The U.S. Senate race between Republican Richard Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly, getting attention even on the national level, is perhaps the most-watched campaign in Indiana.
The two candidates visited The Elkhart Truth earlier this month to discuss the election and here are their views on some key issues. They came before Mourdock's now-infamous comment, awkwardly expressing opposition to abortion in rape cases.
The stakes in the race are high. The outcome here and in a handful of other U.S. Senate races around the country will determine whether Democrats retain their majority in the body or if the GOP takes over.
Mourdock, a fiscal and social conservative from Darmstadt with strong tea party support, currently serves as Indiana state treasurer. Donnelly, a Blue Dog Democrat from Granger, is now in his third term as U.S. representative to Indiana's 2nd District.
Sunday, Oct. 28, we offered their responses to questions on the economy, balancing the budget and spending. Monday, Oct. 29, we have their responses to queries on the Affordable Care Act, political gridlock and their political leaning.
Andrew Horning, a Libertarian, is also on the ballot, but he was unable to come to The Elkhart Truth and did not respond to written queries.
Mourdock: Small business operators need a sense of certainty if they're to grow and thrive, bolstering the economy and bringing about job growth. That's lacking, Mourdock said.
The regulatory environment is ever-changing and the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, also adds to a sense of ambiguity and concern because of the expected increase in costs that will result for businesses.
“Businessmen and women want to know what the rules are, investors who might be putting cash in those businesses want to know what the rules are,” he said. The uncertain climate and ambiguity “help to crush business, and that's the wrong direction to be going. We should be creating jobs.”
Donnelly: Broadly, the key to promoting job creation in the uncertain economy is via policies that encourage entrepreneurs and keep government interference to a minimum, Donnelly said.
He backs making a federal research and development tax credit permanent and supports moves to pressure China into “fairly” valuing its currency, meant to level the playing field with the United States in international trade.
U.S. energy sources need to be more effectively exploited — everything from coal and natural gas to wind and biodiesel — to reduce energy costs. “If it's American energy, it makes it more affordable for employers to be able to run their business,” he said.
He favors plans for the Keystone Pipeline, the system, still lacking a necessary presidential permit, that would carry crude oil from Canada to the United States.
BALANCED BUDGET, SPENDING
Donnelly: He foresees a $4 trilion to $5 trillion deficit reduction plan by the end of 2013. U.S. Senate leaders are working on a plan to delay a series of obligatory federal spending cuts set to go in place on Jan. 1, giving them time to draft an alternative.
The last time the U.S. had surplus income was under President Bill Clinton, when government revenues represented 20 percent of gross domestic produce and spending amounted to 18 percent of GDP. Today, government revenue amounts to 15.3 percent of GDP with spending at 24.3 percent of GDP, so any spending cuts need to be complemented by some sort of revenue increase.
He would back change allowing increased offshore oil drilling, using the resulting royalty payments to help offset the U.S. deficit.
Mourdock: Balancing the budget and reducing the debt is key in getting the economy going again, but it should be done without raising income taxes.
“If we keep raising taxes, all we're going to do is cause those people who could otherwise be investing in new businesses not to do so,” he said. “The only way we can pay down our debt is to grow the economy and grow it dramatically.”
As the economy grows, more revenue will naturally flow back into government coffers, tempering the need for tax hikes.
If tax cuts implemented under President George W. Bush were repealed, he added, that would generate $80 billion for the U.S. government, a relatively small amount relative to the overall U.S. budget. At the same time, those funds would be lost to entrepreneurs who could otherwise use the money to invest and create jobs.
MORE ON REVENUE, SPENDING CUTS
Mourdock: Though opposed to income tax hikes, he favors a national sales tax to generate tax revenue from a broader cross-section of Americans.
“We have 47 percent of all American households that now pay no income tax. They pay Social Security, they pay other taxes, but no income taxes, and everybody should have some level of skin in the game,” he said. The sales tax would complement income tax and other revenue sources.
He favors elimination of the U.S. departments of Education, Energy, Commerce and Housing and Urban Development. The move would save money and the departments aren't “doing what they're supposed to be doing in a way that's really generating value.”
Education is more of a state and local issue, though he doesn't think national scholarship programs should be axed if the U.S. Department of Education is dismantled.
Donnelly: To save funds, federal agencies, except those that deal with veterans issues, could be directed to cut spending by 10 percent, across the board. If they don't do it themselves, lawmakers could take it on themselves to do it.
“That would be a huge reduction in spending,” Donnelly said.
Follow Tim Vandenack on Twitter, @timvandenack