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Walz covers issues in visit to Worthington

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WORTHINGTON — Tim Walz said things are starting to warm a little bit — and the U.S. Representative from Minnesota wasn’t only talking about the weather.

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“The one thing I would say is it appears over the last several months, there is maybe a bit of a thaw in the politics, too,” Walz said Friday during a visit to the Daily Globe office. “Passing the farm bill was a big thing — one thing we advocated hard for — and it was an honor to sit on that conference committee. Passing a budget was certainly something important.”

Many issues were broached during Walz’s visit, including his support for the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System.

“This one is frustrating for us,” the fourth-term congressman said. “This is not a nice-to-have thing. This is certainly a role of government, regardless of where you’re at on the political spectrum.”

Walz said he was pleased when a little more money was pledged to the project, but that it wasn’t enough.

“Our argument remains the same: there was a pledge from the federal government to do their share on this,” Walz said. “There was a timeline of getting it done. It’s simply more expensive to wait. This is an absolute essential down here, and I would make an argument that a dynamic area poised for more growth is being held back because of this project not being finished.”

While the money has been reduced to a trickle, Walz said he would continue to work toward finishing the project.

“I think we have to continue to come back and continue to come ask,” Walz said. “It is about prioritizing. I refuse to believe, though, that there are projects that could stand on the merit as much as this one. I’ve always said that.”

Another topic for Walz was transportation , including allocating more money for roads and bridges.

“I can tell you — anyone who is on Highway 60, anyone who is on Highway 14 will tell you that investments in those highways will lead to long-term economic growth,” Walz said.

Among transportation-related issue is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to lower the RFS. However, Walz and others have been opposed to the rule change.

“I think it’s the wrong policy,” Walz said. “I think it’s an unfair policy. You are moving the goalpost in the middle of the game.”

Walz said decreasing the RFS is not a good thing.

“We have become less dependent on foreign oil in the last decade, in a large part because of this,” Walz said. “And certainly because of renewed drilling at home.

“I don’t think it makes sense environmentally, I don’t think it makes sense economically and I certainly know it doesn’t make sense to growth in middle America,” Walz continued.

Broadband issues was another topic for Walz, who advocates for the service to be added throughout the entire country.

“You’re going to have to have a full-fledged commitment that there is not an economic return directly that can be seen by a private entity to run that fiber optic,” he said. “One of challenges of delivering veterans benefits to rural areas is we want to do more of it by telemedicine. It can not be done if we don’t have this.”

Walz also touched on the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Some of Walz’s opponents have attacked the Democrat on his stance on the plan.

“So you’re saying the system as it existed before was better? It certainly was not,” Walz said.

“We had millions uninsured, we had pre-existing conditions, we had children being kicked off before they were 21, we had the donut hole for seniors, and we had a runaway system that cost twice as much as any other nation and didn’t deliver as much for that.”

Walz said he has never believed health care reform was a destination. Instead, it’s a journey.

“We have now seen over 6 million new people insured, we’re starting to see the donut hole close and no one will ever go bankrupt again because they get cancer,” Walz said. “Those are the things, in the long run, that are going to stabilize the system. The goal of this is to make sure people can live as happy and healthy life as they can.”

But, Walz said, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect system.

“Nobody was madder than me when the websites didn’t work,” he said. “I was not mad because I thought it was a political liability. I was mad because people who needed health care couldn’t sign up.

“If you’re going to bring up a bill that’s going to improve on this, I’ll break and vote for it,” Walz continued.

Walz, who has been representing Minnesota’s First Congressional District since 2007, is seeking his fifth term in office in this year’s election. Opponents have attacked Walz for being too liberal.

“I do feel like I’m part of the solution, and I think I have done a good job of avoiding the partisan name-calling,” Walz said. “I don’t deny, like when Republicans say ‘Walz is so far left,’ but I say, you know what, I understand everything’s perception. When you are that far right, the middle looks like the left.”

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.

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