Candidates for U.S. House debate the issues - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Candidates for U.S. House debate the issues

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With only a few months left to make their cases to voters, candidates for the seat Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is leaving the U.S. House of Representatives to run for U.S. Senate — Alex Mooney and Nick Casey — convened at Charleston Civic Center July 24.

The forum, conducted by the West Virginia Business and Industry Council and moderated by Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association and also chairman of BIC, consisted of audience members asking questions that were answered by Mooney, the Republican candidate, and Casey, the Democratic candidate.

The event lasted from 10:30 a.m. until noon, and audience members’ questions broached several subjects, with Mooney and Casey agreeing on some solutions and disagreeing on others.

Independent candidate Ed Rabel also will be on the ballot with Casey and Mooney.

Education

When it comes to the issue of education, both Mooney and Casey agree local is better, with both candidates offering their opinions on Common Core curriculum.

“The United States Constitution oddly doesn’t say anything about the duty of the United States of America on education but, somehow, the United States Department of Education has been created and in its mind, has become the super superintendent of schools,” Casey said. “It all boils down to this: The U.S. Department of Education should be helping and supporting the states. You can get best practices from other states and information to help us.

“Basic education belongs to those locally. All my teacher friends and administrative friends tell me the biggest problems they have (with Common Core) is trying to do the data collection and the assessments and the constant testing that’s being driven down on them. Get bureaucrats out of the classroom and let West Virginia teachers teach West Virginians.”

Mooney echoed the sentiment that federal government should stay out of the educational arena and referenced the recent woes of the Internal Revenue Service and the Veteran’s Administration.

“Return education to local control,” Mooney said. “You the parents know your child’s educational needs better than the federal government. The counties know that better than the federal government. The state knows that better than the federal government.

“(Comprehensive education) is not the role of the federal government.”

Another educational issue Mooney said both he and Casey agree on is school choice.

“We should have school choice,” Mooney said. “Competition is good in the educational business, just like competition is good in a free enterprise system. Competition is good for the business community.”

Health care

Both Mooney and Casey agreed they would individually support legislation that gives state leaders greater latitude in how Medicaid dollars are spent.

While Casey said Mountain State Medicaid has three waiver programs already, the flexibility is “not enough.”

“There needs to be more opportunity to do things at the local level,” Casey said.

One of Casey’s proposed solutions in regard to Medicaid is streamlining the current waiver system. He said that by giving more discretion to the state to improve existing programs, West Virginians will directly benefit.

According to Mooney, Medicaid costs are “eating away at other core state functions like education, transportation and public safety,” and he said the “state knows best how to spend Medicaid dollars” that currently comprise “24 percent of state spending right now.”

‘Obamacare’

So, what issues do Mooney and Casey disagree on? “Obamacare,” for one. While Casey pointed to the approximately 153,000 individuals who enrolled in Medicaid between the summer of 2013 and April of 2014, as cited in a study by Wallet Hub, Mooney said overall, Obamacare has resulted in “higher taxes, higher premiums and fewer jobs.”

“In West Virginia, premiums have gone up 36 percent,” Mooney said.

Instead of a complete repeal, though, Casey advocates changing the 40 hour work week requirement.

“None of us hire on a 40 hour week,” Casey said. “Maybe 35 hours.

“We’ve created a situation where employers have to jiggle the hours to avoid the tax.”

According to Mooney, the solution to “Obamacare” is an entire repeal.

“Obamacare is a complete mess,” he said. “Anything you try and fix, the whole thing falls apart. It was patch worked together and pushed through.

“We were told, ‘You (can) keep your doctor and your plan if you like it.’ That’s simply not true. With the smallest change, you can lose your plan and your doctor.”

Mooney advocates for allowing people to buy health care insurance across state lines, as well as tort reform and health savings accounts.

“Stop suing the doctors and hospitals so much so they can take the health care costs down,” he said.

