ATLANTA (AP) — The Associated Press sat down recently with the two Republicans competing for Georgia’s open Senate seat to discuss three key issues. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue will meet in a runoff July 22, and the winner will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in the fall.
Below is a discussion on comprehensive immigration reform and a bill that passed last year in the Senate but has since stalled. Candidate remarks have been edited in some places for length.
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AP: Would you have voted for or against the bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate last year?
KINGSTON: I would have voted no. I do not support amnesty and there is not a political consensus for comprehensive immigration reform. There is, the possibility for increment reform with, I think, four basic tenants. Number one, no amnesty. Number two, securing the border first. Number three, no welfare for illegal aliens. And then number four, cracking down on those who knowingly hire.christina
PERDUE: I would not have, and the reason is, there are several reasons. One, it had an amnesty in there that I didn’t support. Secondly, it gave the head of the national homeland security discretion over enforcing the laws related to the border. My feeling on this thing is, in business, when you get a complicated problem, we break it down into its components. And the first component is to secure the border.
AP: As you just mentioned, you are against amnesty for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. Do you believe they can and should be immediately deported? And if not, what would you propose the federal government do if not offer a pathway to citizenship?
KINGSTON: If you enforce existing laws, which would be part of the crackdown on those who knowingly hire, I think a lot of this works its way out. People would actually be inclined to leave on their own. They are very used to passing back and forth in the border. But we have to make a philosophical decision, are we a nation of laws? And any time you relax your immigration laws or interpretations of those laws, you get an influx of new illegals because word of mouth, people are watching, what is the policy of the White House? And in this case, what is it this year versus last year? Case in point of the children who have come over now from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. That was because of an Obama administration change in policy, and the policy change did not address Mexican children. So Mexican children are being turned around immediately and Honduran kids are not. It was a crisis created by the White House.
PERDUE: The Senate bill was over 1,000 pages, and it laid all of this stuff out and gives everybody a reason to not do it and here we are months later with nothing going on. I think the first thing we need to do is get a bipartisan agreement on the first component, and let’s secure this border. It’s a national security issue. And frankly we’re all being irresponsible for not doing it. And it’s not just Mexico. It’s Canada, it’s the ports, it’s the airports. This is a very open country. And with the technology we are seeing in terrorists hand right now, we should all be concerned. … Right now we are bringing in over 1.1 million legal immigrants, and that is over twice the high-water marks of the 1880s to the 1920s and even during the Reagan era, it’s more than twice. We have got to address the different components of that to see what is the right number, whether getting back to 500-600,000 is the right number. What is the right number? Nobody is talking about that. And look, I believe that when you secure the border then you can enter into a dialogue around what do you do about the people that are here.
Below is a discussion on the Common Core academic standards, which were largely developed by states but have prompted concerns over federal intrusion after the Obama administration encouraged their adoption through a federal grant program. Candidate remarks have been edited in some places for length.
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AP: Do you believe in the basic premise of the Common Core academic standards, that the United States needs a national benchmark for K-12 education to ensure the country remains competitive in a global economy?
KINGSTON: No, and I would also say that we have always been a global economic leader and we have done that without Washington’s intervention in local school decisions and curriculum. It’s interesting to see as late as this week Oklahoma has now pulled out of it, Louisiana the week before, Indiana a couple of months ago. What we are seeing is that the states, the closer they get to looking at what a national standard would be, they don’t want it.
PERDUE: My mom and dad were teachers and I grew up listening to how the best decisions are made between the parent, the teacher, the principal, the local administration and the local school board, and I still believe that. What we recognize right now is that the results of the attempts to federalize education over the last 50 years have failed. … There are countries like Peru and Columbia that actually perform better in math and science than our 14 year olds. So by any measure of results, this federalization of education has failed. And we spend billions of dollars at the federal level trying to manipulate and control local education and it’s not working. So that’s my first conclusion. Now having said that, Common Core needs to be abandoned. And the reason is, is that it’s another attempt to federalize a solution to a problem that is best solved at the local level, period.
AP: Do you think having a national benchmark, that some would benefit in that we could be able to compare how are students are doing?
KINGSTON: You can do that without a national benchmark, and it’s already being done without a national benchmark. The Washington D.C. Department of Education hasn’t given us higher SAT scores or better college placements. I’m not sure what measurements you want. But I think local school systems making their own decisions and having the max amount of flexibility will give us a better educational product. … I’m the son, by the way, of a college professor, the brother-in-law of a public school teacher, the brother of a former school teacher, the brother of a college professor and who grew up in Athens, Georgia, when my dad worked for the University of Georgia. So education isn’t something I take lightly.
PERDUE: Sounds good, doesn’t it? It’s hard to argue with that. But look at how it got tripped up over the last few years with stipulations about how to comply with it. Here we go again: ‘We have the money, you want the money, so comply with this.’ But that’s not working. That’s got us into the situation we’re in right now.
