13th District Candidates Agree, Differ on Economic Issues
By Jeff Bossert
The re-drawing of political boundaries brought a new challenge to candidates in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District – forcing them to campaign in unfamiliar territory.
Then the race changed in scope when Republican incumbent Tim Johnson of Urbana announced his retirement. The result: a three-way race in which the two major party candidates have engaged in sniping and negative ads - a development that Johnson believes could garner some votes for the independent candidate.
Democrat and Bloomington physician David Gill said getting the country on firm financial footing again starts with getting the rich to pay their fair share in taxes. He said those earning $250,000 a year or more should be paying at the same rate they did when President Clinton was in office.
“I think that the deficit is very important – but there’s more than one way to beat a deficit," he said. "There’s spending cuts, and there’s also revenue increases. To have our millionaires and billionaires pay once more is just pivotal to restoring our economic health in this country.”
Republican 13th District nominee Rodney Davis of Taylorville said existing Bush-era tax cuts should be extended. He said business owners’ uncertainty over their tax bill is keeping them from investing in new employees.
But if elected, Davis also pledged to seek out bipartisan ways to reduce a $16-trillion debt.
“I’m not someone who favors across the board spending cuts," he said. "But what we have to do is go line by line in the federal budget, every single agency, and ensure that we’re able to cut out all the waste and fraud.”
Independent John Hartman of Edwardsville agrees with Davis that reducing the debt provides the best opportunity for getting the economy back on track.
Hartman also believes there’s an upside to allowing the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ to kick in, forcing budget cuts that lawmakers have, thus far, been unable to agree on, which, if nothing else, will reduce the deficit.
Yet, Hartman believes a short-term stimulus is necessary. But he said it will require pay-as-you go discipline, and suggests a 2-percent payroll tax in the first year of that stimulus.
“That we pay for that in years two, three, or four – built into this very same stimulus legislation," he said. "Pay for it by higher revenue, then to make up for it, or by cutting programs. But we’ve got to go back to that pay as you go discipline that we had, as was effective, in the 1990s, and led us to a balanced budget.”
Hartman also supports the Simpson-Bowles Commission plan to reign in national debt, while Davis said he likes parts of it.
Democrat David Gill also blames Wall Street’s influence on government for problems ranging from the jobless rate to finding affordable health care. He cited the 2003 prescription drug bill as an example. Gill said it barred the country from negotiating on drug prices.
“When you have the bargaining power of 50-million Medicare lives to forgo that bargaining power, to give that up, ultimately it was a $2-trillion gift to the drug companies," he said. "And it’s the Pfizers and the Mercks who are putting money in the campaign pocketbooks of campaign politicians.”
Rodney Davis said he has an ‘all of the above’ energy policy, which includes offshore drilling for oil, research into clean-coal technology, and continuing subsidies for alternative sources.
“That means building new baseload generating facilities. Be nuclear, be it coal, be it natural gas," Davis said. "And I’m also in favor of continuing to invest in wind, solar, and hydropower. But we have to have that all of the above approach so that America, in the end, should be an energy exporter, but we are not.”
John Hartman said data from various agencies, like NASA and the National Science Foundation, prove that carbon emissions are contributing to climate change. He said Americans should be concerned with how it’s effecting the environment, and suggests one measure passed by Congress as well as some states.
“I think we've had a cap trade experience with acid rain in the northeast that was effective," Hartman said. "Basically all parties believe and have confidence that was an effective policy. And that has cleaned up the problem.”
Hartman said cap and trade will make emissions expensive, and then the free market will fill in with its own sources of alternative energy that don’t contribute to climate change.
David Gill also cites concerns about climate change, but believes Congress has been hurt by corporate donations, and subsidies to large oil companies. He said that money should instead be invested in wind energy and other alternative sources of power.
Whoever wins this race will be a freshman in Illinois’ new 13th Congressional District, and face an uphill battle to convince a Congress that’s spent a lot and cut taxes to be more fiscally responsible.