Candidate speaks on budget issues

by Chris Vetter

Fed up with vague answers from Minnesota’s U.S. Senate candidates, 5th Congressional District candidate Jack Uldrich held a press conference Tuesday to try and show Minnesotans that at least one person who wants to represent them in Washington has concrete plans. The 5th District encompasses the Minneapolis campus.
Uldrich, a Republican, said he decided to hold the press conference after watching the senatorial debate Sunday night between Paul Wellstone, the Democratic incumbent, and his Republican challenger Rudy Boschwitz.
“I was extremely frustrated with both candidates’ unwillingness to get into the specifics of how they would balance the budget, … ” Uldrich said. “I think people desperately want specifics.”
During the press conference, which was held at the St. Paul State Office Building, Uldrich announced plans he would push for if elected. He proposed cutting federal spending on Medicare and Social Security, which he believes will help balance the budget.
He suggested gradually raising the eligibility age for both programs from 65 to 70 over the next 30 years, and limiting cost of living adjustments to the rate of inflation. Uldrich also proposed increasing premiums for Medicare recipients and beginning means testing for individuals who wish to receive benefits from the programs.
According to the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization aimed at balancing the budget, these four proposals would save $60 billion by 2002.
Uldrich said means testing, which would allow the government to deny benefits to people with higher incomes, is the most controversial proposal. But politicians need to face that reality because it is necessary to keep the programs solvent, he said.
“Both candidates (Wellstone and Boschwitz) completely ducked a means testing question on Social Security,” Uldrich said.
Means testing would begin at individual income levels of $40,000.
He said if Medicare is not fixed now, it will be bankrupt in five years. “We have got to begin addressing this,” he said. “If we wait six years, it will pit workers against retirees.”
Reducing entitlement spending is also necessary so there is still money left when today’s college students eventually retire, Uldrich said. People do not want to pay money into a system that they will never reap the benefits from later, he said.
Uldrich said time is running out for members of both parties to come together and fix Medicare and Social Security.
“This issue will only grow larger in coming years,” Uldrich said. “This is not a partisan issue.”
Along with Boschwitz and Wellstone, Uldrich charged his opponent in the Nov. 5 election, incumbent Rep. Martin Sabo, with vagueness on the issue.
“The fact that Martin Sabo has been silent for 18 years tells me he is an entitlement coward,” Uldrich said. “I am directing my anger at my opponent, but I would like to see a higher level of discourse in the Senate race.”
Sabo could not be reached for comment.
Because his campaign does not have much money, Uldrich has yet to begin a mass advertising campaign. He said radio ads will come out in a few weeks, however, to help get his name and ideas out to voters.
Despite being the endorsed candidate by the Republican Party, Uldrich does not campaign on traditional Republican issues. He supports gay marriages, abortion rights and bans on guns. He said he supported President Clinton’s 1993 crime bill, which outlawed several types of automatic weapons.
Uldrich’s support for abortion rights is a touchy issue within the Republican Party. Chris Flynn, an Edina native who challenged Uldrich in the Republican primary, received a third of the vote by running on the single issue of being an abortion opponent.