Vying for Klobuchar's seat, Bills says he can make 'tough decisions'by Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Friday, Republicans are expected to endorse a candidate to run against DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
MPR News is looking at what each of the candidates is proposing to do about the nation's budget deficit.
The three Republicans in the race all say government spending is out of control. Each is promoting a balanced budget, but none thinks taxes need to go up. Instead they all insist cuts and spending and regulations cuts are the best approach to ending deficit spending.
Bills teaches high school economics in Rosemount. Before he was elected to the Minnesota House in 2010, he served on the suburb's city council. As Bills campaigns for the Republican Senate endorsement, he's promoted his accomplishments at the local and state levels.
"I've learned to make the tough decisions," he said. "They need to be made."
In Rosemount, Bills said he supported using surplus revenue to pay down city debt which reduced local taxes.
He also takes credit for his work in the Legislature and for being part of the solution to the state budget shortfall that ended last summer's government shutdown. Bills said he can bring what he's done in Minnesota to Washington.
"If a $6.2 billion deficit can be pulled down by pulling down unsustainable spending trend lines, then the United State government can also manage its debt and pull down its spending trend lines," Bills said.
But the state budget solution Bills talks so much about failed to address the underlying imbalance of spending and revenue in Minnesota government.
"Did it stink? Yeah, it stunk," he said.
Bills concedes delaying billions in payments to public schools and relying on money from future tobacco settlement payments was nothing to celebrate.
"In the compromise then we got these two pieces, the shift and the tobacco bonds which were terrible," he said.
The "fix" even led the top three bond rating agencies to downgrade Minnesota's credit. But Bills said as bad as the deal was, it was necessary to end the shutdown.
Looking ahead to a possible seat in the U.S. Senate, Bills said there are a lot of ideas from Republicans and Democrats about ways to reduce the cost of government. He said he likes some elements of the Bowles-Simpson plan ordered by President Barack Obama. It would dramatically cut federal spending and cap the budget at a percentage of the total economy.
But Bills is clear to state that he does not agree with the plan's call for some tax increases.
Bills also said Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan has some good ideas, and that changes are needed to make Social Security and Medicare sustainable — maybe fewer benefits for the wealthy or a higher retirement age.
But apart from saying that government costs too much and employs to many people, Bills is hard-pressed to lay out details and seems put off when asked for specifics.
"I threw my hat in the ring and I suddenly get questions about 'What are you going to cut? What are you going to do?' " he said.
Bills said he would be willing to cast difficult budgeting-cutting votes rather than tip-toe around the fiscal crisis and worry about getting re-elected.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm going to do this. I would be one of 100 members and Congress is one of 435," he said. "You go and you bring you basic economics, and those are the principles that you bring with you and you go and work with people."
Republican delegates take up the Senate endorsement on Friday at their state convention in St. Cloud. Each of the three contenders promises to drop out of the race if one of the others wins the endorsement.
- Morning Edition, 05/17/2012, 7:40 a.m.