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Radinovich, Lueck square off on televised debate

Addressing topics ranging from the state's health insurance exchange to oil pipelines, Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, and Republican Dale Lueck of rural Aitkin shared their views with voters on a televised debate on Lakeland Public Television T...

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Republican Dale Lueck of rural Aitkin and Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, shared their views with voters on a televised debate on Lakeland Public Television Thursday night.

Addressing topics ranging from the state's health insurance exchange to oil pipelines, Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, and Republican Dale Lueck of rural Aitkin shared their views with voters on a televised debate on Lakeland Public Television Thursday night.

The debate between the House District 10B candidates was co-sponsored by the Brainerd Dispatch and was moderated by Heidi Holtan, program director for Northern Community Radio; Mike O'Rourke, associate editor of the Brainerd Dispatch; and Dennis Weimann, news director of Lakeland Public Television.

Economy

On the state economy, the candidates agreed on the need to give young people in the Brainerd lakes area more opportunities to return to or stay in the area, but disagreed on the effects of a tax package passed in the 2013 Legislature that included new business-to-business taxes and taxes on agriculture. These particular taxes were repealed during the 2014 legislative session.

Lueck, 65, said small businesses are what support the economy in rural Minnesota and support is needed for entrepreneurs to create jobs that will retain and attract young people.

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"We need to be able to keep those kids here if they want to stay here," he said.

He said local taxpayers were "clobbered" by the new taxes in 2013 and the Legislature took credit for a tax cut when it repealed the taxes earlier this year.

"What may seem OK in a metro area can crush us up here," Lueck said.

Radinovich, 28, said cuts to rural schools over the past decade have discouraged parents concerned about education from locating in the area. Supporting schools and initiatives to expand the reach of broadband Internet are important to population retention, he said.

"It's important to have access to those types of economic infrastructure that will create jobs in the future," Radinovich said.

The tax package passed in 2013 provided more tax relief to his constituents than tax burden, Radinovich said, and when it was apparent the economy was turning around, legislators in 2014 recognized the need for those taxes no longer existed.

Higher education

On higher education, candidates were asked about their philosophies on funding.

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Radinovich said he supports assistance for tuition subsidies, because in the last decade, the formula for tuition assistance at state colleges and universities decreased to cover one-third of the cost of college. This amounts to an effective tax on middle class families, he said, who are forced to make up the difference of reduced state support.

"There are students coming out of public colleges and universities who can't buy homes, they can't start families, they can't purchase cars," Radinovich said.

Lueck said higher education has had enough government involvement and yet, a huge number of college graduates are unable to get a job.

"There's a huge potential crisis with the number of student loans that are out there right now," he said. "Pouring more government dollars into that, that's not the solution."

Instead, Lueck said, skill sets need to be matched to jobs that are available and what technology demands. This might mean not going to college at all.

"Not everybody went to college in my day, and a whole bunch of folks turned out OK," he said.

Health care

Responding to a question on whether Minnesota should have adopted the federal health insurance exchange over MNsure, the state exchange that's been plagued with problems, Lueck said he is a "firm believer we can always do better than the federal government," but MNsure was not necessarily the answer. There were programs that worked already in the state, such as MinnesotaCare, and the state exchange amounted to an experiment.

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"They went about this in a very strange manner ... experimenting with people's health insurance and their well being," he said.

He said in speaking with area health organizations, he's heard there are now issues with access for patients whose insurance was canceled and who were forced to purchase new plans with higher deductibles.

Damage done by the exchange will need to be repaired, Lueck said.

Radinovich said more testing of the exchange would have been valuable, but the state failed to begin development of MNsure when the Affordable Care Act initially passed.

Despite some flaws with the website, Radinovich said the basic program is working and has dropped the rate of uninsured in the state by 40 percent. With fewer uninsured, he said, costs of expensive emergency room visits which were passed along to consumers with insurance have decreased as well.

If we can put a man on the moon, Radinovich said, we can address health care, but it will take time.

"We didn't put a man on the moon with the first rocket we sent," he said.

