The editorial staff of The Daily Review recently conducted separate interviews with each of the three candidates for Congress in the 10th District. During the interviews, Republican incumbent Tom Marino, Democrat Scott Brion, and independent Nick Troiano were asked their views on a range of subjects.
Below are their responses on how to improve the economy and education. Their views on other issues will be explored in a second article in the Nov. 2 Sunday Review.
1. How would you improve the economy?
- Nick Troiano said: "My top focus (as a congressman) would be on trying to grow our economy and jobs. And to do that the Congress needs to stop doing the harm they are currently doing to the economy." Last year's government shutdown, which was supported by Marino, "cost our economy $24 billion," Troiano said.
"I think we need to support our small businesses and entrepreneurs by streamlining and getting rid of regulation that is standing in their way," Troiano said. "And we need to invest in things that are going to help make our country competitive globally, (such as) our infrastructure, and our education system."
Troiano said he would establish a so-called Cut & Invest Commission, which would, over the next decade, identify $200 billion in low-priority spending on programs that are wasteful, duplicative, or ineffective. Half the money saved from the elimination of the spending would be used to reduce the federal deficit, and the other half would be invested "in things that will help our economy become more competitive over the long term," Troiano said.
- Scott Brion said: "I think the very first thing as an incumbent congressman that you can do to improve the economy is not to hurt it. And so, I think the last four years have been disastrous in terms of government shutdown and debt-ceiling limit battles, because that hurts the economy. So we've lost our AAA credit rating over a political battle." Brion said. Prudent, wise investment by the government will also help the economy, he said. The GI Bill and road and bridge construction are examples of federal investment that have resulted in good returns, Brion said.
- Tom Marino said he would eliminate red tape that is hurting businesses. Marino said the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which he has voted numerous time to repeal, is "crippling the economy." Medical insurance rates have increased significantly because of the ACA, he said. Marino is also calling for a major expansion in the development and use of U.S. energy sources, including natural gas, oil, coal and nuclear power, which he said would create millions of jobs. Marino said he would also lower the corporate tax, which he said is the highest in the world, and eliminate loopholes in the tax. Lowering the tax will cause companies to move back to the United States, he said.
2. What would you do to improve education?
- Marino said: "I am so pro-education," adding that one of his degrees is in secondary education.
"If the government is going to subsidize things, I think it should be education," Marino said.
Marino said he would rather see the government giving out grants to pay for students' college education, instead of college loans. Government should do much more to pay for students' college educations, he said. "I think a basic state school (state college) should cost a student a very minimal (amount of money)," Marino said.
"I think the U.S. Department of Education should be eliminated as we know it," Marino continued. When President Jimmy Carter started the Department of Education in the late 1970s, the agency had 400 employees. Today, the Department of Education has 4,000 to 5,000 employees and is spending "millions and millions of dollars," Marino said. Despite the expansion of the Department of Education, more people are dropping out of high school than ever before and half of the students who graduate from high school cannot read properly, he said.
"So why don't we take that money (that is going to the Department of Education) and send it down to the states, and to the (local school districts), "who know what is best for their particular community," Marino said.
"I think we need smaller classrooms" in public schools, and more teachers, Marino said.
- Troiano said: "I think we found that simply spending more money doesn't lead to better educational outcomes."
Troiano said he thinks more educational funding needs to be tied to educational outcomes.
"I think the federal government spends a lot of money through Pell grants and other subsidies to higher education. That money ought to come with some strings to hold colleges accountable for holding the line on tuition increases and what they are spending the money on," Troiano said. "That's one way the federal government could put some downward pressure on the rising cost of tuition and student loan debt."
Troiano also said he supports the proposed America's Promise Scholarships program, which would make college tuition-free for academically qualified students.
"You have to meet certain academic rigors when you are coming out of high school (to qualify for an America's Promise Scholarship) and you have to be in a financial position to qualify for these scholarships as well, and these scholarships would make the dream of college education within the reach of any American who meets those standards," Troiano said.
Troiano said he would also start a competitive grant program to increase access to pre-schools to families who could not otherwise afford it. Under the grant program, the federal government would provide tuition assistance to low-income families to attend pre-schools that had been accepted into the program because of their satisfactory educational outcomes, he said.
- Brion said he would work to obtain adequate federal funding for rural school districts. Rural school districts need the federal funding much more than suburban school districts because they have fewer students to spread out their costs, higher transportation costs, and a lower tax base, he said. "My focus on education is going to be completely on rural school districts, because I don't think we have people out there doing that," Brion said.