BOISE – The two leading candidates for Idaho’s open U.S. Senate seat are focusing on their differences on taxes and Social Security as the election approaches.
Republican Jim Risch has a new TV commercial airing statewide and in the Spokane market that tries to paint Democratic rival Larry LaRocco as a tax-raiser. Three of the four claims in the ad are based on LaRocco’s vote for the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993, when he served in Congress.
That bill enacted President Clinton’s economic policies, reducing the federal deficit by an estimated $496 billion over five years through almost $241 billion in additional taxes and $255 billion in spending cuts.
An earlier Risch ad also referred to the 1993 vote.
“I think he just basically doesn’t have anything else,” said Jean McNeil, spokeswoman for LaRocco’s campaign. “That’s the only thing he’s got, and so he’s going with it over and over.”
LaRocco doesn’t regret the vote, McNeil said. “What we got as a result of that was seven straight years of declining unemployment, job increases and stock market increases – so that by the time that George W. Bush came into the White House, the deficits that Clinton had inherited were totally gone and he was handed a big surplus instead.”
Risch’s ad, which shows a blue water balloon swelling and then exploding, says, “When Larry LaRocco was in Washington, he voted to raise taxes on retirees, and for the biggest tax increase in history, and higher gas taxes.”
The 1993 law added a new top income tax bracket; imposed a 4.3-cent increase in the federal gas tax; and raised taxes on Social Security benefits for the wealthiest recipients, among other provisions.
The ad continues, “Now he wants to let the latest tax cuts expire, raising taxes again. In these tough times, the last thing we need is liberal Larry raising our taxes again.”
Matt Ellsworth, Risch’s campaign director, said that claim is based on LaRocco’s statements that he doesn’t want to make the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts permanent, as Risch does.
McNeil said, “Larry wants to replace them with a middle-class tax cut. He’s not happy with the way the Bush tax cuts were targeted.”
The Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of 2010 unless Congress extends them. If all the cuts are made permanent without spending cuts or tax increases to offset them, the nation’s budget deficit is projected to balloon by billions more each year.
“I like every single cut in there,” Risch told The Spokesman-Review in an earlier interview. “There’s something there for everyone.” Balancing the federal budget is “very simple,” he said. “You spend less money.”
LaRocco is running ads criticizing Risch’s position on Social Security, which includes considering private investment accounts as an option for future generations. Both candidates oppose cutting Social Security benefits.
Here’s where the other candidates in the Senate race stand on the Bush tax cuts:
•Kent Marmon, Libertarian: “If they expire, it’s going to raise everybody’s taxes an average of $2,100 a year. … They need to either keep those cuts in place permanently, or they need to repeal the IRS and the federal tax code and rewrite it, come up with something that’s workable.”
•Rex Rammell, independent: “They definitely should be made permanent – I would even lower ’em further than they are, if I had my choice, but first thing I would make them permanent.”
•Pro-Life, an independent who legally changed his name from Marvin Richardson: “I think that the tax cuts should immediately be repealed and that the taxes should go up. … What is more intelligent, to tax and spend or to borrow and spend? I mean, it’s a no-brainer.”