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On the issues: Guinta, Shea-Porter and O’Connor diverge for 1st Congressional District



Monitor staff
Thursday, November 03, 2016

Every two years since 2010, 1st Congressional District voters have chosen between Democrat Carol Shea-Porter and Republican Frank Guinta.

They’re back again this year – seeking their fourth and third terms, respectively – but with a new wrinkle: the addition of well-heeled independent Shawn O’Connor.

O’Connor, a former Democrat, could siphon enough votes from Shea-Porter to give Guinta another two years in office despite being dogged by news of illegal campaign finance violations.

But many voters have grown tired with Guinta or Shea-Porter their only choices for Congress during the past four elections, which has given O’Connor a foothold.

Between the middle and end of October, while O’Connor flooded the airwaves with ads, those responding to the latest Granite State Poll said they were becoming less decided – not more – on whom they’d support next week.

Here are the candidates’ stances on key issues facing the district, which covers the Manchester area, the Seacoast and the Lakes Region.

Wages

Guinta, who won elections to represent the district in 2010 and 2014, says the best way to increase workers’ wages is to enact policies that help businesses grow.

He said the U.S. should relax regulations, reduce government spending and collect fewer tax dollars.

“Job creation is key to relieving stagnant wages and poverty,” he said.

Shea-Porter and O’Connor said they would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Shea-Porter, who won elections to represent the district in 2006, 2008 and 2012, said the wage should be “raised in stages, with tax breaks for small businesses, and with exemptions for family businesses and very small businesses.”

O’Connor said his plan would incrementally increase the minimum wage until it reached $15 an hour in 2022. He would offer a tax credit to businesses equal to half of the increase in payroll due to a minimum wage increase.

Taxes

Guinta, a 46-year-old former mayor of Manchester, said there are no taxes he would seek to increase.

He said he would work to simplify the tax code, while reducing the individual income tax and corporate tax rates “significantly.”

Shea-Porter, a 63-year-old former social worker and community college instructor, said the tax code gives advantages to “corporations and extremely wealthy people” at the expense of the middle class. She said she would increase tax credits for childcare, college education and middle-income workers.

“There should not be any tax increases on the middle class or small businesses,” she said, without specifying what increases she would support.

O’Connor said he would eliminate federal taxes for individuals making $37,450 or less and couples making $74,900 or less. For individuals who make less than $75,000, his plan wouldn’t tax the first $37,450, and for couples who make less than $150,000, it wouldn’t tax the first $75,000.

He would also seek to cut the corporate tax rate to 22.6 percent, which he said is a compromise between Republican and Democratic proposals.

O’Connor, a 39-year-old businessman, said he would target “the top 1 percent” of earners for new tax revenue.

U.S. debt

Guinta and O’Connor each support a balanced budget amendment, which would alter the Constitution to require that federal spending not exceed federal receipts – although, O’Connor added the caveat that there should be “a provision that allows the government to invest in the nation during periods of economic decline or high unemployment.”

Shea-Porter said it’s bad policy to impose such a restriction when the economy is weak or already in recession.

“Forcing Congress to make automatic cuts to earned benefits, drug treatment progress, education funding, medical research, infrastructure and other programs without looking at ways to increase fairness in our tax code is wrong,” she said.

Student debt

The candidates each have different views on student debt.

Guinta said federal interference in the student loan market is partly to blame for students’ piling debt because it has left colleges with “little incentive to control costs.” He said loan interest rates “should reflect market conditions, and we should cap it.”

He didn’t say that he would support an expansion of Pell Grants, the federal financial-aid program targeted at low-income students that doesn’t have to be repaid like a loan, which his two opponents support.

Shea-Porter is at the other end of the spectrum, saying students from families that earn up to $125,000 should be able to attend public colleges and universities “debt-free.”

She said she would seek to enhance loan forgiveness programs for workers in careers that qualify as “public service,” allow students to refinance their loans at lower interest rates, reinstate federally subsidized loans for graduate students and raise the maximum Pell Grant amount and expand availability.

