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Candidate forum:

Sun, Nov 5th, 2000
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State Senate District 31By Al MathisonMonday, November 6, 2000

The race for the 1st District Congressional seat is between incumbent Gil Gutknecht and challenger Mary Rieder. Gutknecht, from Rochester, a former real estate broker and auctioneer, was first elected to Congress in 1994. Rieder, from Eyota, is a Professor of Economics and Finance at Winona State Universtiy.

The two candidates participated in a Voter Guide summary carried out by the Minnesota Newspaper Association. Their responses on foreign affairs, taxes, social security, agriculture, health care, education, campaign finance, welfare and crime are printed below.

Foreign affairs Explain your views on the extent to which the United States should become involved in the affairs of other countries in light of globalization. Consider both economic and military aid. What is our commitment to developing countries? What should the government’s role be in aiding U.S. corporations that wish to do business abroad? Should there be immigration limits and how should they be set?

Mary Rieder We live in an increasingly interdependent global world and our national interests literally reach around the world. We need to be involved economically, certainly. And, carefully supply military aid on a case by case basis. Some things to consider are: which other countries are supplying aid and at what level; can we make a meaningful difference in helping countries move towards a more democratic form of government, what costs -- human and material -- need to be considered; and what is the likely outcome if we do not intervene. The developing countries are the markets of tomorrow, and we definitely should help them. I support forgiving the $225 million of debt of the poorest nations, which Mr. Gutknecht voted against. The U. S. should make it as easy as possible for U.S. corporations -- through treaties, legal help, and insisting on a fair and even playing field for trade particularly in those countries where we import significantly more than we export. Yes, there should be immigration limits, but the limits need to be flexible to allow for changing needs in areas of labor shortages. We should first attempt to train or retrain American workers before we issue visas, but if shortages remain, immigration is the answer.

Gil Gutknecht As the most prosperous and powerful nation in the world, the United States has an important role in promoting democracy and economic prosperity around the world. The United States needs to project military might when our national interest, objectives, and exit strategy are clear. But we must encourage others to share the load. For example, our European allies should bear the burden for controlling the conflict in the Balkans. The United States must continue to give aid to foreign countries, but only in cases in which economic and political reform is real and the government is in a position to use this money wisely. We must ensure U.S. dollars get to the people in need and not the powerful elite ruling class.

Taxes How would you go about balancing tax cuts with the necessary spending for programs?

Gil Gutknecht This year, for the third consecutive year, the federal government will run a surplus above what it takes in for Social Security. Thanks to the hard work of the American people, and members of Congress who have kept spending under control, our national budget is finally being put in order. The new surplus numbers are a golden opportunity for us to solve three critical problems. I believe we should carefully divide the surplus between paying down the national debt, restructuring the Social Security program for the next century and reducing everyday Americans' enormous tax burden.

Mary Rieder I would use 20% of the budget surplus for fair tax cuts.

Social Security Should Congress consider privatization of the Social Security program? If so, to what degree?

Mary Rieder I do not support privatization of the Social Security program. However, I would support an individual instructing the government to place 2% of their social security taxes into broad based stock/bond mutual funds.

Gil Gutkencht Social Security is widely recognized as an investment that offers extremely low rates of return. For couples born in 1965, Social Security will only return 1.29 percent for their investment. We can, and must, do better. I generally favor giving people the opportunity to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in personal accounts. We must keep the promises we have made to older Americans and pay them every penny they have been promised. At the same time, younger workers who would like to invest in other areas should have this opportunity.

Agriculture The condition of the farming community is considered to be “in crisis.” What steps should be taken immediately, if any, to alleviate this situation? What should be included in the next farm bill to sustain Minnesota’s farms for the future?

Gil Gutknecht Our family farms are unquestionably facing very severe economic conditions. This Congress has responded with substantial emergency aid for crop disaster losses and lost income from continuing low commodity prices. While this assistance will certainly help, our farm policy can be strengthened by developing a better counter-cyclical shock absorber against low commodity prices. We need to preserve planting flexibility for our farmers, invest more in new producer owned value-added marketing opportunities, and encourage voluntary, innovative conservation programs. It is also time for a national dairy policy that allows Minnesota dairymen to fairly compete in the U.S. market.

Mary Rieder Immediately, we need another emergency farm bailout to keep our smaller farmers afloat until we can rewrite the farm bill. In the next farm bill, we should do the following:
a. Farmers should be guaranteed a price which is based on input costs and a fair return. This program should be capped to halt the encouragement of larger and larger farms
b. The dairy fight for Minnesota farmers must continue.
c. We must broaden the crops farmers are able to grow, to include industrial hemp. Hemp can be used for paper. (I carry a hemp note pad with me.) Because the solution to the farm problem must include the revitalization of rural America, I would allocate money to develop micro-processing plants for turning industrial hemp into paper that would operate like our small ethanol plants.
d. Invest in research to substitute corn and soy oil for petroleum. Many of our foam cups, plates, and plastics could use corn or soy in place of petroleum. This would use our excess supplies and help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
e.Bring the Internet into rural towns and schools. Paul Wellstone’s Telework Bill deserves support in the U.S. House.

Health care What role should the federal government play in health care coverage and oversight? Is there a role for the federal government for those who are uninsured. Should there be policies in place to reduce the cost of prescription drugs? How can Medicare reimbursement rates be equalized among urban and rural areas?

Mary Rieder The Federal Government should definitely play a role in health care coverage and oversight. For those who are uninsured, there should be a federal program like the Minnesota Care program, where the uninsured can purchase insurance on a sliding fee schedule tied to income and the percent of income spent on health care. To reduce the costs of prescription drugs we should do all of the following:
a. allow reimportation of prescription drugs,
b.use government buying power to purchase drugs for resale -- this is why Canada has considerably lower prices,
c. prohibit ads for prescription

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