Congressional candidates Seegmiller, Stewart debate debt, public lands, foreign poilcy

2nd Congressional District candidates Chris Stewart (left) and Jay Seegmiller (right) in a debate at the Dixie Center hosted by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, St. George, Utah, October 31, 2012 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The St. George Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a debate between 2nd Congressional District candidates, Republican Chris Stewart and Democrat Jay Seegmiller, Wednesday.

The candidates were asked questions concerning the national debt, entitlements, the Paul Ryan budget, job creation, foreign policy and public lands. Each candidate was given three minutes to reply, with the chance for a minute rebuttal if needed.

“My platform is mainly about jobs,” Seegmiller said as he introduced himself to the audience. He said that unlike other candidates who spoke about the problems facing the Utah and the county, he actually had a plan for fixing them. He also said he was “the only candidate running who has legislative experience.”

Stewart touted his background as a former U.S. Air Force officer and a small business owner as providing him with relevant experience for the position. “Less than 20 percent of Congress is military,” he said. And unlike the government, he said, as a small business owner he has actually created jobs.

The first question asked the candidates dealt with the mounting debt and there having been no national budget passed by congress for the last three years – how did they propose to deal with these issues?

Stewart said the best way to ensure a budget is passed is to elect a Republican president and a Republican majority in the Senate. While the House has passed budget plans, they have stalled in the Senate, he said, and he laid the blame at the feet of Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid and the Democrats.

“We can’t count on who will have control,” Seegmiller said, and compared a Republican majority to the super-majority the Democrats had when the Affordable Care Act was passed; he warned it would kill any chance debate. “There needs to be less partisanship and more partnership,” he said.

On entitlements, Seegmiller mentioned Medicaid and Medicare. He said part of the problem with those systems is cases of fraud and overpayment. It would be better to tackle those problems instead of substituting the current system with a voucher program, he said. He also said he was in favor of hospitals and healthcare providers collaborating so they could give patients access to the best care, and not necessarily the most expensive care.

Stewart said 66 percent of the federal spending goes to entitlement programs, and that the Medicare and Medicaid systems could benefit from being partially privatized.  The subject spilled over into the next question which addressed what the candidates thought about the Ryan Budget.

Stewart supports the budget plan put forth by Republican vice presidential candidate Ryan Paul. “He has the courage to address entitlement spending,” he said. He said the voucher system leaves benefits in place for seniors, while giving younger people the option to opt out if they want to.

“We need to look at ways to strategically cut the deficit,” Seegmiller said. “I can work with anyone, but we need to bring everything to the table.”

Both candidates agreed that cutting the deficit is needed, yet the extent of those cuts is still a matter of debate.

In relation to job creation, Seegmiller said three million jobs could be created if corporations return their manufacturing base to the United States. The government needs to lower the corporate tax, he said, and incentives need to be put in place for business to come back home.

Stewart agreed the corporate tax rate needs to be lowered, but said it wouldn’t be enough. Federal regulations would also have to be cut. “Regulation is a $1.6 trillion dead-weight on the economy,” he said. He also called for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, because its implementation scares business owners away from hiring.

Harvesting natural energy resources is another way to create jobs, Stewart said, and added it would also boost the economy and add to national security by encouraging “energy independence.”

Concerning foreign policy and national security, Stewart said Congress is making “naïve decisions” due to its overall lack of military experience. Credible threats to America’s national security interests need to be evaluated better, he said. He questioned why military units had aided in Libya’s civil war, though counted Iran as a potential threat.  Israel needs to be supported, and Iran cannot be allowed to become a nuclear power, he said.

“We have to take whatever measures are necessary” to prevent a nuclear Iran, Stewart said.

Seegmiller agreed that maintaining America’s national security is important, but said it doesn’t have to be done through starting a war. He said he would seek the advice of military leaders and determine if there truly is a threat to the nation.  Military force should only be applied when there is “a direct threat to our security,” he said.

The issue of public lands came next, and whether or not the candidates support the Public Lands Transfer Act, which derived from House Bill 148 during Utah’s 2012 General Session, commonly referred to as HB 148.

If he were still a member of the Utah Legislature when HB 148 was up for a vote, Seegmiller said he would have voted against it. He said the state will end up wasting $3 million in federal court fighting to get public lands transferred to state control. “It’s a foolish waste of tax dollars,” he said.

Instead, Seegmiller supported bipartisan land legislation like the Washington County Lands Bill that was brokered between former Republican Sen. Bob Bennett and Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson. He also said he had met with various county officials in Utah and pledged, “We will free up some federal land for use.”

Stewart stated his support of HB 148 and said the federal government’s hold on Utah’s public lands is hurting the state. He said resource extraction was necessary for the state’s prosperity. It will also allow for more money to go to education spending, he said. “Support energy extraction on public lands if you love education,” he said.

As far as funding for education is concerned, Seegmiller said Utah should enact a severance tax on coal mined within its borders, as other states have done.

As the debate came to an end, the candidates gave their closing remarks.

Stewart said the No. 1 issue facing the nation is the increasing national debt, and it needs to be fixed. A nation that is bankrupt cannot create jobs, cannot care for the poor and the needy, and cannot provide proper security, he said. Despite warnings about the debt, Stewart said, “I still believe in America and the American people.”

“We need to make sure we have someone who has a positive approach to our problems,” Seegmiller said.  The people can elect someone who either represents party ideology or someone who represents the people. “I will put you ahead of partisanship,” he said.

RELATED ARTICLES ON CANDIDATES FOR UTAH’S 2ND HOUSE DISTRICT: 

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Congressional candidates Seegmiller, Stewart debate debt, public lands, foreign poilcy

Specfic to Jay Seegmiller:

Democratic congressional candidate runs on jobs, ending political gridlock

Democrats convene in Washington County with clarity and a full slate of candidates

Specific to Chris Stewart:

Republican congressional candidate visits St. George, tells crowd to ‘keep faith’ in America

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OP-ED: GOP Entitlement Hypocrisy

Related links:

– Jay Seegmiller’s campaign website

– Chris Stewart’s campaign website

 

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2012, all rights reserved

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