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Commerce chief stumps for Tipton
[August 29, 2006]

Commerce chief stumps for Tipton

(Pueblo Chieftain, The (CO) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Aug. 29--The U.S economy is growing and unemployment is low because of Republican-backed tax cuts in Congress, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said at a fundraising luncheon Monday for Scott Tipton, the GOP challenger in the 3rd Congressional District.

"This is no time to be thinking about more taxes," Gutierrez told the crowd of an estimated 150 people, noting that national unemployment is only 4.8 percent and that the economy has added more than 5 million jobs in the past three years.

The luncheon message was that incumbent Rep. John Salazar, like other Democrats, has opposed some of the Bush administration tax cuts and that Tipton, a Cortez businessman, would join the Republican majority in Congress in supporting them.

"It makes a huge difference who you send to Washington," Gutierrez told the GOP audience.

Tipton, who is making his first run for office, said he wanted to continue the low-tax policy to help the economy, work for energy independence and address the long-term funding problems of Social Security and Medicare.

Following the luncheon, Tipton said he faulted Salazar for introducing legislation to prevent any changes in how Social Security contributions are used - legislation Salazar offered when President Bush was stumping around the country last year, urging that private accounts be created.

"I think the long-term problems are serious enough that you can't just close your mind to other options," Tipton said, noting he would not change the benefit system for anyone receiving Social Security. "I don't think young people believe that Social Security will be there for them in the future."

A spokesman for Salazar said the freshman Democrat had voted to reduce the inheritance tax and other tax cuts, but had opposed extending cuts in the capital gains tax.

"Congressman Salazar has supported middle-class tax cuts but not those aimed at the top 1 percent of taxpayers," said Nayyera Haq. "As for Social Security, the congressman is opposed to privatizing Social Security, which would force a reduction in benefits."

Gutierrez also faulted Democrats for not supporting oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, saying it was needed with oil at $70 a barrel. He also criticized them for calling for a windfall profits tax on oil companies, given the recent leap in oil prices.

"Their idea is to punish the oil companies just at the time when we need them to make more investment in developing our country's oil reserves," he said.

Gutierrez, as a member of the Bush cabinet, also has been campaigning for the White House immigration plan, which calls for toughening border security, establishing a guest worker program, and giving the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. a chance to legalize their status by paying back taxes, fines and passing a criminal records check.

That plan has been harshly criticized by some House Republicans, especially Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who claims any program that allows illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. is "amnesty." Tancredo wants all illegal immigrants returned to their home country.

Tancredo has endorsed Tipton and stumped for him several weeks ago across the Western Slope. Asked where he stood on the issue of the undocumented workers already in the U.S. - with Tancredo or with the Bush administration - Tipton said he would not "rubber-stamp" either view.

"I think enforcing our border has to be the nation's top priority before you can solve anything else about immigration," he said. "But am I in favor of mass deportation? No, that's not realistic. I've talked to our farmers and ranchers and I know they need access to workers."

Copyright (c) 2006, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
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