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Published April 12 2012

Gulleson: GOP budget hurts Medicare, farm bill

FARGO – Democratic U.S. House candidate Pam Gulleson says Congress badly needs to pass long-term plans that will fix the nation’s challenges.

In a visit with The Forum’s editorial board Thursday, Gulleson railed against the House Republicans’ 2012 budget proposal as a recent example, while also proposing ideas of her own to help the reviving economy and the deficit.

A controversial budget passed two weeks ago by the House and spearheaded by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is dead-on-arrival in the Democratic-led Senate. But Gulleson said the legislation will still be a significant issue during the campaign season.

“Any budget is basically your expression of your priorities,” Gulleson said.

She added that all members of Congress agree that fiscal solvency through a balanced budget is a good idea, “but how we get there is as much a part of the process as getting there itself.”

“The Ryan budget’s cuts are so deep and, in my view, focused on a wrong set of priorities,” she said.

Gulleson specifically has concerns about Ryan’s proposals to turn Medicare into a voucher-based system, which Democrats say removes the guarantee of health care benefits to seniors.

“(Medicare and Social Security) provides our seniors with such important piece of mind as they age,” Gulleson said. “It’s an obligation, and it’s a commitment we made to our seniors, and I think we need to uphold it.”

The Ryan budget’s plan to cut $180 billion to farm programs is also worrisome to Gulleson, who’s a family farmer and former state legislator from rural Rutland, N.D.

The House Republicans’ proposed cuts are eight times more than the $23 billion in cuts that the House and Senate agriculture chairmen agreed upon.

“It’s likely to jeopardize a new farm bill,” Gulleson said of Ryan’s plan. “I equate food security with national security. You can’t have a strong national economy and a secure nation without the guarantee of a very strong food program.”

As an alternative, Gulleson is pushing for long-term priorities, which emphasize opportunities for growth.

She proposed a Jobs and Innovation Strategy back in February, which she said would help promote economic recovery and a balanced budget.

“The approach to this has to be long-term, it has to be growth-centered and it has to attack the spending cuts,” Gulleson said.

Republican-endorsed House candidate Brian Kalk supports the Ryan plan in general, but has said he wants to take a closer look at the specific cuts that would affect defense, seniors, veterans and agriculture programs.

His GOP challenger, Kevin Cramer, has not voiced a position on the House budget plan.

North Dakota Republican Rep. Rick Berg supported the Ryan budget, a vote that his competitor in the U.S. Senate race highlighted in a town-hall campaign tour, also Thursday.

While stopping in Fargo, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp described the flaws of the House budget and also criticized Berg’s vote in favor of it – claims that Berg’s campaign said are “false attacks.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

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