problems. This, we should all realize, will take some time. If you're waiting for Minnesota's Superman you're setting yourself up for disappointment, because for as knowledgeable and savvy as these gents are, for as much as they want to turn this thing around, none of them will be leaping any tall buildings anytime soon. All we can do is hope the winner won't duck out of the way of the $6 billion speeding bullet.