NORFOLK, Va. - U.S. Senate candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen laid out competing visions on Friday for improving the economy and avoiding severe cuts to defense spending during a forum in military-heavy Norfolk.
The two picked up where they left off the night before during their final debate in Blacksburg, with Allen telling the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce that hundreds of thousands of Virginia jobs connected to the military are needlessly being used as political bargaining chips to raise taxes on the wealthy.
Allen was referring to what's called sequestration, a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts that will take effect if Congress doesn't reach a budget solution in the next few months. Half the cuts are set to come from the Pentagon under a deal negotiated between President Barack Obama and Republican leaders in Congress.
Earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the chamber crowd that the spending cuts would be devastating to the military and that Congress needs to strike a deal to avoid it. In Virginia, the Hampton Roads region would be among the most hard hit if the cuts go into effect in January.
Allen was opposed to the sequestration deal in the first place that was implemented when Congress failed to agree on spending cuts, and pointed out that Kaine supported it.
"Now we have 200,000 jobs being threatened here in Virginia, many of which are here in the Hampton Roads area," said Allen, a Republican. "Now the other side is saying well what needs to be done with this is raise taxes. Now raising taxes in this fragile economy is only going to cause more job losses."
For his part, Kaine said he was the candidate best suited to reach a budget compromise, which, he said, would need to focus on spending cuts and tax increases. He said he would only raise taxes on those making $500,000 or more a year, twice the figure the Obama administration has proposed.
"There's nothing magical about that number, but it's a compromise," Kaine said. "At this point we ought to be looking for a compromise. One side is not going to walk over to the other and say `You know what? You've been right all along and we'll all just join you.' That's not going to happen. "
Kaine said his proposal would produce more than $500 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.
Kaine and Allen didn't appear in the same room at the same time at the forum. Instead, each spoke for about 30 minutes and then took several questions from the audience. Among other things, both responded to an audience question saying that they opposed taking away secret ballots for workers considering unionizing. Each also touted his record working with members of other parties and listed the names of companies that moved to Virginia when he served as governor.
Allen said he would boost job creation by eliminating burdensome regulations and cutting taxes. Kaine pointed out that he would support investments in infrastructure as a way to create jobs and create economic stability in the long term.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis
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