Bernero, left, and Dillon )
Wixom -- Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and House Speaker Andy Dillon traded more blows in their final Democratic gubernatorial debate Monday night, saying the other has bungled his current job and doesn't deserve higher office.
Bernero repeatedly referred to Dillon as "speaker of the mess" and said it's too late for him to lay out ideas he should have implemented in the last four years as the leader of the state House.
"You can't handle the job you got and you want a promotion?" Bernero asked during the taping of the debate at WTVS public television studios in Wixom.
Dillon shot back that unemployment has soared in Lansing during Bernero's administration, auto manufacturing employment has dwindled from 28,000 to 16,000 and the city's credit rating has been lowered.
"In your term as mayor your budget has gone up every year except this one," Dillon said.
He touted his experience as a private investor and legislative leader, saying the combination gives him the background needed to lead the state out of its economic morass.
"My opponent is a 20-year career politician now running for his sixth office," the speaker said.
Bernero said during the hour-long debate that he balanced the city budget for five years without tax hikes and without laying off police and firefighters. He challenged Dillon's 12-point urban agenda, asking why he hasn't put it in place as speaker.
"I am an urban agenda," the fiery mayor said.
Bernero charged that Dillon "screwed up" the Michigan Business Tax and the Promise grants for college students. "Now he wants to circle back" and fix those problems, he said. He also said Dillon is on record opposing national health care reform legislation.
Dillon replied he never opposed the federal health care bill. He fired back that Bernero was labeled an ineffective legislator in a survey of his peers and that he was in the Legislature when the state's structural deficit took root.
Neither candidate came out in favor of a graduated income tax or a gas tax increase to fix roads. Both said they'd be willing to consider expanding the bottle bill to include juice and other containers, but Dillon said he wouldn't vote for it now.
The two gubernatorial hopefuls said they back extending term limits to allow lawmakers to serve 12 years in either the House or Senate. And they both opposed further Medicaid cuts or using the school aid fund surplus to plug the hole in the general fund next year. They also said they'd leave mayoral control of the Detroit Public Schools up to local voters.
Bernero said he's against building another nuclear power plant in Michigan while Dillon said he'd leave that up to the utilities. They said they favor expansion of alternative energy.
"I'm absolutely sold on it," Bernero said.
The debate was the second televised Democratic showdown in a week.. It was aired Tuesday night on WTVS and will be shown on public television stations across the state before the Aug. 3 primary. It will be available on the Internet on MiVote.org and CenterforMichigan.net starting today.
"Republicans running for governor are: Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Attorney General Mike Cox, state Sen. Tom George of Kalamazoo, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland and Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder. Their next televised debate will be July 13 in Rochester.