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BLOG: Where is the Bipartisanship When it REALLY Matters?

candidate for Minnesota House 52b goes on the record....

As I have been out meeting the residents of Inver Grove Heights, Mendota Heights, Sunfish Lake and Eagan the past few months, rarely does anyone want to know if I am a Republican or a Democrat.

Most people simply want to know my values, beliefs and how I will work to fight for their interests as their representative. People do not care for partisan fights and gridlock while the state budget and debt continue to balloon!

In a . His big claim to fame is all the “bipartisan legislation” which he has been a part of passing in the Minnesota House. This claim is something he really wants you, the voter, to remember on Nov. 6 when you enter your polling location, and is a distortion of his full voting record.

All of these laws are well intentioned, but none of them deal with runaway government in Minnesota.

From Rep. Atkins’ comments on my blog posts, you will see his attempt to back up his claims with a standard list of legislation he has produced, which garnered enough support from both political parties to be passed. Most of these bills enjoy wide support because of their common sense topic or intent; not because Rep. Atkins has had to work hard to convince “the other side” to join him in supporting them.

In fact, many are nothing more than carbon copies of legislation passed in other states; the “author” of an identical bill here in Minnesota certainly shouldn’t take intellectual credit.

Let’s take the “Fire Safety” legislation for example. By 2011, 49 states had passed laws that cigarettes must have chemicals added to them to self-extinguish if they are left unattended. These are not advances that originated with Mr. Atkins. Every state except Wyoming had passed similar laws.

In fact, most cigarette companies now only produce the additional chemical-laced, fire-safe cigarettes. Even Wyoming received the “safe” cigarettes before even they passed the same generic legislation. In the words of President Obama, Mr. Atkins, “You didn’t build that; someone else made that happen for you.”

I don’t believe that political party affiliation is the culprit for our dysfunctional government in St. Paul, but I do think that the House Caucuses of both the GOP and DFL may be where the problems begin. Back in April 2011, I read an open letter from Rep. Mark Buesgens on this very subject, and this is what he had to say:

“Today a caucus looks to the latest survey and/or opinion poll to guide its direction. Armed with a collection of statistics, charts and graphs, leadership develops policies and strategies that cater to the perceived will of the majority in an effort to show that we are receptive to their bidding. The strongly held belief is that this is a “tried-and-true” method of ensuring a majority. And if the latest survey clashes with principles on a given issue, either the issue is buried or a caucus uses spurious logic to make the issue somehow fit espoused values.”

I am not the prototypical candidate for the House Caucus. In many districts in Minnesota, the Caucuses are very active not only in recruiting candidates to run, but ensuring the hand picked candidate receives the endorsement of the local party.

They support their candidates with independent expenditures and staffers to help them win in the general election. My campaign is 100% grassroots and it always will be.

Unlike Rep. Atkins, who is part of the DFL House Caucus, I will be an independent voice to represent you. I will be the true definition of bipartisan, because I do not need to “reach across the aisle”, compromising my principles, to accomplish good things. I pledge to work with any legislator who wants to limit the scope of government in our lives and bring Minnesota back to some economic sanity.

To me, that is the true definition of bipartisan. 

What has the current expression of ”bipartisanship” brought to our state? Both parties are responsible for the explosion of Minnesota’s spending budget and debt load, since Atkins was elected. That is not the kind of reaching across the aisle you can expect from me.

Joe Atkins was there for every penny of those increases. His vote could have been one of dissent each and every time. Atkins’ “leadership,” which he espouses on all of the bipartisan bills he has helped to pass, could have been used to deal with the structural budget problems we have in Minnesota.

I expect my representative to stand up to runaway government spending and be accountable to me, the taxpayer, for every penny of my money that the legislature spends.

I expect that my representative to fight against amassing debt on the state’s credit card. This is what I have expected Joe Atkins to do and he has not. That is a simple fact. His votes on these Omnibus Bonding Bills show that he is not the man who will stand up for me.

This is the reason I am running to replace him, and why I ask you to stand with me.

When we live free, we live better. As your representative, I will live free as well—free from special interest lobbyists, free from a House Caucus system that prioritizes party power ahead of the interests of the people.

