Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

1st District candidates offer views in debate

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 10/22/2012 2:59 PM

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BYRON, Minn. — The candidates for the 1st Congressional District seat didn't find much common ground during their 90-minute debate on Sept. 27.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., and former state Rep. Allen Quist, a Republican, traded barbs and offered a stark contrast in views during their first debate. The debate was held at Somerby Golf Club in Byron.

A few of the issues they debated:

The renewable fuels standard

Walz said the nation's long-term energy policy shouldn't be changed based on one weather event. The market is working, he said, with ethanol plants shutting down if they aren't profitable. He understands livestock producers are paying more for feed, but doesn't think eliminating the RFS will make much difference. The RFS has moved the nation toward energy efficiency. Ethanol has created an incredible market for corn. It has also created jobs and growth at home.

Quist said ethanol has been good for the country up to this point in most respects, however when mandates become too extreme and unrealistic it has the potential to do great harm.

The RFS requires 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels be used annually in the United States by the year 2023, he said, and the technology doesn't exist to do that. The nation doesn't have the corn to do that. Nor is the technology there to generate 16 billion gallons of ethanol from cellulosic ethanol, another RFS requirement.

Chemistry and physics can't be legislated, he said. He is in favor of a partial and temporary waiver. The RFS can't keep accelerating over the years, it has to be frozen at a reasonable level. There would need to be a lot of discussion before agreeing on a workable number, Quist said.

"I don't think pricing pork producers out of the market is good for agriculture."


"We're looking at a so-called recovery that is extraordinarily stagnant … so why is that? It's because government is standing in the way of the powerful engine of free enterprise," Quist said.

He took aim at what he calls the Unaffordable Care Act, saying that it's a huge impediment in the way of small business growth. According to his research on the U.S. Chamber website, small businesses cite the health care law as their No. 1 reason for not growing.

It's government's job to create an atmosphere where business can succeed, Walz said. That's why he supported a transportation bill that will create 75,000 new jobs in Minnesota. The farm bill should also be passed and doing the same thing.

"As we face down the worst economy in 75 years, there is absolutely nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right in America."

Does federal stimulus work?

It works if targeted correctly, Walz said. Infrastructure spending is a great example.

The real problem in the nation's economy is a lack of consumer demand. Eighty percent of the United States economy is fueled on consumer spending.

No, federal stimulus programs don't work, Quist said.

"The way to get the economy going is to remove the impediment from free enterprise," he said. "Do we believe in free enterprise or don't we, that's the question."

Postal service

"Keep in mind, I'm not a critic of the post office, I'm just saying that government … is not the most efficient way to deliver services," Quist said.

He said pension liabilities need to be counted as a cost of doing business.

Walz said the post office doesn't add to the nation's debt. What happened, he said, is that extremists put language in law that requires the post office to fund their pensions 75 years out. That requirement needs to be removed, Walz said. The post office needs to be solvent and meet the accounting principles of funding its retirement fund seven to 10 years out.

"Be very clear about this . . . the private sector will pick up the profitable routes," Walz said. "The private sector is not going to deliver your birthday card to your grandkid in Alden . . . it's called the postal service for a reason."

Closing comments

Walz: "There is nothing wrong with America. There is nothing wrong with America's workers and there is nothing we can't overcome.

". . . The admonition to form a more perfect union . . . it's not perfect yet, but each of us has a responsibility to make it that way."

Quist: "What does forward mean? Spending money we don't have, is that going forward? I don't think so. Is adding a trillion dollars to the debt every year going forward? I don't think so. Is putting entitlement after entitlement on free enterprise so it's not able to expand. Is that going forward? I don't think it is," he said. "It's all about policy folks."