AP: The chief criticism has been federal involvement in the initiative. If the federal government were to stop encouraging states to adopt Common Core and halt any coordination, communication or regulation on the issue, would that satisfy your concerns?
KINGSTON: I think it would. Georgia knows how to compete with neighboring states and does not need Washington bureaucrats to tell us how to run our schools. All states compete against each other right now for employers, and when a new business is coming to town, one of the questions they ask, is what kind of school systems do you have. For example, Douglasville just got the Keurig coffee company, 500 jobs. Keurig is not going to move a factory there unless they know that their employees will have access to good school systems. And if they can’t find it in the state of Georgia, they are going to go to South Carolina, Alabama, California, or wherever. I think there is a real competitive market mechanism that keeps this in check.
PERDUE: Common Core is not going to solve the education problem in this country. No Child Left Behind didn’t. Race to the Top didn’t. Common Core will not. … Common Core, at its best, is now a distraction from a debate around what the real issues are, and that is how do we get our kids to read by 4th grade, how do we get them to stay in school, how do we get them to be proficient in math and science and to be meaningful players in the economy when they get out.
Below is a discussion on tax reform and how to tackle the nation’s $17.5 trillion debt. Candidate remarks have been edited in some places for length.
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AP: Do you believe the United States can substantially reduce its debt by only cutting spending and not seeking additional sources of revenue, and what sort of additional revenues might be possible?
KINGSTON: I believe we have a spending problem, not a taxing problem, that we have to rein in spending. There is a lot of duplications. For example, there are 47 different federal job training programs. And that would mean 47 managers, 47 locations, 47 desks, 47 sets of telephones and policies and letterheads. We actually have passed in the House a bill that consolidates those and reduces it down. And maybe you don’t need (just) one but you don’t need 47 federal job training programs. … Number two, the waste of the programs. There is a 16 percent error rate in school lunch and 25 percent in school breakfast. Surely, Democrats and Republicans could agree on let’s go after that kind of documented waste that the inspectors general have pointed out.
PERDUE: First of all, I don’t believe the answer to our problem is increasing taxes. That just can’t happen. We’ve proven that time and time again. Nor do I believe that we can solve this debt crisis just by cutting spending. … To solve the debt crisis, we have to cut spending, but we also have to get the economy going and that increases revenue without increasing taxes. We have over $2 trillion sitting offshore in foreign banks. These are U.S. profits trapped overseas because of our tax laws. We are the only developed country that has a repatriation tax law on foreign profits, and those monies inadvertently get invested over there. I think you can get bipartisan support for changing that one part of the tax code, I really do. I think that’s a short-term, that can be done right now. And those dollars would come flying, I believe, back into the economy and be invested in creating capital investment and jobs.
AP: Do you believe the House and Senate should take a closer look at tax breaks, specifically corporate tax expenditures, and would you be willing to eliminate some of these tax breaks even though that would result in an effective tax increase on those businesses?
KINGSTON: Again, I don’t believe we have a revenue problem as much as we have a spending problem, so I would not want to have tax reform designed to increase the revenues. But we need tax simplification. We need a tax code that stimulates business growth. We need one that is simple to comply with, and one that is transparent so that you are not spending thousands of dollars to a CPA or an accountant to fill out your tax return. I support the fair tax, and I am endorsed by fair tax author John Linder and fair tax champion Congressman Rob Woodall. But I’m also supported by flat tax champion Steve Forbes. The last statistic I saw, and I’m always a little nervous quoting statistics, so I’m going to couch this by saying the last statistic I saw was that we spend 6 billion man-hours a year complying with the tax code. That’s time that could be better spent inventing a better mouse trap, curing some horrible disease or investing frankly in a plant expansion that would create more jobs. So we need, in order to compete in the international marketplace, a simpler tax system.
PERDUE: No, I wouldn’t and the reason why is that, again, we already have a tremendous disadvantage. These are job creators, these are people that reinvest capital, they reinvest properties, they create jobs. And we have them already at a tremendous disadvantage against foreign competitors. Let me give you an example, our 35 percent corporate tax rate on manufacturing in the United States is competing with someone let’s say in Malaysia at a 16 or 17 percent corporate tax rate. … What we’ve had is 100 years of Congress and various administrations using taxes to direct activity, and how people operate. I believe that has put us at a tremendous disadvantage. There are deductions and things in the code that run counter to each other. It’s a very confusing and expensive burden on not only businesses but individuals. I have become a student of the fair tax, and I think it absolutely would level the playing field with foreign competitors and bring some manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. So I have become not only a supporter of that, but a proponent of that. So you say, how do you get the economy going again? It’s a very broad answer. But the number one thing to do to solve the debt crisis is to get the economy going again like we did in the 80s.