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Guinta defends, Democratic candidates blast, latest Paul Ryan budget plan

Senior Political Reporter

March 20. 2012 5:38PM

WASHINGTON _ Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta today embraced the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's proposed budget, which was unveiled on Capitol Hill this morning, as a bold solution to the nation's fiscal woes.

While Democrats blasted the plan as a scheme to balance the nation's budget on the backs of seniors, the poor and middle class, House freshman Guinta, who is up for reelection in November, said, 'We must rise to the challenge of reforming and modernizing government programs that were enacted in the 1960s and make them more effective and efficient for the needs of the 21st Century.

'If we don't,' he said, 'we will be buried in an avalanche of debt that will cripple our country financially for decades to come.'

Fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, who backed the Ryan plan last year and is also expected to have a tough reelection fight this year, took no immediate position on the updated version, promising to "take a very hard look at his proposal to make sure it balances our state and nation's needs while getting our fiscal house in order.'

Guinta, as a member of the budget committee headed by Wisconsin Republican Ryan, has been closely involved in the formulation of the plan.

It calls for spending cuts that would reduce the deficit from its present $1.18 trillion to $797 billion in 2013 _ nearly $200 billion less than under President Barack Obama's budget,

Guinta said in an interview that although the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office believes, based on its economic assumptions, that the plan would not allow the deficit to be erased until 2038, House Budget Committee Republicans believe that under a 'best case scenario,' the plan sets the budget on a course to balance between 2016 and 2024.

The plan would change Medicare for those under age 55 from a direct government-payment program for all to one that allows recipients to choose either the existing system or one in which the government subsidizes the purchase of private health insurance.

Guinta called that 'a bipartisan, practical approach to safeguarding Medicare for future generations.'

'You can choose the existing plan as it exists today with no changes, or you can opt to do 'premium support,'' he explained.

'It still does not affect anyone 55 or older. It is more of a competitive approach and you have means testing so the wealthier the senior, the less assistance they get. The more needy the senior, the more financial assistance they get,' said Guinta.

'There is a recognition that Medicare, according to the program's trustees, will go broke within 12 years if we don't do something about it,' Guinta said. 'There is a growing bipartisan willingness to change the system.'

The plan also calls for major tax code reforms. It would reduce the number of tax brackets from six to two, at 10 percent and 25 percent. The highest rate for the wealthiest Americans is now 35 percent.

The corporate tax rate would also be cut from 35 to 25 percent.

He also the corporate tax rate drop will allow American companies that are now investing in other countries to keep their profits at home and invest at home.

Democrats called the proposed change in individual tax rates nothing more than tax cuts for the wealthy, but Guinta said the plan reforms 'our broken tax code to spur job creation and economic opportunity by lowering rates, closing loopholes and putting hardworking taxpayers ahead of special interests.'

Bass, in a statement, commended Ryan "for putting forth a budget - something the Senate Democratic leadership has failed to do for nearly three years now - that recognizes Washington's current habit of spending and ignoring the unsustainable growth of programs will only land us in further debt. I will take a very hard look at his proposal to make sure it balances our state and nation's needs while getting our fiscal house in order.'

Even if the plan passes the House, it is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Guinta said that with an April 15 deadline looming, there is an outside chance that, through a process called reconciliation, 'this budget could become law with very few amendments' with a simple majority in the Senate.

'The Senate hasn't passed a budget within 1,000 days,' Guinta said. 'I'd ask why the Senate is choosing to ignore a basic responsibility.'

He said that even if the Ryan plan does not pass, it will be House GOP blueprint for negotiations on future spending bills.

'So, this is not simply an exercise in futility,' Guinta said. 'This is real. These numbers will set the tone for our negotiating points for however the Senate chooses to move the process forward.'

Democratic former two-term 1st District U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who was defeated by Guinta in 2010 and is seeking a rematch this year, said that he and other House Republicans 'have once again taken aim at the old, the young, the sick, the poor, and the middle class.

'We need to shrink the deficit, but I will not support doing that by giving tax cuts to the very wealthy and to oil companies, rewarding companies that send jobs out of the country, ending Medicare and turning it into a voucher program, cutting Pell grants that help students pay for college, and by cutting too deeply into the budget,' Shea-Porter said.

Shea-Porter said Guinta 'does not believe in government. He has said that he wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, the Department of Education, the EPA, the Department of Energy, Amtrak, medical research, and many other programs. Congressman Guinta is too extreme for New Hampshire, and his budget is too extreme for New Hampshire also.'

Fellow Democratic 1st District U.S. House candidate Joanne Dowdell said, 'We need to balance the budget,' but Republicans 'want to do it by eliminating Medicare as we know it while giving millionaires a free pass. I want to do it by making special interests, huge corporations, and the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share.'

Dowdell and Shea-Porter are facing off in a Democratic primary for the right to face Guinta in the general election.

Guinta said, 'What you see from the Democrats is more partisan rhetoric than anything else.'

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