Ryan McGaughey

WORTHINGTON — In her first visit to Worthington since judging the Paycheck-Ruby Begonia showdown last King Turkey Day, Sen. Amy Klobuchar gave an overview of her initial year in Washington during a Tuesday afternoon stop at the Blue Line Travel Plaza.

Klobuchar, who visited eight other communities Tuesday, is in the midst of a “Main Street” tour across the state. She noted the week had gotten off to a good start with a visit to Redwood Falls Monday evening.

“They listened to a Democrat for an entire hour, and they were still in a good mood,” joked Klobuchar, who won the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Mark Dayton decided not to seek a second term.

Speaking before a gathering of about 30 people, Klobuchar began by discussing her committee work. She serves on the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation — “There hadn’t been a Minnesotan on it since 1923,” she said — as well as the committees on Environment and Public Works and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“This year is a down payment on change,” Klobuchar said, adding that a Democratic president would result in even greater change should one be elected.

Klobuchar discussed the Farm Bill, explaining she has worked to ensure a strong and fair safety net for farmers and promoted further development of homegrown renewable energy. Minnesota, she emphasized, is and can continue to be a renewable energy leader.

“We should see ourselves as part of a solution with wind, solar, biomass and other energies,” she said. One example where Minnesotans and others could be given incentive in the renewable energy sector is through expansion of tax credits for wind energy producers, Klobuchar explained.

Health care, Klobuchar said, is an area in need of major reform. For instance, she stated, Florida has reimbursement rates that are twice as much as Minnesota.

Bringing soldiers home from Iraq is another priority for Klobuchar, who hopes for success in that area following the November election. Klobuchar recalled her visit to Iraq last March, where she was met by Minnesota troops who were “amazing.”

“I believe we need to set some deadlines for bringing our troops home,” she said, emphasizing it shouldn’t be done overnight.

“The difference between now and Vietnam is that people realize they need to treat their troops with dignity when they return home,” Klobuchar added.

The Interstate-35 bridge collapse in August brought the realization that close attention needs to be paid to roads and bridges across the country, she said.

“We can’t have a 21st century economy and a 20th century transportation system,” Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar also said she was working on legislation that would relieve burdens on businesses that ship by rail and face excessive freight costs thanks to “captive rail” practices. The senator also touched briefly upon immigration, explaining she favors stricter border control as well as a fence — along with guidance for employers and a path to earned citizenship for those who obey U.S. laws, are willing to learn English, pay their taxes and pay a substantial fine.

“We can’t keep going the way we’re going,” Klobuchar said. “It’s a mess.”