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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bass, Kuster find little common ground during debate

By NORMA LOVE

Associated Press Writer

CONCORD (AP) – Former six-term Republican Congressman Charlie Bass and Democrat Ann McLane Kuster presented starkly different views Friday of how to spur job development in New Hampshire’s 2nd District.

Bass called for minimizing government’s role in business, but Kuster complained that deregulation under Republican leadership when Bass was in Congress had led to the banking crisis and Gulf oil spill.

Bass and Kuster discussed their job plans in a forum broadcast live on New Hampshire Public Radio. They are competing for the seat Democrat Paul Hodes vacated to run for U.S. Senate.

Bass said Democrats are taking the country to the brink of economic disaster with expensive deficit-producing stimulus bills.

Kuster supports replacing an economic policy of tax cuts for the wealthy with one that helps the middle class and rewards companies for creating jobs in the United States. She would end earmarks by members of Congress.

Bass portrays the race as a choice between an unapologetic liberal who would continue the flawed policies of the Obama administration. He supports extending the tax cuts for everyone, including the wealthy, which he said include small business owners.

The expiration of Bush-era tax cuts in January has led to partisan bickering in Washington over which tax cuts should be extended. Republicans want to extend all the tax cuts, and President Barack Obama – along with Democratic leaders in Congress – want to extend them for people making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000.

Extending the tax cuts for middle- and low-income workers would add more than $3 trillion to the national debt during the next decade. Extending them for top earners as well would add an addition $700 billion.

“This is you and I contributing to tax relief for millionaires,” Kuster said.

The two also differ on health care. Bass would repeal the reforms enacted by Democrats – though he supports the initial changes affecting children and young adults.

“Unfortunately they are a little bit like icing on a sponge cake,” he said. Bass said the costs affecting businesses and consumers come later.

Kuster said the reforms provided access to health care but did not do enough to address the costs. She supports adding a public option to increase competition.

The two agreed government should subsidize implementing high-speed internet access in the North Country. They support President Obama’s proposal to make a research and development tax credit permanent.

Kuster supports an increase in the minimum wage to a living wage; Bass said business, not government, should set wages. Kuster supports guaranteed paid sick leave for workers; Bass would leave it to employers to decide the policy. They both support examining business taxes to make sure they aren’t preventing job growth. Both favor extending jobless benefits. Both oppose raising the retirement age for Social Security.