Energy

In a state where energy is the primary economic focus, energy policy and environmental regulation were at the forefront of the discussion. Both candidates urged West Virginia and the nation to take advantage of its natural resources.

“We are blessed with abundant energy resources on American soil,” Mooney said, adding that exploring natural resources to the greatest potential will lead to an increase in jobs, a lower cost of energy and a decrease in energy dependence.

Despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s cap and trade policy on coal, Mooney said oil and natural gas development and exploration is booming, just not on federal land.

“Oil and gas is booming in this state, but only on privately owned lands,” he said. “Federal lands are locked up under President (Barack) Obama. He won’t let them be explored.”

In order to lessen the effects of “Obama’s war on coal,” Mooney said he would support legislation to de-fund and restrict the EPA, as well as remind Congress they still have the power over tax dollars.

Casey said simply “the EPA has been a real problem.”

“West Virginia is poised on a great opportunity,” he said. “We have coal and now we have gas. We’ve got the rails, river and pipes. Geographically, we’re right in the heart of where energy needs to go.

“This is our chance to make things happen, to restore us … as a powerhouse. Build that pipeline, produce those wells and make it all happen.”

In terms of tactical approaches to lessen EPA restrictions, Casey said it is up to Congress to not give up.

“Congress needs to keep the agency in line,” he said. “When our Legislature passes a bill, it goes to the agency to write the rules and it comes back to the Legislature.

“If the Legislature feels (the rules) do not fairly do what we said it was going to do, the Legislature sends it back and says, ‘Try again.’ We have to get people in Congress who understand that Congress has power.”

According to Mooney, one of his “big issues” is coal ash disposal.

“The EPA won’t allow for a responsible, economically reasonable way to dispose of coal ash,” he said. “We need to elect people who will push back with this issue.”

When it comes to the issues of climate change, both candidates said they “leave it to the scientific community.”

According to Casey, the responsibility of bearing the role of climate change leader only leads to “paying for it at the expanse of our own economy.”

“I would be the first to say we’ve already reduced our carbon emissions dramatically,” he said.

Although Mooney said climate change is “not a settled issue,” he did say he “understands we have to be good stewards of our environment.”

However, a cap and trade policy is not the answer. Mooney pointed to China’s lack of an EPA agency and said by “prohibiting the construction of new coal fired power plants and forcing existing ones into retirement,” coal is often shipped overseas, making the climatic global environment worse due to other countries’ lack of regulation.

To better balance the regulatory environment in Washington, Mooney suggests attaching “sunset limits” to bills so they automatically expire after a set amount of time.

“(The limit) would require a government agency that implements a rule with over a $100 million economic impact to be approved by Congress first,” he said. “Congress can oversee it and stop it if it doesn’t make sense.

“It will force regulatory agencies to come back over a time period to get money reauthorized. It gives Congress the chance to say, ‘You’re not doing it right. You need to do more of this and less of that.’”

Entitlement reform

When it comes to tackling the $18 trillion debt and entitlement reform, both candidates agree something needs to be done.

Both Casey and Mooney said social security is a “promise to seniors that needs to be kept.”

“We have to protect our seniors … those who are close to retiring and have paid through the system for many years,” Mooney said. “The government made a promise to our seniors and we need to fulfill that promise.”

In regard to tackling the national debt, Mooney advocates for bipartisan agreement on spending cuts and getting people back to work in order to “pay into the system.”

“We have to force ourselves to cut spending and make decisions,” he said. “The answer for many is just to simply raise taxes. It’s not the solution. We need common sense reforms.”

For Casey, a balanced budget is vital.

“We have that in West Virginia and it works,” he said. “I don’t know why the United States of America can’t balance a budget and make something happen.”

When it comes to entitlement reform, Casey said re-evaluating those in the Medicaid program particularly to see if they should continuing receiving benefits is important.

“We know we’ve got a problem with the Medicaid program with people who are just taking advantage of it,” he said. “We need to start policing the Medicaid side particularly.”