GOP hopefuls talk taxes, health care

Congress must do away with earmarks — pet projects written into spending bills — to eliminate wasteful spending, Republican candidates for the 4th Congressional District seat said Saturday.

That's one issue on which the four candidates agree.

"It's time to get all that fluff out," said state Sen. Jean Schodorf.

Mike Pompeo, a Wichita businessman, said earmarks lead to bad federal policy and unfair competition.

"I promise you that we'll grow this district's jobs without that," he said.

The four candidates — Schodorf, Pompeo, oilman Wink Hartman and retired airline pilot and small business owner Jim Anderson — took part in a debate at a Republican Women United candidate forum in west Wichita.

About 75 people attended.

The four are competing for the nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who is running for U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback's Senate seat; Brownback is running for Kansas governor.

The candidates also answered questions on topics such as health care and federal bailouts, among other issues.

While there is much talk about repealing the newly passed health care reform bill, they were asked what parts should be retained.

"I would love to answer that question," Pompeo said. "But I don't think anybody knows what's all in there. ... We need to start over."

For one, competition for health insurance should cross state lines, he said.

Schodorf said two areas that should be retained are coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and extending health insurance to college students until age 26. That way they are covered while they are out looking for a job, she said.

Anderson said it's not the federal government's job to mandate health care.

"It's a state issue," he said.

Hartman called the health care bill a "job killer."

It is burdensome and penalizes businesses, he said. If businesses don't provide "adequate" health insurance, they'll be penalized.

"What that means, I can't begin to tell you that," Hartman said.

When it comes to federal bailouts and the budget, Schodorf called for a balanced budget, and eliminating or lowering the capital gains tax.

She also favors giving tax exemptions to businesses that hire the unemployed.

Pompeo said that when he talks to bankers in small Kansas towns, he's told that Obama is encouraging them to make loans. At the same time, however, the government "is doing everything against it."

Anderson, meanwhile, said he thinks the tax structure should be changed to the so-called "fair tax," which would replace federal income and payroll taxes with a progressive national retail sales tax.

"It removes the IRS from our lives," he said.

Hartman said it's not the government's place to pick winners and losers in a federal bailout.

Whenever one of his businesses didn't do well, "I had to survive on my own without government intervention," he said.

In the end, Republicans must keep their eye on the "end game," Hartman said: Voters must choose the candidate in the August primary who can stand up to Democrat Raj Doyle and beat him in the general election.