Senate candidates answer questions on EAS, other issuesThe three candidates vying for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Kent Conrad recently answered a series of questions about current issues.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
The three candidates vying for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Kent Conrad recently answered a series of questions about current issues.
Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., is currently the state’s lone representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Republican candidate Duane Sand ran for the U.S. Senate in North Dakota in 2000 in addition to candidacies for the state’s U.S. House seat in 2004 and 2008.
Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp served as North Dakota attorney general from 1993-2000 and ran for governor of North Dakota on the Democratic ticket in 2000.
Berg and Sand answered the questions by interview. Heitkamp could not be reached for an interview and answered the questions by email.
Where do you see Essential Air Service going beyond the contract that ends in 2013? Will there be funding for this program to support regional airports like the one in Jamestown?
Berg: “Nationally, there are some issues with Essential Air Service but I don’t see anything changing for North Dakota and I don’t see any concern here for Jamestown. As far as regional airports are concerned, it’s a critical link for business here … so those in North Dakota, and certainly Jamestown, would be at the top of the priority list.”
Sand: “Everything should be on the table, especially in terms of issues like how to fund Essential Air Service. What I’ve always said is that I’m interested in solutions that all forms of government can afford. If it makes sense to borrow money to fund it, then it has to be an option, but if it doesn’t then we have to consider that option as well.”
Heitkamp: “I support the Essential Air Service program and I’ll fight to make sure that North Dakota receives its fair share of funding. Everyone understands we need to get our budget under control but we must maintain the transportation infrastructure.”
Where do you see the government subsidy on crop insurance going in the future and do you support such a subsidy?
Berg: “Crop insurance is the No. 1 priority for our farm program. Agriculture is a bright spot in our country right now, one that is creating jobs and new revenue. As a policy-making body, we need to encourage agriculture rather than put up barriers for its growth.”
Sand: “I support crop insurance and I see absolutely no scenario where crop insurance programs will be jeopardized, nor should it be because it is critical to not only our country, but the world. It is the safety net for farmers and it is essential to our nation.”
Heitkamp: “When I travel around the state talking to farmers and commodity groups, what I hear is that people understand it’s time to make some responsible cuts in the farm bill, but that crop insurance is a key part of the safety net we need to protect and preserve. I will work to protect and preserve the crop insurance program that our farm community depends on.”
What is your stance on Measure 2?
Berg: “I haven’t weighed in on initiated measures because I think it clouds the decision making for those voting on them. I will say that I have always believed in the people’s right to make a decision in North Dakota. I don’t know how it’s going to play out, though.”
Sand: “As of now, I am voting in favor of Measure 2. The issue of tripling the state budget in 10 years needs to be addressed and certainly property tax has become a major problem. If this doesn’t pass, at least the pressure will exist for the Legislature to address this issue in the future.”
Heitkamp: “I completely understand the frustrations that many North Dakotans have about our property tax system. With that said, I oppose Measure 2 because it centralizes control over education and local government services in Bismarck rather than where our citizens live.”
Where do you stand on transportation funding for our roads and highway system?
Berg: “It is absolutely critical. Our national highway bill expired in 2009 — one of the most important things is to create a long-term highway bill to create stability. That bill helps states like North Dakota because it says ‘here’s the revenue we need to get from the federal levels, here’s the amount we need to match’ and therefore, the state can plan accordingly for that.”
Sand: “I’m a huge advocate of the federal government supporting our roads. It is as essential as supporting things like our military. I support a local comprehensive state and federal plan, especially for western North Dakota. Infrastructure is vital to our economy and to our state, especially for the western part of the state where the traffic is for the oil.”
Heitkamp: “The transportation bill is a perfect example of just how broken Washington, D.C., is right now. I’ll fight for a long-term transportation bill that helps us address our infrastructure needs in the west where the oil boom has strained our roads.”
Where do you stand regarding Critical Access Hospitals and the 1 percent federal reimbursement plan that they receive, especially for rural hospitals like some of the ones here in North Dakota?
Berg: “I’m extremely supportive of it. Rural health care is key. The challenge in Washington is that they assume every city has a million people in it. Also, I worry about the president’s health care bill, which implements an appointed board of officials to make recommendations about reimbursement levels. With that, we would end up going down a trail of power being taken out of the hands of our elected officials.”
Sand: “I have seen the devastating effects on rural hospitals and the increased travel times and travel costs that have taken place over my lifetime. In rural states, we face those challenges so I fully support the reimbursement for services and care.”
Heitkamp: “The vast majority of North Dakota’s hospitals — 36 of the 52 certified hospitals — are Critical Access Hospitals. The facilities are the lynchpin to North Dakota’s health care system. The president has proposed cutting funding for Critical Access Hospitals and that’s something I think he’s wrong about.”
Where do you stand on the current state of the U.S. Postal Service? The USPS has had its issues and has been consolidating process centers (much like the one in Jamestown moving to Fargo). There has also been talk of eliminating Saturday delivery.
Berg: “I want to make sure rural America has postal coverage. There is no doubt that the U.S. post office has not always run things well, but that should not fall on the back of rural North Dakota.”
Sand: “The people of North Dakota I have talked to have said the Postal Service has a monopoly. It’s not the fault of the people using the Postal Service — there has been a lot of mismanagement over the years. I can’t understand how eliminating Saturday delivery would be the answer — there has to be other options.”
Heitkamp: “Many North Dakotans rely upon our post offices to connect our businesses and communities to the world. I will work to lift the unfair regulations Congress has imposed on the post office and give the organization more flexibility to meet its budget without forcing rural post office closures.”
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com