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Published August 11 2010

Dorgan sets goals ahead of Senate exit

BISMARCK – Ending tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas and importing cheaper prescription drugs are among Sen. Byron Dorgan’s priorities during his last months in office.

The North Dakota Democrat highlighted some of his goals for his remaining time in Congress during a news conference Tuesday.

Discussing the economy first, Dorgan said the road to economic recovery requires building new manufacturing capability in the country.

He said the first important step is to eliminate tax breaks given to companies that ship U.S. jobs overseas, an amendment he’s offered four times in the Senate without success.

Millions of people are looking for work, and the economic recovery isn’t creating jobs “as quickly as we would like to see,” he said.

“We also have a drain that’s wide open that has American jobs moving overseas at the same time,” Dorgan said.

Dorgan is trying to repeal a provision in tax law that allows companies to defer paying income taxes to the U.S. on profits earned for manufacturing overseas unless they repatriate income to the U.S.

Dorgan called the tax breaks “ignorant public policy” and said he’s determined to find a way to change it.

“There is no excuse for that to continue in this country,” said Dorgan, who authored the book “Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America.”

He thinks high unemployment levels and pressure on Congress will create more support to shut down the tax break.

Dorgan also is working with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to force another vote to allow the importation of Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription drugs sold for a fraction of the price in other countries.

Allowing these identical, less-expensive drugs would save $100 billion in 10 years, Dorgan said.

Dorgan is also working with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on legislation to reduce the federal budget deficit by capping farm program payments at $250,000.

“The farm program, for me, is to provide a bridge over troubled times … a safety net when things go bad,” Dorgan said.

Instead, big corporate agri-factories get payments of millions of dollars, he said. It’s also wrong to provide direct payments when farmers have bumper crops and robust prices, he said.

Dorgan is not seeking re-election to the Senate. On Tuesday, his potential successors weighed in on his proposed legislation.

Republican Gov. John Hoeven agrees more work is needed in all of these areas, campaign spokesman Don Larson said.

“We need to encourage manufacturing in the U.S. with the right kinds of incentives. We need to reduce health care costs, including prescription drug prices, through more competition,” Larson said. “And he (Hoeven) believes a countercyclical approach to the farm bill is the most cost-effective way, along with a strong crop insurance program for our farmers.”

State Sen. Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck, also supports Dorgan’s proposals.

“Senator Dorgan and I probably don’t have precisely the same views on free trade,” Potter said. “But we share this: American companies should not benefit through tax loopholes that incentivize them to send jobs overseas.”

Libertarian candidate Keith Hanson of West Fargo also agrees with Dorgan.

“I’m in favor of ending all corporate subsidies, whether they are direct or indirect through tax breaks to politically-favored big businesses,” Hanson said. “I also am in favor of removing any restrictions that are in place that prevent Americans from buying drugs from other countries.”

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.