Sandpiper oil pipeline

When asked about Enbridge's proposed Sandpiper oil pipeline, which would run through both Crow Wing and Aitkin counties, the candidates differed dramatically in their viewpoints.

Radinovich said he supported looking at an existing pipeline corridor running through Itasca County which would avoid what he characterized as the "sensitive ecological area" in central Minnesota.

He said it was better the project took longer to approve and was done right than rush and potentially make mistakes that could have a negative impact on the environment.

"Measure twice, cut once," Radinovich said. "If it takes a little bit longer to get the pipeline in the right place, that's what we should do."

He said he recognizes pipelines can create economic opportunities for local economies, but described opposition to the proposed pipeline route as "overwhelming" among locals he's consulted.

Lueck said the corridor Radinovich prefers cannot support another pipeline and the dangers associated with trains moving oil rather than pipelines are too important to continue delays on approval of the route.

"We have had some real travesties with those oil trains," he said.

He said although these trains do not currently run on tracks through area cities, delays could force oil through Brainerd, McGregor and others.

Lueck also cited the $3.7 million in annual tax revenue Aitkin County officials say the project will bring to the county coffers and that Enbridge has already acquired most of the required right-of-way as reasons for project approval.

Judicial elections, transgender student athletes and treaty rights

The candidates also fielded questions on former Gov. Al Quie's proposal to replace electoral races for judicial seats with appointments and retention elections, the transgender policy currently under consideration by the Minnesota State High School League and their philosophies on American Indian treaty rights.

On judicial elections, Lueck said he disagreed with Quie's proposal, favoring keeping the election of judges in the hands of voters.

"I think we can still do that as citizens, and I'm not ready to take that away from people," he said.

As to whether parties should endorse judicial candidates, Lueck said, "Everybody needs to be able to stand up and articulate what they stand for."

He added, however, that it should be a "different process" for judges than the typical political candidate.

Radinovich said he agreed with Quie and by instituting retention elections, voters would still have a say. He said making the proposed changes would aid in making judicial elections "unencumbered by money and the nature of politics."

He disagreed with Lueck on party endorsement of judicial candidates, pointing to the GOP's endorsement of Supreme Court nominee Michelle MacDonald who later was found to have been arrested for fourth degree DWI, refusing to take a field sobriety test and resisting arrest.

"I don't believe that sort of sideshow is an appropriate part of a judicial election," Radinovich said.

On the transgender policy, Radinovich said he did not yet have enough information to vote on the issue on the floor, but said he would talk to people on both sides of the issue.

Lueck said consideration of the policy was "fallout from the 2013 same-sex marriage vote."

"This is just one of the little things," he said. "There's a whole string of them waiting."

Radinovich responded by characterizing Lueck's answer as fear mongering.

"This has nothing at all to do with marriage," he said.

In response, Lueck said to say he was fear mongering was "a bit over the top," and his own concerns were legitimate.

"Once you open up Pandora's box, you're going to have to deal with what comes out," he said.

On treaty rights, Lueck said treaties established more than 150 years ago did not cover some of the issues that are sources of controversy today.

"In Minnesota, we're trying to take a treaty or contract ... and stretch it to encompass things that didn't exist at the time," he said.

He cited the Mille Lacs Lake fishing issue as an example.

Radinovich said it was difficult to make a broad statement on treaty rights and that each issue should be considered individually.

In a closing statement, Radinovich said citizens are more than just Democrats or Republicans.

"We're going to move forward when we view ourselves as citizens," he said, avoiding gridlock, shutdowns and budget cuts.

He said in the last two years, legislators have taken Minnesota in a "radically different direction" to re-invest in communities and that he is the best person to continue the work that needs to be done.

Lueck told voters they have a clear choice between him and his opponent with "two quite different approaches." He said his social values, which he described as pro-life and in favor of traditional marriage, represent District 10B and their social values.

He said his experience as a county commissioner highlights his "measured approach to governing" that he would bring to the Legislature.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Related Topics: ELECTION 2014
Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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