Democrat Jimmy Farris says 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador ignores reality by refusing to consider tax reform that would boost federal revenue as part of a deficit-reduction deal.
"When we talk about reducing some of those deductions and closing some of those loopholes, that's something I would support," Farris told the Idaho Statesman editorial board Thursday.
"We are not going to reduce any deficit, get anywhere near a balanced budget, if revenue is not part of the equation. And that's a fact. And it's a reality that some in the House and my potential opponent in the general election doesn't seem to want to either admit, or politically doesn't think it's a good position to take."
Labrador has signed the pledge from Americans for Tax Reform that includes a vow to "oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."
Asked for comment, Labrador declined, according to campaign aide China Gum.
Farris, 34, is making his first race for public office. He played six years in the NFL, after standout careers as a receiver at Lewiston High School and the University of Montana.
Farris said plain-speaking about the need for a bipartisan solution to the debt problem is key to his campaign. "As much as people don't want to hear that, I'm not going to sit here and just make some campaign promises that people want to hear that we can just cut taxes and cut spending, and magically, in 10 years we'll be back to a balanced budget."
Farris said he supports entitlement reform, but only if linked to tax reform with a net revenue boost. "To automatically just default to the position we should cut entitlement spending, I think it's kind of the easy way out. I think it's been framed as the bad guy, these programs that people have depended on for a number of years in this country that have been very successful, that have allowed people to maintain a liveable lifestyle after retirement."
Social Security could be made solvent for generations, Farris said, by raising the cap on income subject to the payroll tax that funds the system from the current figure of $110,100. Farris said he doesn't yet know what the figure should be, but said, "You have somebody that makes a couple million dollars a year paying the exact same amount" as somebody that makes $110,100.
Farris and Labrador both have opponents in the May 15 primary. Reed McCandless of Moscow is on the GOP ballot; Cynthia Clinkingbeard of Boise is on the Democratic ballot.
But Clinkingbeard has not been actively campaigning after her March 16 arrest on three felony counts of aggravated assault and one count of use of a deadly weapon in commission of a crime. Clinkingbeard was arrested after an incident at a Staples store, where she was inquiring about printing campaign posters. Her lawyer told a judge she was likely in a “hypo-manic state." A court-appointed evaluator has been appointed to assess whether Clinkingbeard can adequately understand the court proceedings against her and can participate in her own defense. A review hearing for the mental health evaluation is set for May 4.
Farris said he'd hoped to hone his skills in appearances with Clinkingbeard. "That's just an unfortunate thing," he said Thursday. "It's too bad and I hope it works out the best for her and she ultimately gets whatever help or attention that she needs.
"I was looking forward to the opportunity to have a legitimate challenge. That's why I was excited when she filed because I thought it would be an opportunity to have a debate or get on TV or have some more conversations with you guys. The most important thing for me at this point in time is to get myself out there, to get in forums where people can hear what I have to say and where I stand on issues and what I think about things. I was looking forward to maybe having a debate or getting on Public TV, but I don't think that's going to happen."
Clinkingbeard did not reply to a request for comment. Idaho Public TV says there will be no debate in the 1st District on either the Democratic or Republican side. A debate between 2nd District GOP Rep. Mike Simpson and his primary opponent, Chick Heileson, is tentatively set for May 13.