Decision 2012 questionnaire: Joe Donnelly
What do you believe is the number one issue facing Hoosiers today, and how will you work to address that in Washington?
The number one issue facing Hoosiers today is job creation and improving our economy. I will be a U.S. Senator who is singularly focused on protecting the jobs we have now and helping Indiana businesses create new ones so every mom and dad can find and keep good-paying jobs, take care of their families, and retire with dignity.
After the Supreme Court decision to uphold much of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, would you work to support or repeal the act, and why? What policies would you work towards to ensure that all Hoosiers have access to affordable care?
Hoosiers will benefit from the many positive aspects of this law, which will remain in place, such as lower prescription drug costs for seniors, making sure people cannot be dropped by insurance companies if they get sick, and making healthcare more affordable and accessible. Yet the law isn't perfect, and I will work with both parties to improve the law and protect Medicare. For example, I supported repealing the unnecessary tax reporting requirement for small businesses and am a leader on repealing the medical device excise tax. Richard Mourdock's only unique contribution to the debate on lowering healthcare costs has been to suggest that employers could choose not to offer cancer treatment coverage to their employees. He has also questioned the constitutionality of Medicare. I prefer to focus on working with both parties to continue to improve accessible, affordable healthcare for Hoosiers.
Border control and immigration
How do you believe the U.S. should secure its borders? Should undocumented workers be allowed a "path to citizenship?" Do you agree with President Obama's decision to defer deporting children who are undocumented? In light of the Supreme Court striking down parts of Arizona's law, what policies would you pursue, if any, to combat illegal immigration, and how would you fund those efforts?
I think we need to first and foremost focus on securing our borders, while working on bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. I have supported funding for additional border agents and the E-Verify system so employers can easily check the citizenship status of potential employees. Further, I am opposed to amnesty, as I think any solution should reward those who play by the rules. Our country has a proud tradition of legal immigration, and we need to continue to welcome those who want to come to this country in a legal way.
Education and skills
What are your plans to help students cover the cost of higher education? How will you promote other options to students and families such as technical and vocational programs? What about unemployed workers who lack the necessary skills to find jobs?
We need to give Hoosier workers the tools they need to compete: the most up-to-date skills to get and keep good-paying jobs. To that end, I have repeatedly supported lower interest rates for student loans so more Americans can afford higher education. Also, I support fixing federal job training programs so that they teach the skills Hoosier employers need right now. We should connect private business owners with community colleges such as Ivy Tech so students are taught the skills employers look for.
What types of energy do you think our nation should invest in for the future, and how could we use this as an opportunity for job creation?
I think we should go all-in on American energy production to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and Indiana can lead the way. I support tapping all of America's energy resources--coal, natural gas, oil, wind, ethanol, bio-diesel, and others. I also support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Increased oil and gas drilling not only means more energy, it means increased revenues from oil companies to help balance the budget. By developing our own energy sources, we would keep our hard-earned dollars here at home instead of sending them overseas.
What should the priorities be in U.S. foreign policy?
Our foreign policy should focus on working with our allies to both guard against threats and promote democracy. The Middle East is continually a region of concern, which is why we must maintain our strong relationship with our trusted ally, Israel. We must keep a close eye on volatile nations such as Iran that seek nuclear weapons. At the same time, I support promoting democracy and human rights in many Middle Eastern countries that are trying to emerge from violent dictatorships. Finally, we must be vigilant in our efforts to continue to track down and hold accountable terrorist organizations that seek to harm Americans.
Do you think we should invest more or less money on our national defense? What should the priorities be?
As we reduce our presence abroad after the end of the Iraq War and bring our troops home from Afghanistan, we must maintain the strongest national defense in the world. I believe we should follow the experts--the Secretary of Defense and those in the field--when it comes to cuts to defense spending. I support cutting what we do not need while maintaining a strong defense that puts the highest priority on protecting our citizens from those who wish us harm. As our troops come home, we must also recognize the sacrifices they have made and make sure they have the highest quality health care and benefits they have earned.
How would you work to reach bipartisan accord on taxes? What kind of tax incentives would most benefit individuals and businesses?
The tax code isn't working. I think it needs to be flatter, fairer, and simpler so it works better for Hoosier families and businesses. I think we need to cut taxes for Indiana job creators so it is easier for them to invest in their companies and their employees. I propose making permanent the research and development tax credit so Indiana entrepreneurs have certainty in the tax code. I also propose giving tax breaks to small businesses to upgrade equipment, software, and machinery. Additionally, I support giving incentives to companies that "in-source" rural jobs instead of sending them overseas.
How do you think our nation should tackle its national debt problem while continuing to provide essential services?
I think we need to address the debt crisis and make Washington live within its means. That's why I support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution and Pay-As-You-Go budget rules so any spending or tax cuts must include plans to pay for them. Also, I support creating a permanent commission to regularly review every federal program to recommend cutting those that aren't working and require an up-or-down vote on each from Congress.
Social Security and Medicare
What is your policy on Social Security and Medicare?
Many Hoosier seniors depend on Social Security to make ends meet each month. I support keeping our promises to seniors who are currently in the program and making sure that the program is strong for future generations. I oppose risky plans to privatize Social Security. My opponent, Richard Mourdock, supports gambling with Social Security benefits by privatizing them and has questioned the constitutionality of Social Security. Seniors have paid into Social Security with lifetimes of work, and we need to make sure it is protected. When it comes to Medicare, I have supported legislation to extend the life of the program, but we must also do more to make sure it is there for future generations. I oppose efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher program because it would increase out-of-pocket costs for seniors by an average of $6,000 per person. My opponent, Richard Mourdock, has questioned the constitutionality of Medicare and supported the voucher proposal, ending the Medicare guarantee.
How should Congress work to provide incentives to keep American jobs from going overseas? In what ways would you promote and advertise what Indiana has to offer to leaders of other states?
We need to protect the good jobs we currently have here in Indiana, while creating new opportunities. Indiana manufacturers face unfair competition, which is why I think we need to level the playing field. I support cracking down on the Chinese government's unfair trade practices that lead to a loss of Hoosier jobs. I also oppose unfair trade deals that ship Hoosier jobs overseas. Additionally, we should close tax loopholes that encourage some Wall Street corporations to send American jobs to other countries.
What is the biggest environmental problem facing the world today, and how would you work to protect the country's economy from the impact of environmental crises? What policies would you pursue in order to safeguard Indiana's air, water and land?
The changing climate and the associated increased risks for extreme weather - drought, tornadoes, and incredibly strong storms - and how that affects everything from food production, water levels, energy prices, and even day-to-day costs like home owner's insurance is the biggest environmental risk we face today. We can overcome these challenges and Hoosiers will be at the forefront of coming up with solutions. For example, there is both incredible research and production right here in Indiana in the area of biofuels. The ethanol and biodiesel made from Hoosier corn and soybeans are not only renewable sources of fuel, but they also burn cleaner than their petroleum-based counterparts. They also help reduce our dependency on foreign oil. It is not a solution to all of our environmental problems, but it's a first step and one we can take right here in Indiana.