Democratic Senate candidate Ken Lewis in his own words
Posted April 29, 2010 2:32 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2010 4:31 p.m. EDT
What issue would be your top priority if you were elected to represent North Carolinians in the Senate?
The most urgent issue facing families in North Carolina and around the country today is creating jobs. We're in the worst unemployment crisis in 70 years, with 16 million Americans out of work. About a third of them have been out of work for more than six months. North Carolina's jobless rate was 11.1% in March, 42nd worst in the country.
We also have to understand that for most people, this is a long-term economic crisis. The Great Recession, record unemployment, and the tidal wave of home foreclosures are today's headlines. But the crisis for the middle class is much deeper and long-lasting.
Over the last 20 years, real incomes for middle class families fell by 13.2%, while real incomes for the top one in five families has risen 7.4%. That's while the typical middle-income family was working more hours per week than it did in 1979. At the same time, health care is more expensive or not available at all. The cost of higher education is rising faster than inflation. And the dream of a secure retirement is fading.
I've proposed a comprehensive Job Creation Plan for 2010 to fight the crisis head-on. For the short term I have proposed these plans:
The Jobs Now Act. The Jobs Now Act is a bold $75 billion plan to create millions of jobs over the next decade by designing and building the public infrastructure the American people and the American economy need to compete with other economic powers around the world. The Jobs Now Act will begin creating jobs the day it is passed.
State and Local Jobs Recovery Plan. The State and Local Jobs Recovery Plan is a two-year $50 billion initiative to quickly provide federal assistance to state and local governments to preserve the jobs of their employees. The plan would save or create up to a million jobs for police, firefighters, and other vital employees.
Teacher Support Program. The $30 billion temporary 3-year Teacher Support Program would provide federal support to the states to enable them to reduce and reverse job cuts for public school teachers. It would be a bridge to help states get to the other side of the recession, when they can rebuild their infrastructure of teachers.
Nonprofit Recovery Program. The Nonprofit Recovery Program would invest $30 billion over three years in our country's increasingly innovative non-profit sector. The program would fund social entrepreneurs to hire local employees to clean up distressed properties, work for food aid programs, and participate in job training and skill building programs.
New Jobs Tax Credit. The temporary New Jobs Tax Credit would provide a tax credit equal to 15% of net increase in payroll in 2010 for employers who create new jobs. In 2011, the credit would be 10% of new net payroll. Analysts estimate it would produce between 1.4 million and 2.8 million new jobs in 2010 and slightly fewer in 2011.
Public School Investment Fund. This fund would create jobs while addressing the almost $300 billion of backlogged maintenance in our country's public schools. The $30 billion fund would repair schools and equip them with green infrastructure. Even a fund this modest -- 10% of the most-needed repairs -- would quickly create thousands of jobs.
For the longer term, I have proposed these plans:
Unemployment Benefits and COBRA. We must continue to expand these safety nets to help those who are looking for work. Extending unemployment benefits and expanding COBRA is one of the most direct and efficient ways to help families cope with the deep recession and to prevent the collapse of families' long-term economic viability.
Universal Savings Accounts. There is no comprehensive policy to promote regular savings for middle class workers. We should establish Universal Savings Accounts or “automatic IRAs” into which workers could contribute. Neither employers nor employees would have to contribute, but the accounts would make regular savings much easier.
Credit Cards and Personal Debt. I propose to increase federal funding for nonprofit organizations that teach financial literacy and ensure the availability of accurate consumer information. I also support the creation of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency in the financial regulatory legislation now under consideration in the Congress.
New Research & Development Tax Credit. I propose a new Research and Development Tax Credit for manufacturing companies that produce 50% or more of their output here in the United States. This new policy will reward North Carolina companies that invest in innovation and keep jobs in our state.
Tech Transfer and Entrepreneurship at Universities. Our universities are generators of entrepreneurial spin-off companies that create many good jobs in our state. I support policies to make technology transfer easier, by increasing federal funding for university R&D and expanding university-based business incubators and venture capital funds.
Socially Responsible Companies in N.C. I propose providing Sustainability Tax Credits for firms that achieve "triple bottom line" (profits, people, planet) milestones, such as reducing carbon emissions and adopting sustainable environmental management systems. The credits will enable North Carolina to successfully compete for thousands of good new jobs.
Higher Education and Basic Research. I support educational reform that teaches entrepreneurial skills, increased funding for Pell Grants and university basic scientific research, and increasing the Recovery Act College Tax Credit (American Opportunity Tax Credit) from $2,500 to $4,000 and making the credit permanent.
I believe my Job Creation Plan for 2010 will create good jobs and strong communities across North Carolina and the country. I believe it will be good for families, for the middle class, and for our country's economic competitiveness around the world. View the entire plan at www.kenlewisforsenate.com.
This year, North Carolinians are worried about the economy, specifically finding and keeping jobs. What measures would you take as a U.S. senator to spur job creation?
Please see my answer to your previous question.
There's been a lot of talk about budgets and deficits lately. What do you believe should be the nation's fiscal priorities? Is there any area of current spending that you think should not be a priority? Are there any areas that you think should have a higher priority?
At the end of the Clinton administration in 2001, the federal government had historic budget surpluses (a projected $5.6 trillion over ten years) and had made the largest reduction in the federal debt in our nation’s history ($453 billion). The Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress destroyed our country's strong fiscal position. Their lax attitude toward fiscal responsibility included tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans and budgetary gimmicks that failed even to pay for the Iraq War.
I am committed to restoring fiscal responsibility in Washington. No matter what the Bush years bequeathed us, I'll work to put in place long-term debt-reduction policies that will produce balanced budgets of the kind we saw a decade ago.
I support closing corporate tax loopholes and shutting down offshore tax havens, which will produce an estimated $200 billion in revenue over 5 years. I support allowing the Bush-era tax cuts on the very wealthiest Americans to expire. I support smart public policies like health care reform that will substantially lower the federal debt. And I support putting a tax on the small handful of the biggest banks and Wall Street firms which needed the largest infusions of bailout money, so we can get more of our tax dollars back now that these companies are again making enormous profits.
As we learned during Bill Clinton's presidency, a growing economy is the best road to lower deficits. The faster we can end this crushing recession, the more quickly we'll reduce our nation's debt.