The 2006 Elections: Pennsylvania Senate

The 2006 Elections: Pennsylvania Senate

Candidate Rick Santorum responds to IndustryWeek's questions.

IndustryWeek submitted questions to candidates from three key political races to better understand how the upcoming election could shape the future of U.S. manufacturing. You can also read responses from Michigan gubernatorial candidates incumbent Democrat Jennifer Granholm and her GOP opponent Dick DeVos and Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).

Editors Note: Santorum's opponent Democrat Bob Casey did not respond to IW's interview request.

IW: What do you think are the most important public policy issues that must be addressed to ensure a strong economic future for manufacturing in your state and nationwide? Why are these the most important?

Santorum: I believe that the most important domestic issue facing our nation is energy independence. I feel strongly about the issue of energy independence due in large part to the crisis we see in the Middle East. Every day we see that we cannot be beholden to the energy supply of those overseas. We must do more to increase our own domestic production through exploration here at home and the development of alternative fuels. I worked hard to provide federal funding for the nation's first clean coal-to-liquid fuel plant, which will take waste coal and turn it into clean burning fuel. This facility will greatly increase our nation's energy supply in an environmentally friendly way, while also creating over 1,600 jobs in and around Schuylkill County.

Throughout my career, I have fought to lower the tax burden on American families and businesses. Allowing people to make their own choices with their hard-earned dollars is critically important to our economic future. Recent trends have shown that cutting taxes results in economic growth, enabling businesses to save, invest and expand. At a time of uncertainty in international affairs, the federal government should do everything in its power to keep our economy strong -- and that means fighting the urge to raise taxes on American families and businesses. It is deeply troubling that my opponent wants to hinder our economy from growing and increase the tax burden of hardworking Pennsylvanians and all Americans.

IW: Where do you stand on pending trade bills, including Schumer-Graham, Hunter-Ryan, Grassley-Baucus? How do you think these bills would affect U.S. manufacturing?

Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)
Santorum: Trade is vital to the American economy, and the federal government should work to remove market barriers and open new markets. And we must seek ways to enhance the competitive nature of American products in the world markets. This will work to expand American companies and create new jobs. At the same time, free trade must be fair trade. We can be tough and fair on trade at the same time by strictly enforcing all of our trade laws and calling attention to the unfair trading practices of many of our trading partners. I have supported efforts to provide relief from import surges that have threatened various sectors of our economy, from our manufacturing base to our agricultural sector. I am committed to protecting our investment in American infrastructure and to promoting our trade interests. I will continue to fight for trade opportunities in new and more open markets, so our manufacturing sector will remain competitive.

IW: How do you plan to address business leaders' concerns about the cost and scope of health-care coverage?

Santorum: Access to quality health care is a critically important issue facing our country. I believe we must discover more ways to ensure that individuals have ownership over their health-care decisions, while ensuring that those who are most vulnerable are insured. That is why I have been a vocal advocate for Health Savings Accounts. I have introduced legislation to make HSAs more affordable by creating refundable tax credits that can be used to purchase traditional insurance or HSAs. Specifically, this legislation would eliminate the unfair tax bias against individuals who purchase their own health-care coverage and make HSAs more affordable by providing a tax credit to small businesses who contribute money to an employee's HSA. HSAs empower individuals in their health-care decisions and give them an asset that they own, control and can use for their health care as they grow older. Over 3.2 million Americans have already enrolled in HSAs and the number continues to increase.

I have also introduced legislation that would adjust a tax disparity that hinders Americans without job-based health insurance from receiving affordable health coverage. My legislation would help the nation's more than 40 million uninsured persons obtain health coverage by creating a new tax credit for the purchase of private health insurance. This legislation creates a fully refundable tax credit of $1,000 per adult and $500 per child or $3,000 per family, indexed for inflation, for the purchase of private health insurance. It also allows participants to look for personalized coverage that best suits their needs. It leaves individuals free to buy more generous coverage with after-tax dollars, and leaves states free to supplement the credit with state funds.

Another initiative that I have been fighting for is small business health plans, and I am a cosponsor of S.406, Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005. This legislation would allow small business employers to join together to obtain better insurance rates for their employees. When organizations made up of more people seek health insurance, they are generally quoted better rates than single individuals or businesses made up of just a few people. This legislation would offer groups of small businesses the same benefits that larger employers and unions enjoy -- greater bargaining power to obtain lower premiums and less administrative costs.

My opponent has come out in support of a nationalized, government-run health insurance plan that not only limits an individual's ownership over their health-care decisions but would bankrupt the system.

IW: Do you think drilling for oil and gas in coastal waters and Alaska should be expanded? Why or Why not?

Santorum: I strongly support environmentally responsible domestic exploration for oil and gas. I have cosponsored and the Senate has passed legislation that would make an 8.3 million acre area of the Gulf of Mexico open to oil and gas leasing. It has been estimated that this area of our outer continental shelf has over 1.2 billion barrels of oil and 5.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available. I support oil exploration in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) for several reasons. First, we can do so safely because the United States has among the most stringent environmental safeguards in the world. In addition, ANWR exploration will create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country. Finally, the predicted 900,000 to one million barrels of oil produced each day through exploration in ANWR will go a long way towards ending our dependence on foreign oil. My opponent has said he opposes both of these efforts and has failed to lay out an alternative plan to utilize our domestic sources of energy.

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