MARSHALL - Democratic candidate for governor Matt Entenza said Thursday that visits to college campuses have reminded him of the push more than 10 years ago by then-state legislator Tim Pawlenty and others to close some of the state colleges and universities, including Southwest Minnesota State University.
There have been concerns throughout the years on the future of SMSU and some other rural two- and four-year colleges, but Entenza said he's committed to higher education and education in general.
Entenza, a former state legislator, was in Marshall on Thursday on a campaign stop.
"This recession has further proved the importance of our state colleges and universities," Entenza said. The system has record high enrollments and many campuses in rural areas have high enrollments, Entenza said.
Preserving and enhancing state college and universities can come even with a budget deficit ahead in the future, he said.
"With the deficit, we have to make cuts, but it can also be done by shrinking the number of state agencies and cutting down the size of administration," Entenza said.
While education is important to the success of the state and its residents, Entenza plugged an issue he's been focused on since the start of his campaign.
The development of alternative energy will be significant to Minnesota's economic future, Entenza said.
The equipment and the products used in alternative energy should be made in Minnesota, Entenza said.
Southwest Minnesota, which produces wind energy, should be making the equipment necessary for that industry, Entenza said.
"This will be an area of such priority for me," Entenza said of the development of alternative energy.
Entenza was in Marshall just two days after five Republican candidates for governor attended a Tuesday Lyon County Republican dinner. Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, was one of those five candidates.
A topic in Tuesday's discussion was health care.
In response to a similar question from the Independent, Entenza said Minnesota must be recognized as a leader in quality and efficiency in the delivery of health care as the national discussion continues.
"We have the highest quality and the lowest cost of any other state," Entenza said
Unfortunately, that results in lower reimbursement in Medicaid programs, Entenza said. States such as Minnesota which provide quality and efficient health care get reimbursed at a lower rate for that care than states such as Florida with lower quality and higher costs, he said.
"We should get premium reimbursements because of our quality and efficiency," Entenza said.
The governor and the state must push the federal government to reward states such as Minnesota and increase its reimbursement rates, Entenza said.
Although several Republican candidates have visited Marshall and the region, few Democratic candidates other than Entenza have made campaign stops in Marshall or the area.
"One reason why Democrats have lost the governor's race in the last five years is that the candidates did not focus on rural Minnesota enough," Entenza said.
Entenza, as a candidate for governor, needs to be a presence in rural areas such as Marshall, he said. His ties to his hometown of Worthington and his family ties to Marshall - his wife Lois Quam is a Marshall native - also make it important for him to campaign in this region, he said.