The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 24, 2011

Tea party's message to Walz: Cut

MANKATO — About 15 tea party activists stopped by the Mankato office of Congressman Tim Walz Thursday to urge their congressman to support deep cuts in federal spending.

A handful of Democrats also stopped by the office and engaged in a peaceful debate over whether a cuts-only approach is the best way to tackle the nation’s ever more mountainous debt.

“Congress is not paying attention to the message that was sent in November,” said Andy Johnson, a local attorney who has organized Mankato-area tea party events for the past year.

Johnson led Thursday’s effort along with Julie Quist, a former aide to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and wife of Allen Quist, a rural St. Peter man who sought the Republican endorsement to run against Walz in the 2010 election.

Julie Quist said congressional efforts to rein in spending — particularly the $10 billion in cuts approved by Congress in a short-term budget fix passed earlier this month — were woefully inadequate in the face of a $1.6 trillion annual deficit.

“We sent people there to make some changes,” Quist said. “We don’t see that happening.”

Walz was in Washington, D.C., so Chief of Staff Josh Syrjamaki welcomed the visitors and thanked them for their comments.

“This is incredibly helpful, thank you,” said Syrjamaki, who later summarized the group’s position. “You’re saying to us, ‘Cut, cut, cut.’”

 The tea party activists also called for reductions in federal regulations, bureaucracy and intrusion into activities best left to the states, but the focus was on the growing red ink facing future generations.

Retired businessman Jerry Bamberry of Mankato said lawmakers need to stop worrying about public reaction to deep budget cuts.

“Let the chips fall where they may,” Bamberry said. “Let the people cry. You have to stop the bleeding. ... Who has the fortitude to say, ‘Enough is enough’?”

Bayberry, who noted that the costs of his Medicare Part B have risen 22 percent, said he’s worried about what sort of a mess his grandchildren will inherit.

The four or five Walz supporters who joined the meeting engaged in a friendly exchange with the tea party group. Jim Hepworth of Lake Crystal wondered if tea party activists were concerned enough about the deficit to repeal some of the tax cuts passed by President George W. Bush, particularly reductions for the wealthy.

And Hepworth said cuts that might be tolerable for some people could be devastating for others, pointing to Johnson’s stated willingness to surrender his future Social Security income.

“I applaud your willingness to give up your Social Security,” Hepworth said. “But people who worked for minimum wage their entire life probably aren’t in a position to do that.”

Tea party events at local congressional offices are to be followed by a March 31 rally at the nation’s Capitol.


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