Democrat Heidi Heitkamp said she would fight for a balanced budget amendment and not accept any pay raise until the budget is balanced if she is elected to the U.S. Senate on Nov. 6.
Heitkamp was among political candidates in Minot Monday for a variety of events taking place. Heitkamp, who is running against Congressman Rick Berg, R-N.D., for the Senate, spoke to Minot's Rotary Club following a news conference as part of her "Balance the Budget Tour" across the state.
"We have seen, since 2000, this budget expand in ways that are not sustainable. Forty cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed. We have a national debt that exceeds $16 trillion, which is actually in excess of the Gross National Product," she said. "We cannot sustain this and we cannot burden our children with this debt."
Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp visits with Buzz Syria at a Rotary meeting in Minot Monday.
She advocates a balanced budget amendment, along with budget cuts, tax hikes on the wealthiest and strategies to revive the business economy.
"The first thing that needs to be done is get people back to work," she said, noting that getting people back to work will increase tax revenue and reduce the draw on unemployment benefits, food assistance and other programs.
Her plan includes lower corporate income tax rates and allowing companies to move profits earned overseas into this country tax-free if used for business investment and job creation. She supports government-supported job training for hard-to-fill positions and a national incentive plan similar to North Dakota's PACE program, which works to lower interest rates and make capital more available.
She also wants cuts in what she calls wasteful spending. For example, trimming the federal vehicle fleet by 20 percent would save $5.6 billion. Just cutting the number of limousines would save $115 million.
"We need to stop spending money we don't have on things we don't need," Heitkamp said.
Other changes she proposes include:
allowing Medicare to negotiate for prescription drugs as the Veterans Administration does, saving $200 billion.
selling off some of the more than 1 million federal properties that have an annual maintenance budget of more than $20 billion to save up to $25 billion.
cracking down on improper payments in Medicare and Medicaid, which cost $70 billion in 2010.
reform energy intensive data centers and servers in technology departments, saving more than $160 million.
Heitkamp also proposes to make permanent the Bush tax cuts for people earning less than $1 million a year. Tax increases would affect about 400 tax filers in North Dakota who have shown income of more than $1 million, she said. She also would look at equalizing tax rates between earned and unearned income.
"These taxes need to be fair to working class folks," she said.
Heitkamp said balancing the budget will take some time but not the 30 years proposed in the Republican budget that passed the House.
"I think we can do it at an accelerated pace," she said.
"First, Heidi Heitkamp tried to run from her enthusiastic support of Obamacare and endorsement of President Obama, and that didn't work," said Berg spokesman Chris Van Guilder. "Now she is trying to somehow say she supports fiscal discipline despite her outspoken support for the $700 billion in bailouts for reckless Wall Street banks and budget-busting Obamacare? This is nothing more than a last-ditched effort to rewrite history in a desperate attempt to mislead North Dakotans who have already rejected her big government policies that have driven our nation $16 trillion into debt."
Berg's campaign also pointed out that in 1994, then attorney general Heitkamp raised spending in her office by $165,000 to increase the pay for some attorneys as much as 32 percent, far in excess of the 3 percent average state employee salary increase that year. Heitkamp had stated at the time that the increase was necessary to compete with the private sector and maintain staff, but it had rankled Republicans.
Berg's campaign also noted the congressman cut spending in his Washington office by 11 percent, plus turned back $130,000 to the treasury.
Heitkamp's campaign responded that Heitkamp returned money from her office budget as attorney general every year, totaling nearly $600,000 between 1993 and 2001.