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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published November 04 2012

Klobuchar-Bills Senate race sees final debate

ST. PAUL – U.S. Senate challenger Kurt Bills added distance between his views and those of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Sunday night in their last face-to-face meeting of the campaign.

Neither candidate brought up any new issues, but the hourlong debate emphasized their differences.

Republican Bills declared he does not believe in climate change, he supports a tax where everyone pays the same percentage, that Klobuchar shows no leadership in the Senate and government gets in the way of middle-class Americans.

Democrat Klobuchar said she wants to keep middle-class tax cuts in place while raising taxes on the rich, that she helped get the Budget Control Act passed, allowing private Social Security investment would be risky and that climate change is real.

The debate, heated at times, came near the end of what has been a mostly quiet campaign, due in part to Bills’ inability to raise money.

“If you want less money spent on a campaign, I guess I’m your man,” Bills joked in response to a question about the influx of campaign advertising in many races.

Federal taxes and the budget highlighted the night.

Klobuchar said she worked with Senate Finance Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., to insist to the White House that a budget commission be established. That commission set up $2.2 trillion in spending cuts, some specified and some yet to be decided.

However, Klobuchar said she will work to get Congress to make specific budget decisions by year’s end.

“We support a balanced approach, a mix of revenue ... and, yes, reducing spending,” she said.

Bills was critical of the Senate, which has not approved a budget in 1,248 days.

“Complete negligence,” Bills called the failure to approve a budget.

“My plan is to start over,” he said. “We should reboot the tax system.”

Bills said a flat tax, where everyone pays the same percentage, would be fair and easy. Klobuchar said it would give the advantage to richer Americans.

The GOP candidate said throughout the debate, and campaign, that government intrudes too much into people’s lives. He said the federal government should stay out of private business.

“If there is no private sector left, there will not be funding for our public schools, our infrastructure, our military,” Bills said.

A 12-year-old audience member asked the candidates how to make college more affordable.

Bills said the answer is to reduce government’s involvement and let the market dictate college loans.

Klobuchar, meanwhile, praised a new law that limits how much students need to repay based on income. She said with the new law, “nobody is making money off of students.”