By DANIEL SUDDEATH
With just eight days left until the election, U.S. Rep. Todd Young appeared on stage Monday with Democratic challenger Shelli Yoder for what could be the last time until after the votes are counted.
It was the last of two debates in the 9th District contest, and Yoder again portrayed Young as a GOP rubber stamp, as she said the one-term Congressman votes with the Republican Party 95 percent of the time and is a fervent supporter of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan.
“I’m going to make sure I’m a collaborative leader,” said Yoder, who touted her compassion for struggling families and declared she would end the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 annually.
She said she would address the deficit if elected “but not on the backs of the middle class.”
As a member of the House Budget Committee, Young backed the plan headed by Ryan, who is Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president. As called for in the proposal, Young said major government spending for Social Security and Medicare must be addressed for those less than 55 years of age if the programs are to be sustainable.
“I happen to think it’s a very responsible, gradual plan,” Young said, as he added the proposal isn’t drastic since it would take several years to balance spending under it.
Young argued that he supports some of the same ideas for the country as Yoder, but that without disciplined fiscal practices, he said “what we’re left with is a wish list.”
If creating jobs for Hoosiers is the goal, then eliminating tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 is a mistake, Young continued. Eighty percent of small businesses file taxes under individual status, which would place many of them in the $250,000 or greater category for annual earnings, he said.
“They would eat this increase in taxes,” Young said of Yoder’s proposal.
The candidates were asked questions submitted by 9th District residents, and they gave their answers before a crowd at Corydon Central High School.
A question related to Republican congressional hopeful Richard Mourdock’s comments about abortion last week during a debate in New Albany drew some shouts from the crowd.
The candidates were asked if they agreed with Mourdock’s statement that God creates life even in the case of rape. Young said he was glad Mourdock apologized for the comments, and said he’s anti-abortion and pro adoption.
Yoder said she does believe faith influences decisions.
“But do I believe in the truth of that statement? Absolutely not,” she said.
A follow-up question centered on Planned Parenthood, and specifically whether federal tax funds should be used to support abortion services offered by the organization.
“Abortions are not covered by any federal funding, and they shouldn’t be,” Yoder responded.
Young said he also opposed the practice, and that he’s against Planned Parenthood being able to shift federal funds to other services they offered as a way to offset abortion expenses.
Yoder defended health care services such as preventive screenings provided by Planned Parenthood. She criticized Young’s stances and votes to cut funding in other arenas such as education, which she said are part of the anti-abortion conversation.
“I don’t know how you can be pro life” and vote to reduce Pell Grants and funding for government-aided nutrition programs, Yoder said.
Young countered that Pell Grants were reduced in the Ryan plan — which was not approved by the Senate — to the same levels as prior to government stimulus spending over the past four years.
He connected several programs and spending decisions to the country’s deficit.
For example, the candidates answered a question about the Ohio River Bridges Project. Young said using tolls to fund the bridges would have been his last resort, but that the committee charged with reviewing the finances reached the decision and the region stands to garner hundreds of jobs through construction.
Yoder said she’s definitely against tolls for the bridges, and said 9th District residents and leaders are disappointed in Young’s lack of representation of them on the issue at the federal level.
She suggested creating infrastructure banks to help offset such major projects so that tolls wouldn’t be necessary. Young said he would support infrastructure banks at the state level, but that Yoder hasn’t offered an explanation as to how the federal government could foot such an expense.
Without firm funding sources identified by Yoder on such proposals, Young said it “suggests that we’re going to continue to borrow 42 cents on the dollar from places like China.”
The Affordable Care Act was mentioned by the candidates multiple times during the debate. Yoder criticized Young’s repeated attempts to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care plan, and said the reform is already protecting patients.
Instead of looking back and trying to abolish what has been approved, leaders should be moving forward on health care, she continued.
“We can make this very important legislation work for the American people,” Yoder said.
But Young warned that the individual mandate portion of the legislation doesn’t go into effect until 2014, yet health insurance premiums are still on the rise.
“People making the claim that people are currently benefiting from it are wrong,” Young said of the Affordable Care Act.
He added there are new levies associated with the plan including taxes on medical devices and tanning salons. Young said the country needs to reform health care, but that the most important part of the equation is lowering the costs of medical services.
“And unfortunately the Affordable Care Act does not do that,” he said.