When I take the oath of office, I won’t be obligated to be a team player. I will stand on principle every day, and cast every vote on your behalf to protect your liberty, your property and the fruits of your labor.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

William 'Bill' DeBerg October 23, 2012 at 06:01 PM
It doesn't take any guts or bipartisanship to take laws that passed easily in other states then rewrite them and claim them as your own. Sure the laws might be fine and all but its a gimmick at best. I want a Rep who will do what is right even when it is his own party who is doing wrong and Atkins has shown that he is not the guy to do that.
Lee Randall October 23, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Paul, you really need to stop making stuff up. You talk about runaway government spending at the state, but non-partisan staff data shows that state spending has increased only 2.5 % annually over the last 10 years, one of the lowest growth rates of any state in the country. Also, why do always leave out the fact that Rep. Atkins voted AGAINST borrowing $2.7 billion from our schools to balance the state budget? That is the biggest amount of borrowing the state has ever done and was supported by your Republican party in the legislature and the DFL's Gov. Dayton. Joe Atkins stood up against that borrowing - just like you say he should do - and yet you always fail to point that out. One thing you do get right is that Rep. Atkins passes important, common sense legislation with bipartisan support. He has worked hard to streamline regulations and create jobs, improve public safety, protect retirement accounts, provide more rigorous K-12 courses so our students can compete for jobs, and prevent scams against seniors.
Pat October 23, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Wow. I have seen about 10 of the flyers where Rep. Atkins brags about passing ‘the most significant advances in fire safety laws in 30 years.” I always wondered why he didn’t tell us what law this was. Did it involve sprinklers? Exit signs? Fire extinguishers? Well I guess you don’t wow the voters by saying “Many states were passing laws that mandated more chemicals in cigarettes in the name of fire safety and it was a forgone conclusion that all 50 states would eventually pass such laws, so I quickly introduced a carbon copy of the bill for MN so I could put it on my lit piece and claim to be bi-partisan."
Joe Atkins October 23, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Lee, please don't be so hard on Paul. The state budget is complex and a lot of candidates don't fully understand it. You are correct that we have a modest 2.5% annual growth rate in spending over the past decade, according to non-partisan House fiscal staff. It is one of the lowest growth rates in the country, and occurred in spite of 30-40% increases in costs that are out of our control, like energy and insurance and mandates from the federal government.
Joe Atkins October 23, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Thank you, Paul, for pointing out that I pass laws with bipartisan support. Here are some of the bipartisan laws I have worked on: http://invergroveheights.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-atkins-top-10-examples-of-bipartisan-solutions With respect to the fire safety laws we passed, please stop suggesting those were easy to get done. A lot of firefighters and fire chiefs, in addition to me, spent countless hours persuading legislators to support those new laws. The laws don't just protect the citizens of Minnesota; they protect firefighters, too. With respect to the fire-safe cigarette law that you referenced, Minnesota was among the first states in the country to pass that law. My thanks to the dozens of firefighters and fire chiefs from across Minnesota who helped me get it passed.
William 'Bill' DeBerg October 23, 2012 at 06:20 PM
No Paul has not said that Joe voted for the school shift either but once he and others are in office they still have to deal with what happened in the past. Covering your ears and acting like the money owed to schools doesnt exist is NOT a way to solve the problem! By the way Joe I noticed you never responded to a question last week about whether you have ever voted against a bonding bill? Senior scams is a nice gimmick and it looks good on your mailing but call me crazy because i think there are important issues that are left out to fit in these token "bipartisan" bills
Joe Atkins October 23, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Thank you, Paul, for pointing out that I pass laws with bipartisan support. Here are some of the bipartisan laws I have worked on: http://invergroveheights.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-atkins-top-10-examples-of-bipartisan-solutions With respect to the fire safety laws we passed, please stop suggesting those were easy to get done. A lot of firefighters and fire chiefs, in addition to me, spent countless hours persuading legislators to support those new laws. The laws don't just protect the citizens of Minnesota; they protect firefighters, too. With respect to the fire-safe cigarette law that you referenced, Minnesota was among the first states in the country to pass that law. My thanks to the dozens of firefighters and fire chiefs from across Minnesota who helped me get it passed. As far as the "runaway government spending" you talk about, please check your facts. According to non-partisan House fiscal staff, the growth rate has been 2.5% annually over the past 10 years, one of the lowest growth rates of any state in Minnesota.
William 'Bill' DeBerg October 23, 2012 at 06:26 PM
"With respect to the fire-safe cigarette law that you referenced, Minnesota was among the first states in the country to pass that law. My thanks to the dozens of firefighters and fire chiefs from across Minnesota who helped me get it passed." Be real Joe if MN didnt have this law we still couldnt even get cigarattes without the fire safe things in them. Also they are more toxic than regular cigarettes so thanks for taking an already toxic product and making it worse.
Brian DeMaio October 23, 2012 at 06:52 PM
