New Mexico Business Weekly - August 22, 2008 ... ily44.html

Friday, August 22, 2008 - 2:58 PM MDT
Senate and House candidates talk economy and energyNew Mexico Business Weekly - by Megan Kamerick
Helping small businesses get affordable health care for their employees, energy prices, immigration reform and the economy were the central issues tackled by candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate at a forum today at the Marriott Pyramid Hotel in Albuquerque. The forum was hosted by Women Impacting Public Policy and the Association of Commerce and Industry.

Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Darren White, vying for the Congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-NM, faced one another in a debate style format. U.S. Representatives Tom Udall, a Democrat, and Steve Pearce, a Republican, running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pete Domenici, spoke separately.

Udall and Heinrich said they support the idea of tax credits for businesses that offer wellness and preventative health programs. Heinrich also said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should negotiate for lower drug prices as the Veterans Administration does. Udall said the goal should be universal access for everyone and he supports the idea of making the plan that members of Congress benefit from available to small businesses. He also supports expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover all children.

White and Pearce said they support legislation to allow small businesses to group together and use that increased leverage to negotiate lower prices for health care plans. They also said curtailing health-related lawsuits, which they call tort reform, would lower health care costs. White rejected any idea of the federal government taking over health care.

Most of the candidates said that a border fence would do little to address the issue of illegal immigration but said that it’s necessary to secure the border with technology and more personnel. White and Heinrich blasted Congress for failing to implement comprehensive immigration reform and said businesses need access to a reliable verification system so they don’t hire undocumented immigrants.

White decried what he called mean-spirited rhetoric that has accompanied the immigration debate and said the majority of undocumented immigrants are coming here to feed their families. He supports a guest worker program after the border has been secured.

Pearce flatly rejected the idea of legalization for anyone here illegally, while Udall said there should be a path to legalization.

On economic issues, Heinrich called for a middle class tax cut and to spend the money now spent in Iraq rebuilding the country’s domestic infrastructure. He disparaged the ballooning of deficits under the current administration and also called for an “Apollo Project