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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

 8:16 PM 

Lee, Pocan spar over federal spending, health care in forum

DEFOREST -- 2nd CD candidates Mark Pocan and Chad Lee sparred over federal spending and health care during a largely cordial second joint appearance of the campaign.

Pocan, the longtime Madison Dem state rep, said he supports the federal health care reform law signed in 2009 and that one of his top priorities would be protecting Medicare and Social Security.

"The talk to try to change those programs is very wrong-headed," Pocan said at the opening of the forum at the DeForest Public Library.

Lee, a Mt. Horeb Republican, said he would not touch those programs for Americans over age 54 and rejected claims that he would offer subsequent enrollees a "coupon" for coverage.

"Let's work on bipartisan solutions to make sure that it's going to be strong and secure for them," Lee said.

The two are running for the sole open seat in Wisconsin’s House delegation, seeking to replace Tammy Baldwin in the heavily Dem district that covers the south-central portion of the state. Baldwin, D-Madison, is running for the U.S. Senate.
Lee decried the budget impact of health care reform, charging that the law would enact 12 new taxes on the middle class and raid $716 billion from Medicare.

Pocan dismissed the Medicare funding claim as "political spin," saying the move would stop overpayments under the program and extend its solvency.

The candidates also disagreed on the best way to address the nation's fiscal issues. Pocan touted his work on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, saying Dems closed a massive 2008 state deficit through a mixture of cuts, federal recovery dollars and increased revenue.

"The way you really deal with the deficit is get the economy going again," Pocan said.

Lee said the sluggish economy makes tax increases unworkable and called for cutting back on federal programs that spend too much and ending duplicative or obsolete programs.

Lee also said the country should look to get away from foreign sources of oil to achieve energy independence and that he supports the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and so-called "fracking" procedures to extract natural gas.

"They can't hire people quick enough to fill those jobs," Lee said of the natural gas industry in North Dakota. "I would love to see more stories like that."

Pocan countered that fossil fuel-based energy is a "failed policy" both environmentally and economically and that the country should be investing in renewable energy.

The candidates did find common ground on the need to make the country's tax code fairer, particularly relating to large corporations that aren't paying normal tax rates. Both frequently made references to their small business backgrounds and both also played up their efforts to reach across party lines.

"That's something Congress has been woefully missing," Pocan said.

-- By Andy Szal

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