Shea-Porter said she would pay for those expenses “by eliminating tax deductions for oil production and U.S. businesses with international operations, closing loopholes in the international corporate tax system, and raising taxes on the very wealthiest by a mechanism such as the Buffett Rule.”

O’Connor said he doesn’t support the “debt-free” education plan because students “should have a little amount of skin in the game, because I think that keeps them more invested through the process.”

He said he would increase the maximum Pell Grant substantially: to at least 80 percent of college costs at a four-year state school for the most disadvantaged students. The current maximum is $5,815 a year.

He said he would also seek to reduce the student loan interest rate between 1 percent and 2 percent, while allowing students and parents with existing debt to refinance at the lower rates.

Climate change

Shea-Porter and O’Connor agreed that the climate is warming and human activity is accelerating the process.

O’Connor said this presents “an immediate threat to our country and our planet,” adding that the U.S. should work together in a coalition with top emitters such as China and India and “ensure our businesses are not disadvantaged as we combat this challenge.”

Shea-Porter termed it a “severe threat to our global environment” and said the U.S. “must take a leadership role to combat climate change.”

Guinta doesn’t agree.

“The climate is always changing,” he said. “The Earth has been cold. The Earth has been hot. This truth has become the latest excuse to raise taxes and regulations on Americans.”

The Middle East

Guinta was highly critical of the foreign policy of President Obama, under whom he said “military strength and morale has plummeted.”

“In haste, President Obama withdrew American military from conflict zones, only to re-deploy a shrunken force to alleviate problems his incoherent foreign policy has created,” he said, referring to the 2011 military withdrawal from Iraq that was originally negotiated by President George W. Bush.

Shea-Porter said she wouldn’t support sending additional troops to the Middle East. She said the U.S. should play a support role.

“We have learned over the last 13 years that a light U.S. military footprint is more effective,” she said. “Local military forces are viewed as more legitimate and, in every way, better understand the operating environment.”

O’Connor also said he wouldn’t support sending additional troops to the region – with a major condition.

“The only caveat would be a direct threat to the safety of Americans,” he said.

Iran nuclear deal

Guinta and O’Connor said they opposed the nuclear deal with Iran.

Guinta said Obama misled the American public about it and that Iran is an untrustworthy partner.

“It includes billions of dollars to Iran to fund terror, and set the regime on a fast track to a nuclear weapon in fewer than 10 years,” he said.

O’Connor said he believes Iran is still working to acquire nuclear weapons and doesn’t like the lifting of economic sanctions.

“I doubt this cash payment made its way to the people of Iran but rather was almost certainly used to support the continued anti-American terrorist activities Iran has undertaken for decades,” he said.

Shea-Porter said she doesn’t trust Iran – and that’s why she supports the deal.

“The 2015 Iran agreement is built on verifying that Iran complies with all aspects of the deal. It requires both timely and effective International Atomic Energy Agency access to any Iranian site, including military sites, necessary to verify Iran’s compliance. There are inspectors who monitor non-stop, and if Iran cheats, nothing is off the table,” she said.

Waterboarding

Shea-Porter and O’Connor said they oppose the U.S. use of waterboarding. She said it “meets the legal definition of torture, which is both immoral and illegal.”

Guinta said the controversial practice should be allowed for the most loathsome terrorists. If the U.S. had captured the architect of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohommad, for instance, before they occurred, “water-boarding KSM should have been an option,” he said.

Affordable Care Act

Shea-Porter and O’Connor said they support the Affordable Care Act, but it needs fixing.

Guinta says it should be repealed and replaced.

“To truly decrease costs – including taxes – and to expand access, we must increase consumer choice and flexibility,” Guinta said.

He advocated expanding tax-exempt health savings accounts, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, tort reform and reduced regulations on medical innovations.

Social Security

Social Security is expected to become insolvent within 20 years, requiring forced cuts to beneficiaries.

Guinta said “reforming the benefits structure would be necessary for long-term stability,” but didn’t commit to any specific proposals.

Shea-Porter said she would oppose any cuts to the program and would raise the payroll tax cap to bolster its finances.

O’Connor said he opposed all cuts and tax increases and would seek to increase benefits through a more generous cost-of-living adjustment formula.