Vail: Udall says jobs, health care atop agenda
VAIL, Colorado ” Mark Udall, who stopped in Vail, Colorado Wednesday, believes the government’s recent stimulus spending was essential. But, he added, that kind of spending isn’t sustainable over the long run.
Udall made a quick stop at Donovan Pavilion in Vail Wednesday to answer questions from Vail Valley Partnership members and local government officials. After a few minutes of prepared remarks, Udall fielded questions about government spending, the economy, health care and energy policy.
Local banker Scott Proper asked Udall about the current level of government spending.
Recent stimulus bills and President Barack Obama’s proposed budget are appropriate for the time, Udall said. When the private sector stops spending, the government needs to step in, he said.
“This budget has significant deficits,” Udall said. But, he added, those deficits get smaller over the next five years. He said he’d like to see deficit spending return to about 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. They’re now running at 10 percent or 11 percent, and Udall said that simply isn’t sustainable.
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To get the budget under control, the government will simply have to look at spending, particularly in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
Jon Becker asked if proposed health care reform could take some of the current financial burden off businesses.
Udall said reforming the country’s health care system will make U.S. companies more competitive ” “Toyota has a $1,500 per car advantage over GM right now,” he said.
But, he said, that doesn’t mean the country will end up with a government-run health care system. Some sort of package could be passed this year, but lawmakers are continuing to struggle with what that system will look like and how to pay for it. He said a recent bill passed in Massachusetts ” which requires residents to buy health insurance and subsidizes those who can’t afford the full bill ” could be part of a model for the country. But how to pay for it is going to be perhaps the biggest hurdle, he said.
Cathy Fort Carty, owner of DSC, a company that helps organize group trips to resorts, asked Udall about recent comments by lawmakers that blasted corporations for the retreats they’ve held with government bailout money.
“We need to take a deep breath on that,” Udall said. “We need to lead, and not go looking for pitchforks.”
But, he added, everyone’s angry about what’s perceived as corporate greed and waste using taxpayer money.
“We need to hold people responsible, but without causing collateral damage,” he said.
Vail Valley Partnership President Michael Kurz asked Udall about his stand on the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, a law that would make it easier for organizers to unionize a business and harder for employers to fight those actions.
Labor unions, which have contributed a lot of money to Democrats’ election campaigns, are pushing hard for the bill.
Opponents, though, are blasting the proposal, claiming it eliminates the right of secret ballot voting, and that the law could subject workers to intimidation by union organizers.
“Both sides have legitimate concerns,” Udall said. He said his preference would be to strengthen existing federal labor relations laws. And, he said, the current bill won’t be able to get the 60 votes needed to bring the proposal to the floor of the senate for debate and a vote.
“Business and labor need to find common ground on this one,” he said.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.