- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MILWAUKEE (AP) - U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, a Sherwood Republican, faces Democrat Ron Gruett, a professor at Marion University, on the Nov. 4 ballot. The Associated Press asked them to answer the same 10 questions in 130 words or less. Their responses follow.

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Question: The latest favorability rating for members of Congress is 13 percent. What would you do to improve the functioning of the body?

Gruett: Members on both sides of the aisle are forced into extreme positions for fear of being primaried. I would have a non-partisan group draw congressional districts that are not sure wins for either party. This would force our representatives to vote for all the people in their district.

Ribble: I would mandate a five day workweek. I would put enforcement triggers on pay or time away from D.C. when core responsibilities are not completed - like a budget agreement and completion of spending bills. I would also require Congress to address the issues of the day (such as highway trust fund, Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, Social Security) vs. just ignoring them and kicking the can down the road. Congress needs to work for the American people again.

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Question: Describe one area in which you differ from your party leadership.

Gruett: If I would have been the attorney general, I would have put many bankers in jail after the last financial meltdown. There is still time.

Ribble: I believe Congress should not adjourn until its required budget and spending bills are passed. Congress should not leave Washington until its work is done. I believe the House should operate in a more open process as well. Allowing more votes and amendments by all members as well as allowing more debate time in the House. This would be beneficial to the institution and to the American people. I believe we ought to move forward with long-term solutions on the issues that Americans face.

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Question: What role should the federal government take in creating jobs and stimulating the economy?

Gruett: When times are hard I think the government must stimulate the economy to put people back to work. The problem is that we do not have a Roosevelt today. We have a group of selfish people whose main concern is getting re-elected.

Ribble: The government should foster job creation by helping create an environment where workers and businesses can do what they do best: innovate and produce exceptional services and products right here in America. Our tax system is so woefully out of date and dysfunctional that it is actually hurting our economy. We need to simplify the tax code, close loopholes that only benefit the well connected, and bring certainty and competitiveness back. We need to simplify our regulatory system as well. American businesses can compete with any nation in the world, but not when bureaucrats are tying one hand behind their back with ever-changing rules and regulations. Finally we should properly invest in infrastructure.

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Question: What do you see as the single biggest area of waste in the federal budget?

Gruett: Obviously the biggest waste is going to be where we spend the most money, so that would be the military. We build weapons that the armed forces didn’t ask for and don’t want, to keep jobs in the state or congressional district of powerful politicians.

Ribble: There’s too many to single out just one, but reducing the “use it or lose it” spending mentality at federal agencies would be a good start. Too many agencies waste taxpayer money at the end of the year on things they don’t need because they are afraid their budgets will be reduced. I’ve introduced legislation to fix that problem. Government has an important role to play, and essential services that it must provide, but I believe virtually every agency could operate more efficiently and effectively.

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Question: Everyone says they pay too much in taxes. Aside from lowering taxes, what changes would you make to the federal tax code to improve its efficiency and fairness?

Gruett: Search through the tax code and eliminate all special interest deductions.

Ribble: Many deductions and policies were put in place by special interest groups solely for the benefit of a small segment of the population and the vast majority of these deductions benefit those with higher incomes. We need policies that close those loopholes and deductions, reduce rates and bring fairness back to the code. Additionally, our corporate tax system is wholly uncompetitive. We have the highest tax rates on businesses, not just in the Western hemisphere, but the entire globe. We wonder why companies are growing operations elsewhere, reducing operations here in the USA, sending our jobs overseas, and keeping trillions of dollars offshore? It’s because our tax system is antiquated and backwards compared to almost every other nation on the planet . and it’s only getting worse.

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Question: Under what circumstances would you support military intervention in another country?

Gruett: If the United States is attacked, and Congress votes for intervention.

Ribble: It would need to be in our national security interests. I believe all other avenues, whether financial, diplomatic, regional pressure, etc., need to be fully exercised before military action is taken. Putting American lives at risk needs to be the final step to resolve an issue, not the first step.

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Question: There’s general agreement that the U.S. needs some sort of immigration reform. What changes would you make to fix the system?

Gruett: We already have seven border guards per mile and people keep coming, allured by the promise of jobs. Laws that stop employers from hiring undocumented immigrants, combined with programs that allow people to come here legally to work, would fix the problem.

Ribble: We need to make it easier for individuals to comply with the law and harder for them to break it. That sounds trite but when a family is willing to put their lives at risk and travel 1,500 miles through deserts and dangerous terrain INSTEAD of going 2 miles down the road to the American consulate . it says our system is broken. We need to secure our border first and foremost, and then we must reform our legal immigration process to make it easier for individuals to enter our nation legally. If we do one step without the other, we will not solve the problem.

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Question: What changes would you make to Social Security to ensure the program’s longevity?

Gruett: I would raise the income level that is taxed for Social Security to $250,000. If a family of four making $40,000 per year can pay on every penny they make, I think someone making $250,000 can do the same.

Ribble: We should pass legislation to preserve and protect Social Security instead of putting our heads in the sand and ignoring the crisis. I have proposed some suggestions to secure Social Security for the next 75 years. Possible reforms include: Continuing the Reagan-era reform of slowly raising the retirement age one month per year for the next 20 years. Raising the cap on wages subject to Social Security taxes to account for higher incomes. Means-testing Social Security so the benefits go to those who truly need them. Ensuring that the inflation rate used for determining benefits reflects the costs that seniors actually face. Instituting a longevity and low-income benefit to ensure those who live extraordinarily long or who only have Social Security to rely on are guaranteed a sufficient safety net.

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Question: Barring repeal, what single change would you make to the health care overhaul law to improve care for Americans?

Gruett: I think every state should have its own health care exchange and no state should be allowed to refuse Medicaid funds that help the less well off.

Ribble: There are multiple adjustments that should be instituted. A few would include allowing individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, and allowing individual health care plans that existed prior to the health care law’s enactment to be grandfathered in so people could keep their old health care plans if they wish. I also believe we should reform and correct our broken tort system that forces doctors to practice defensive medicine and raises health care costs for families. We must also put the patient back in charge of the purchase by forcing transparency in pricing. Three hundred million consumers are better at driving down prices by shopping than are several hundred insurance companies shopping for 300,000,000 consumers. Finally we need to incent wellness and healthy living again.

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Question: The states have a patchwork of laws when it comes to marijuana. Should Congress create uniformity by legalizing medical or recreational marijuana?

Gruett: There should be no federal law that bans marijuana. Each state should be allowed to decide if it wants to legalize it.

Ribble: No, I believe it is a state’s rights issue. If Wisconsin’s citizens deem a state policy regarding marijuana in their best interest I do not believe it is within the Constitution for the federal government to intervene or impose a national standard.


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