Third District congressional candidates Karl Snow and Bill Orton debated taxes, wilderness, U.S. policy in the Middle East, the budget deficit and welfare programs at Utah Valley Community College Wednesday.
And, yes, they also debated debating.The two candidates managed to reveal a few philosophical and stylistic differences during the course of the debate.
Snow, the Republican, emphasized his political experience.
"I believe I do have the background, both by way of education and experience in Utah - knowing the political system, knowing state and local government in Utah - that I can adequately represent a district that is varied in its interests."
Orton, the Democrat, said he offers the 3rd District a "fresh, new vision."
"I'm not a politician," Orton said. "I've never run for political office in my life. I am an attorney. I am a businessman and I'm fed up. I'm fed up with what has been going on in Washington, D.C. I'm fed up with politicians and politics as usual. And, I think we're ready for a change."
The candidates' differing political views surfaced as they debated taxes and deficit-reduction ideas.
Orton favors creation of a transfer tax system, which taxes wealth as it moves from one individual to another, and eventually phasing out the income tax system. Snow, on the other hand, believes the current tax system may be the most equitable system possible. He opposes the transfer tax and said it is "about as regressive as the sales tax on food in the state of Utah."
Orton said, however, that increases in inflation and interest rates, which are tied to increases in the national debt, are "the most regressive thing imposed upon us."
"The point of the transfer tax is that as you come up with a fixed system to pay off that debt; inflation and interest rates will, in fact, decrease, thereby limiting that negative impact from the transfer tax," Orton said.
Snow and Orton also have differing views on governmental support for day-care programs for children of low-income, working mothers.
Snow opposes the recently passed child-care bill because of what he calls its excessive threshold limit and "governmental involvement in a family matter."
"It takes it away from the family, the neighborhood and other cooperative programs that can adequately provide for that kind of care," Snow said.
He said there "is opportunity obviously to offer tax deduction, tax credits where those are needed where a mother must go to work."
Orton said, however, many single parents who need child-care assistance don't earn enough money to pay taxes, and therefore would not benefit from tax credits or deductions. On the whole, he favors the child-care bill Congress passed.
"We must provide child care and it is not efficient to do it simply with tax incentives," Orton said. "That helps . . . a doctor and a lawyer who are married and they both want to go work and earn $50,000, $60,000, $80,000 a year. Great. Tax incentives are going to help them a lot.
"But they are not going to do anything for the mother who is stuck with four or five children, who has the opportunity to get an $18,000- or $20,000-a-year job."
Issues aside, the biggest differences between the candidates appear to be in how they view themselves and their potential role as a congressman.
Orton accused Snow of rehashing old ideas, in particular the Grace Commission report, drafted 10 years ago. Most of the suggestions in the document have been implemented already, he said.
"He is focusing on the past," Orton said. "He is focusing on his past record and he has no new ideas . . . Karl has indicated he would go to Congress with no agenda, that he doesn't propose to have the solutions to suggest to Congress. I have fresh, new ideas. I have new approaches."
Snow said the 3rd District needs a congressman with maturity and experienced judgment, and that those traits would serve him well in Congress.
"He (Orton) claims he is the conservative within the Democratic party and wants to go to Washington representing a party whose platform he is so far out of sync with that I think he would indeed be shelved," Snow said.
"It is not simply a matter of charging out in a Congress consisting of 435 other members and proposing this, that and the other. It is true that you have to work within the system. I believe I can do that."