ND House hopefuls clash on wind energy subsidyRepublican U.S. House candidate Kevin Cramer on Tuesday defended his support for ending a federal tax break that is important to North Dakota's wind energy industry, saying the subsidy isn't affordable at a time of huge budget deficits.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican U.S. House candidate Kevin Cramer on Tuesday defended his support for ending a federal tax break that is important to North Dakota's wind energy industry, saying the subsidy isn't affordable at a time of huge budget deficits.
Cramer and his Democratic opponent, Pam Gulleson, squared off in a debate broadcast live on Fargo's KFGO Radio. They clashed on wind energy subsidies, health care, taxes and the government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.
Cramer, a state utility regulator and a former North Dakota tourism and economic development director, has taken heat for his support for ending the wind energy subsidy, which has helped to propel the industry's growth in North Dakota.
He said continuing it was unjustifiable given the nation's $16 trillion debt and an electric power surplus that he said had prompted some suppliers to produce wind energy only to get the federal subsidy.
“We have to sacrifice somewhere,” Cramer said. “I think that we, as North Dakotans, have a responsibility to sacrifice just like people everywhere do.”
Gulleson argued the credit was important for the industry's stability and for promoting the growth of renewable energy.
“It's critically important to, not only jobs, but the bigger picture, for our country,” Gulleson said. “I think it's just an important part of our overall energy strategy.”
A federal tax credit that pays 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated during the first 10 years of the life of a wind project is scheduled to expire at year's end.
Industry suppliers, nervous about the tax break's possible demise, have been shedding workers. A Grand Forks maker of wind turbine blades has said it will lay off more than 300 people by the end of November.
The American Wind Energy Association ranks North Dakota 10th in wind energy generation, with almost 1,500 megawatts of capacity. Projects that would generate more than 4,300 megawatts are in the planning stages.
Gulleson said she supported the federal government's financial rescue of General Motors and Chrysler. The government took ownership stakes in both companies in exchange for more than $60 billion in aid, which allowed them to restructure their finances.
“I don't think anybody likes the notion that we have to bail out anybody,” Gulleson said. “But the reality is, tough decisions were made. We now have a domestic auto industry in this country again.”
Cramer said a “managed” bankruptcy would have been preferable to a “taxpayer-funded bailout.”
“I don't think that picking winners and losers is the job of the government,” Cramer said. “I think that the free market ought to work.”
Cramer, 51, of Bismarck, is running his third U.S. House campaign, while Gulleson, 54, is in her first statewide race. Her family operates a farm and ranch in southeastern North Dakota. She is a former state legislator and aide to former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.
The two are vying for North Dakota's lone house seat, now held by Republican Rick Berg. Berg is running for the U.S. Senate.
The rivals agreed on some issues. Neither would rule out support for a U.S. military strike against Iran if that country acquires nuclear weapons, although they said an attack should be a last resort. Cramer said any military offensive against Iran should be first authorized by Congress.
Both said U.S. forces should withdraw from Afghanistan, although Cramer said he was uncomfortable with setting a firm departure date. American and NATO forces now plan to end their combat roles in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Both candidates suggested 5 percent cuts in federal spending as a starting point for getting the federal deficit under control. Gulleson advocated across-the-board reductions, while Cramer said agencies should be first asked to trim programs of lesser importance. He also said initial reductions should be based on 2008 federal spending levels.
Gulleson and Cramer also agreed that wealthier taxpayers should pay more as part of a deficit-reduction plan, but Cramer declined to endorse Gulleson's support for raising tax rates for people who earn more than $250,000 per year. Cramer said he instead favored eliminating tax deductions and loopholes that would result in wealthy taxpayers paying more.