You say you will be an independent voice and a true bipartisan yet you are running with the GOP tag. Any one that claims to be an independent voice and runs under the DFL or GOP tag are never an independent voice for the people.
Eric Goodrich October 23, 2012 at 07:02 PM
http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/doc/budget/report-spend/nov09.pdf The Biennial Budget has gone from $24 Billion when Atkins took office to $38 Billion today. But more importantly, the ALL FUNDS budget has gone from $36.9 Billion in 2000/2001 to a whopping $62.6 Billion today. State borrowing through bonding has doubled since Atkins took office and he has voted for every bonding bill. If Joe believes that Keynesian stimulus spending creates jobs, than why not introduce $2 Billion Bonding bills instead of $1 Billion Bonding Bills? We could get all kinds of sand volleyball courts built in Rochester! The problem with continuous bonding is that the state structures its debt so that 40 percent of the principal is paid down in the first five years and 70 percent within 10 years... This money has to be paid off. We can't continue to borrow and spend at this rate. Eventually the artificially low rates will reset and Minnesota's Credit Rating will be downgraded. Do we really want to be a colder, darker California where they have borrowed themselves into insolvency? I think it's time to get serious about the big spending, the unfunded liabilities and pensions (which are looming) and the pork barrel bonding projects that get approved. Atkins votes "YEA" for the big ticket spending, but brags about his "YEA" votes on restricting Sunday Liquor Sales, Smoking Bans, and Banning Fireworks... smoke and mirrors.
William 'Bill' DeBerg October 23, 2012 at 07:42 PM
correct me if Im wrong but didnt Paul call out the school shift as being bad? That was the GOPs baby wasnt it? You think he wont be able to be bipartisan because he is on the GOP ticket yet I dont see any comment about the facts of Joe only being bipartisan on no brainer issues that would have passed if he was in the house or not such as the fire safe cigarettes
Donald Lee October 23, 2012 at 08:27 PM
All too often "bi-partisan" simply means our representatives ganging up on the taxpayers to buy votes with tax dollars. I would really like to see that practice end.
Joan Atkins October 23, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Joan Atkins I like this blog. Paul Tuschy clearly articulates his intentions in a way most voters can understand. This says to me he knows his "audience"...how refreshing!
Ray October 24, 2012 at 12:45 AM
This coming from a Tuschy whose other blog posting has been nothing more than a rant about abortion.
William 'Bill' DeBerg October 24, 2012 at 04:21 AM
I think he has mentioned abortion once but I never let the facts get in the way of a good story either Ray
Trish Johnson October 24, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Rep. Atkins, I realize you would consider me just a citizen and not very sophisticated in the complexities of the MN budget. So perhaps you would like to school me as well. When I read this report from the MN budget office (http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/doc/budget/report-spend/feb12.pdf ), I see that the general fund budget has grown from $12.75 billion in 2002 to $17.27 billion (as estimated last February). By my simple mind’s calculation that over $4.5 BILLION increase – and is almost 35.5% increase since your election. I don’t know about you, but I guarantee MY income didn’t go up 35.5% in the last 10 years - not even close! Then there is the All Funds numbers reported on this same report. In 2002 it was $20.11 billion, and swelled to $31.05 billion in 2013 (again estimate based on Feb numbers – I think that the Governor has since increased that quite a bit). That increase is $10,940,000,000 or 54.4%! Again, perhaps your depth of understanding can explain why ignoring the total spending is a good thing. Aren’t all government monies collected from the taxpayer, no matter what “fund” they are allocated to or from? (part 1 of 2)
Trish Johnson October 24, 2012 at 05:05 AM
(part 2 of 2) As far as debt goes, you know how hard it is for us little people to get our heads around our credit card balances and mortgages, what’s less government bonding. Luckily the MN budget office puts out reports that can help even me appreciate what the state owes. The February 2012 report (at http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/doc/bonds/debt-cap/forecast-feb-12.pdf ) shows lots of different numbers, but it states “for a total of $5,956,475,000 outstanding as of the date of the forecast”. That doesn’t include authorized but not yet issued debt capacity. Compare that to February 2003 report total general obligation bonds of $3,045,685,000 plus $39,485,000 additional for some special construction bonds, for a total of about $3.09 billion in debt. (http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/doc/bonds/debt-cap/forecast-feb-3.pdf ). Again, maybe you can explain what I’m missing, but that sure seems to be a whopping 93% increase in 9 years. If I try to relate all this to my life, I can’t say that the value of my few assets – my house, and my very modest 401k, have increased - in fact they have Decreased! – which is likely the case with most of us. I don’t understand how average Minnesotans can ever get out from the piling of debt and excess spending you, and the rest of our legislators have dumped upon us.
Ray October 24, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Sure William. It certainly must get real uncomfortable when politicians play chameleons and are called out on it. Tuschy posts an entire blog of self serving legislation doled out by the GOP to rev up their right wing base and then you pretend as if it some inconsequential post. But do keep at it.
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Ken in MN October 29, 2012 at 08:19 PM
It all depends on the definition of "bipartisan". To a Democrat, bipartisan usually means working with the other side in good faith to move Minnesota forward. To Republican'ts it means, "My way or the highway..."
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