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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Raul Labrador stresses cost-cutting, energy in economic plan

Idaho Republican congressional candidate Raul Labrador on Tuesday unveiled a plan for economic prosperity that leans heavily on the state developing a more robust nuclear power industry and exporting this “safe, cheap” energy to other western states. With the primary looming Tuesday, Labrador is in a heated race with Vaughn Ward for the GOP nomination for Idaho’s 1st District seat. The winner will challenge Democratic congressman Walt Minnick in the general election. Labrador’s plan calls for capping future bailouts for entities like the mortgage giant Fannie Mae; for a department-by-department audit of the federal government; and for the elimination of President Barack Obama’s health care plan and, eventually, of the Department of Education. But cutting government spending will only go so far, Labrador said; the country must grow its way out of debt. The best chance for helping the private sector grow, he said, is focusing on energy production, which has the added benefit of helping decrease reliance on foreign oil. Ward’s campaign was quick to reply that most of Labrador’s economic development ideas are positions Ward had been advocating for months prior to Labrador entering the race. “Cutting budgets and cutting spending has been a primary goal and primary issue for Vaughn since the beginning of the campaign, before Raul ever got into the campaign,” said Mike Tracy, Ward’s spokesman. “Vaughn was talking about nuclear energy before Raul even got into the campaign. It’s not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination.” Labrador said with the Idaho National Laboratory, the state has one of the world’s leading research facilities on nuclear power and called for its mission to be revamped so that private developers would have access to the technical resources available there. In addition, Labrador, an immigration and criminal law attorney, called for litigation reform to limit lawsuits by environmental groups, which, he said, prevent developers from financing nuclear power plants. He wants to create an ombudsman’s office in the Department of Energy to help developers work through permitting and environmental regulations. “The culture around energy production needs to change,” Labrador said. “Government must see its role as helping the development of this tremendous resource, rather than one of obstruction and regulation.” Lastly, Labrador said government spending must be retooled to be guided by three priorities: national defense, protecting the elderly and stimulating economic development. As such, he’d like to conduct a thorough performance audit of the Education Department with an eye to eliminating it one day, he said. It’s inappropriate, he said, for the federal government to be involved in an area of policy better managed by states, local governments and parents. “We need to start slashing,” he said. Part of the money saved would go to deficit reduction and additional money would be available to states to fund STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grants and scholarships for high school and college kids. “If we are going to build a high-tech future for Idaho,” he said, “we will need to develop a work force that is second to none.”