July 06--As a runup to the Republican runoff on July 15 for the 6th Congressional District, we asked candidates Phil Berger Jr. and Mark Walker to respond to a series of questions to help voters know where they stand on key issues. We encouraged them to go beyond the information on their websites and speak directly to voters with specific ways in which they would achieve their goals. The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Laura Fjeld in the general election Nov. 4 to fill the seat now held by retiring Republican Howard Coble.
Here's what they had to say:
Q. Immigration reform has been a hot topic. Because you have said you oppose any form of amnesty, what policy should govern the current population of undocumented immigrants now living in the U.S.?
BERGER: The current situation on our southern border is a nightmare. President Obama has failed to lead on the issue of illegal immigration, and the effects of his negligence are seen on the border every day. We are a nation of laws, but President Obama has ignored the law. Securing the border must be our top priority. We cannot reward those who break our laws with citizenship.
WALKER: First, I will never support amnesty. I am committed to securing our borders and ports. I will push for vigorous enforcement of our existing immigration and employment laws. President Obama has failed to seriously address the illegal immigration crisis, and the federal government has dropped the ball. The federal government has invited the crisis on our southern border by being weak on these issues -- and it has to stop. We need to support and empower local law enforcement, like our sheriffs, as they try to tackle this issue in our communities.
Q. Reducing government spending is a common goal. What programs would you cut, and what other measures would you advocate to balance the budget?
BERGER: There are two plans that I will strongly fight for: Cut, Cap, Balance and the Penny Plan. Cut, Cap, and Balance would cut spending, cap spending limits, and balance the budget. The Penny Plan would cut one penny out of every federal dollar spent over the next six to eight years, until a balanced budget is achieved. This would force President Obama to work with Congress on appropriations bills for all federal spending. The president's irresponsible spending has made it clear we need to get our fiscal house in order. I am a strong proponent of the balanced budget amendment to require government to live within its means.
WALKER: Over the long term, we will only balance the budget if we tackle entitlement spending. We also need institutional reforms -- like a balanced budget amendment -- to limit the federal government's addiction to spending. We can also achieve a balanced budget by stimulating the economy -- lowering tax rates and eliminating excess regulation. I will work with Democrats and Republicans to reform the tax code, eliminate red tape, cut duplicative programs and return the federal budget to long-term solvency. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Education are two massive bureaucracies I would work to cut, saving billions for taxpayers.
Q. How, specifically, would you recommend reforming the tax code? Would exemptions that benefit the middle class, such as the mortgage interest deduction, be eliminated or preserved ?
BERGER: Reducing taxes on hardworking Americans is a simple solution. History has shown that cutting taxes is the best way to stimulate the economy and create jobs. I would cut the income tax for all Americans, reduce the corporate tax, cut the capital gains tax, and eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax and the death tax. I would preserve the mortgage interest deduction because it encourages home ownership and investment in our communities. Reducing the tax and regulatory burden would greatly help our nation's small businesses by allowing them to invest more money in their business without the costs of compliance with the IRS.
WALKER: We need to lower tax rates and broaden the tax base. Taxes continue to stifle economic growth and weigh heavily on family budgets. I am firmly committed to keeping taxes low and bringing down marginal rates for businesses and families. I will oppose any effort to eliminate tax deductions or credits unless matched with an offsetting reduction in tax rates. The American people are taxed enough already, I will not support any net tax hikes.
Q. You both say you would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. What system would you advocate to replace it?
BERGER: We need to repeal Obama care and replace it with market-based solutions because Americans deserve a health-care system that is focused on patients, not bureaucrats. Purchasing insurance across state lines, portability of insurance, allowing small businesses to pool their resources and tort reform are common-sense measures that will drive down costs, increase access to care and promote patient choice.
WALKER: Obamacare is a power grab by the federal government and a radical restructuring of our health-care system. Instead of addressing the main barrier to health insurance (cost), Obamacare tries to mandate benefits and coverage. If we work to address the cost of health insurance, then we can make health insurance more affordable and, thereby, increase access to health care. Within the current system, we can take proven steps to bring down the cost of health care like limiting lawsuit abuse and allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines. We can also work to make health-care prices more transparent.
Q. You both favor less federal control of education and more school choice. How can this be achieved while assuring that all students graduate with the same level of knowledge and skills?
BERGER: The education system in our country has been failing our children. There is a direct correlation between federal intervention and declining student performance. I am a strong proponent of school choice and competition in the education system. Charter schools, home schools and opportunity vouchers will expand access to quality education for all students. We must repeal Common Core because education policy is best set at the state and local level, not by bureaucrats in Washington. North Carolina should create its own standards that are tough, rigorous and the best in the country.
WALKER: School choice allows for more innovation and competition in the education marketplace. By ending the government's monopoly over education, we can empower parents and students and challenge schools to demonstrate success. School choice will provide a better base level of knowledge and skills to all students than the current system because students will no longer be forced to attend failing schools. These schools will be held accountable and will be required to improve. Parental school choice is our best chance to ensure that students receive the high-quality education they deserve.
Contact Susan Ladd at (336) 373-7006, and follow @SusanLaddNR on Twitter.
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