Kerry, Edwards detail views on local issues
Sen. John Kerry wants the federal government to provide state and local governments $50 billion over two years to help alleviate budget strains, and Sen. John Edwards advocates a new round of New Markets Tax Credits to lure investment capital into the nation’s cities. Those are two of the proposals the Democratic presidential candidates outline in their responses to a wide-ranging questionnaire about local government issues sent to them by the Washington, D.C.-based National League of Cities (NLC).
NLC sent identical questionnaires to all of the Democratic candidates, but, as of mid-February, only Kerry and Edwards had responded. Edwards’ campaign was thought to be in some jeopardy as of press time; even so, his responses merit examination because he is considered a strong candidate for the Democratic vice-presidential nomination.
Kerry and Edwards provide two of their most detailed responses when asked how they would improve the overall economy and how they would address state and local economies. Kerry says that his economic plan would include a fund to provide $50 billion to states and local governments to prevent cuts in education spending and increases in taxes and fees. Kerry also proposes retaining middle-class tax cuts enacted under President Bush, expanding the earned-income tax credit and raising the minimum wage. The Massachusetts senator adds that providing federal money to help fund “critically needed” infrastructure improvements in local communities has the added benefit of boosting the economy.
Edwards’ proposals to improve local economies include tax credits to lure venture capital into cities and the creation of “economic revitalization zones” in urban areas hard hit by job loss. The North Carolina senator says the zones will offer “special incentives” to businesses that locate in them. Edwards offers a similar prescription for rural economies and also points out “a need for tens of billions of dollars in state aid.”
As for federal support of local law-enforcement efforts, Kerry proposes restoring funding for the federal Community Oriented Policing Program, which hires police officers to patrol local communities, and he also advocates “a 24-hour operations center in each state to provide a real-time intergovernmental link between local and federal law enforcement.” Edwards’ response to the law-enforcement question is more general, and he “strongly disagree[s] with those who assert that law enforcement is a state and local responsibility that does not require support from Washington.”
The NLC questionnaire covers several other topics as well. The candidates are asked for their views on federal legislation that preempts state and local revenue authority, such as the recent proposal that would curtail the ability of state and local governments to collect taxes from telecommunications services. In reply, Kerry says that preemption “is bad public policy as a general matter and ought to be used only in extraordinary circumstances. And then, when used, ought to result in just compensation.” Edwards says almost exactly the same thing. Both Kerry and Edwards also say they oppose the Bush Administration’s proposal for the federal government to send funds for Section 8 housing vouchers to the states as block grants instead of the current practice of sending the funds directly to local governments.
The two candidates were asked how they would address the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. Kerry says that he would increase the amount of federal money “sent to states for the construction and maintenance of highways, bridges and mass transit systems. … A larger federal investment in our transportation infrastructure will also create jobs.” He also proposes to expand the Amtrak routes and to “provide incentives” for its use to make rail service a more viable alternative to highway travel. Edwards notes that he has “consistently supported increased funding for mass transit initiatives and for making the nation’s highways and bridges safer. I have also strongly supported adequate investment in Amtrak.”
Other topics covered in the questionnaire include the No Child Left Behind Act and clean water. To view the complete responses, visit the Campaign 2004 section at www.nlc.org.