ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- Two current members of the Minnesota Legislature are facing each other in the race for Senate District 14. Incumbent Democrat Aric Putnam has had the job for the past two years. He's being challenged by Republican Tama Theis who is a member of the House.

BUDGET SURPLUS
With the large state budget surplus, Putnam says he supports a balanced approach of putting some of the money into the rainy day fund, giving some of it back to the taxpayers, and putting some into programs.

I think the balanced approach was the right one.  Eleven percent of the nursing homes in Minnesota are about to close because we don't pay the people who work at them enough.  We failed to fund that the first time around.  That's one place were slightly increased funding would be a good idea, as long as it's balanced with longterm tax relief and saving for later.

Putnam says the tax cuts he'd like to see are the elimination of the social security tax and also revisions of the property tax codes.

Theis says she also wants to see the state legislature tax away the tax on social security.

It's something that we've been working on for years.  I think about six years ago I did carry one of the bills, we had numerous bills about knocking off the tax on social security.  At this point, especially with the money we have, we need to look at that.

EDUCATION FUNDING
On the topic of education funding, Putnam says he's a huge proponent of public education.

One thing that I adamantly oppose and spoke against on the floor of the senate is diverting money from public education and putting it towards private education.

Putnam says 80 percent of the people who take advantage of vouchers for private schools are already going to a private school.

However, Theis says she supports allowing parents to be able to have the choice of where their child goes to school.

I would say that in hindsight now I would have been more encouraged to have one of our sons go to a different school rather than a public school.

Theis says she would also like to allow public schools more flexibility on how they can spend state dollars.

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RISING CRIME
On the topic of crime, Theis says the legislature needs to make sure the sentences match the crime.

Putnam says the state should put more money into recruiting and retaining more police officers and he authored five bills to do that last year in the Senate.

BONDING BILL
Both Putnam and Theis say they were disappointed a bonding bill didn't get done earlier this year and both had projects in the final bill, they both say they'll push hard for a robust bonding bill in the next session.

Behind the Scenes: A WJON News Series

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