Herrera slams ‘runaway spending’

She says getting U.S. budget under control key to recovery

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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Republican congressional candidate Jaime Herrera told an enthusiastic Vancouver Rotary Club crowd Wednesday that more government spending isn’t the way to solve the nation’s unemployment crisis. The real culprit standing in the way of economic recovery, she said, is the federal government’s “runaway spending,” and both political parties are to blame.

Herrera, a state representative who lives in Camas, said what she is hearing on the campaign trail is that business owners “don’t need a bailout.” Instead, she said, they want government to get out of their way and stop driving up the federal deficit.

As an assistant to Eastern Washington Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers during the Bush administration, she said she had a front-row seat “to watch the Republicans self-destruct” when they drove up the deficit and grew the size of government. That trend has accelerated under the Obama administration, she said, with the $787 billion federal stimulus last year, a $26 billion state bailout this summer and President Barack Obama’s latest proposal to spend $50 billion on transportation infrastructure.

On a day when Clark County learned its August unemployment rate had jumped to 13.9 percent, Herrera noted that both she and Denny Heck, her Democratic opponent in the hotly contested 3rd Congressional District race, are talking about how to stimulate job growth.

“But the way we get to job creation is very, very different,” Herrera said. “He believes more federal spending is going to get us out of this,” she said in an interview. “I believe the spending is what is causing the uncertainty,” because businesses are worried about footing the bill.

Heck was in Vancouver on Tuesday for a jobs rally and plans to travel throughout the district over the next five weeks meeting with businesses to hear their ideas about what government can do to help them begin growing again and hiring more workers.

Herrera noted that most political pundits are predicting that Republicans will sweep the election. But she said in an interview she disagrees that voter dissatisfaction is entirely a partisan issue. Instead, she said, there’s a voter backlash against what she called “the elite establishment,” including members of Congress “who think they know best.”

If elected, she said, she would push to stop spending the money Congress appropriated in the federal stimulus and return the unspent money — about $270 billion — to the federal treasury to reduce the deficit.

She said she would also back a “re-do” of the 2009 health reform bill. Among other changes, she said, she would support amending the bill to save Medicare Advantage plans, which allow seniors to purchase medical services and prescription drugs from private insurance companies instead of opting for standard Medicare coverage. About half of Clark County seniors rely on those plans, she said.

The health reform bill reduces federal subsidies to Medicare Advantage plans, which cost on average 14 percent more than standard Medicare benefits.

Herrera said she favors extending the Bush administration’s expiring tax cuts for families in all income brackets. Asked how that squares with her goal of reducing the federal deficit, she said, “In my view, it’s not adding to the deficit when a middle-income family gets to keep more of what it’s earned.”

Heck said Tuesday he favors extending the tax cuts for middle-class families but not for families with incomes greater than $250,000.

High-level federal bureaucrats and members of Congress should take voluntary 10 percent pay cuts to send a message to voters that “we aren’t going to live in an elite bubble,” she said. “We have to get our fiscal house in order and let our entrepreneurs grow their businesses.”

In a question-and-answer session with Rotary members, Herrera said:

• The federal government needs to “pony up” to pay for a new Columbia River Crossing. “I believe the federal government needs to bear the lion’s share of the cost.” When agencies protest that federal rules prohibit them from taking action that’s in the best interest of the 3rd Congressional District, she said, it’s the job of the 3rd District representative to push for changes in those rules.

• The practice of appointing federal “czars” to oversee broad federal policies that affect people’s lives makes her “nervous.” “These people are unelected bureaucrats,” she said.

• She opposes so-called “card check” legislation that would facilitate union organizing. “I have continued to advocate for workers’ right to vote in secrecy” for union representation, she said. “I am not against union members, but I will oppose card check.”

In an interview, Herrera said recent Democratic Party hit pieces about the companies bankrolling right-wing organizations that are buying TV time to run ads on her behalf are nothing but a “red herring.”

“I have no control over what they do,” she said. “All these groups realize the House is in play. My concern is that our campaign gives people a clear distinction between what my opponent thinks and what I think.”

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4522; kathie.durbin@columbian.com.