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House 10A candidates talk successes, failures and more

Both candidates for state House district 10A made their cases to the voters Tuesday night at a candidate forum at Central Lakes College. Republican Josh Heintzeman and DFLer Quinn Nystrom addressed how they would break legislative gridlock, what ...

Both candidates for state House district 10A made their cases to the voters Tuesday night at a candidate forum at Central Lakes College.

Republican Josh Heintzeman and DFLer Quinn Nystrom addressed how they would break legislative gridlock, what they saw as recent legislative successes and failures and answered a few audience questions.

Getting it done

The biggest issue at the state Legislature the past two years has been partisan bickering, Nystrom said. When legislators can't cross party lines to compromise, everyone in Minnesota misses out, she said. If legislators can't pass bonding bills to fund infrastructure projects in greater Minnesota, local infrastructure will continue to fail, she said.

"I think we need to elect people who are more moderate, more in the middle, who are willing to work with both sides," Nystrom said.

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If people watch most media coverage of the state Legislature, they think partisan bickering is all that happens there, Heintzeman said. That's not the case, though, and in fact, legislators find agreement on the many bills that are written, he said. He cited his success in the recent session in authoring a bill that passed into law exempting veterans' retirement benefits from income tax as one of those examples.

"That doesn't happen by accident, that takes work," Heintzeman said. "That takes building relationships across the aisle."

Success and failure

When the DFL controlled the House four years ago, the state Legislature put together great successes, Nystrom said, and passed effective bonding and tax bills. Her biggest complaint with the previous legislative session was the failure of state legislators to pass a bonding or tax bill.

"When that happens, specifically here in rural Minnesota, we really hurt," Nystrom said.

Even though there were investments in public education, Nystrom said, there needed to be a larger increase, in order to keep pace with needs. Districts in the area have buildings with much-needed repairs that aren't meeting the learning needs of students, she said.

"We need to invest in our schools because those are the students of our next generation," Nystrom said.

Heintzeman downplayed the idea of successes and failures at the state Legislature and pointed out in the past two years, the state government was funded. One of the great successes was the investment in public education, he said. Despite his conservative focus on reducing spending and the size of government, he said he saw the need for investment in education.

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"Those are the kinds of things that got done this last session," Heintzeman said.

One of the failures of state government is when politicians say one thing or support one thing and do something else, Heintzeman said. It's a politician's responsibility to make sure they're honest with the voters so voters know what they're getting with that person and their party, he said.

"Honesty is going to be one of the things that I think really provides success," Heintzeman said.

Audience asks

One audience question asked the candidates what they would do to change or improve MNsure, the health insurance marketplace for the state. Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, Minnesota had a health insurance program that while not perfect, worked really well, Heintzeman said. In order to fix the current system, he said he would look back at things that did work in the past and try to implement them again.

"I'm very cognizant of past successes and where were we successful, and where can we be successful again," Heintzeman said.

Nystrom's past experience in patient advocacy showed her the health insurance system in Minnesota didn't work for someone like her with a chronic illness like diabetes, she said. The current system isn't perfect and needs major changes to make it work, she said, but the solution isn't to scrap the entire thing.

"We need to come at it with a lot of different experts from a lot of different backgrounds to figure out what can we do to build on the successes," Nystrom said.

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A second question asked the candidates about the most effective action the state government can take to spur business growth and workforce development. Part of workforce development comes from investing in public education, Nystrom said, in order to make sure students are ready to fill available jobs after graduating high school. It's also spurred by creative collaborations between community colleges, school districts and private businesses, she said.

"Are they looking at giving opportunities to students so that we can be as creative as possible to make sure that we have a talented and highly skilled workforce?" Nystrom said.

Heintzeman asked those in attendance and watching at home to look at the candidates sitting on stage and said this might "sound maybe a little bit grouchy, but there's certain folks here at the table that have created jobs and some that haven't."

He highlighted his experiences in starting businesses and growing them, like Tenonizer Technology in Nisswa. Education plays a part in workforce development, he said, but things like business apprenticeships provide better opportunities for students, he said.

"It takes businesses to grow jobs, not the government," Heintzeman said. "The government has never created a job, it takes businesses to do that."

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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