Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love assailed U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson on Tuesday for being a cog in a Democratic machine that wants to raise taxes and nationalize education and health care.
But Matheson, the six-term congressman, dismissed those as stale partisan criticisms. "These are national talking points from Washington. I’m all about talking to people here in Utah," Matheson said.
The exchange Tuesday at the Utah Taxpayers Association annual conference marked the first time the two contenders in Utah’s new 4th Congressional District have shared a stage, and it foreshadows a campaign that Love promised would be spirited.
Love said that even though Matheson brands himself as a member of the House Blue Dog caucus of moderate Democrats, he is still a Democrat who could be part of a Democratic majority, which believes people who create jobs are a problem.
She said the country is facing "fiscal Armageddon" with an administration that has promised to raise taxes, has taken over health care and has "an almost childlike fantasy that windmills and solar panels will power our future."
"There’s more at stake here than if Congress can just get along," she said.
But Matheson said that the big issues facing Congress, like tax reform and balancing the budget, will require consensus among the parties.
Matheson said it is time to reform the tax code, which hasn’t been overhauled since 1986. The world has changed, Matheson said, and the 35 percent top corporate tax rate is too high and limits U.S. competitiveness. He called for cuts to that tax, offset by eliminating a slew of tax loopholes and credits that have been carved out.
"You know me. You know how I’ve done this job. I was taught by my dad [the late Gov. Scott Matheson] to work with anybody who approaches public policy in the interest" of doing good, he said. "I’m convinced we need men and women of good will who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and take on those issues."
Love, however, said after the conference that Matheson has said he supports President Barack Obama, and "if you support that president, you support that agenda." She plans to provide a contrast between what she said are Democratic values and her own.
"Do you believe that this is unreasonable: The concept that we don’t want the federal government to educate our children, control our lands, regulate each business and provide health care by force?" she asked those at Tuesday’s gathering.
While seeking to brand Matheson with the Democratic label, Love also sought to portray herself as an independent.
"My opponent has already stated that we will go back and walk the party line. With all due respect, he doesn’t know me very well," she said. "That’s not who I am as a person."
On tax policy, Love defended her record as a council member and, currently, mayor of Saratoga Springs. She said that when she came into office, the city’s budget was balanced on building fees, which proved unsustainable, and when the housing market collapsed, it left the city with a shortfall.
She said the first option was to cut government. But she also more than doubled the property tax rate in an effort to balance the budget — voting for an increase of 116 percent in the property tax rate.
Asked if there was a federal budget proposal she would support, Love said she is "looking at the Paul Ryan plan," which would privatize Medicare and turn Medicaid and other programs into block grant programs to the states. It would cut taxes by $4.6 trillion, on top of extending the Bush-era tax cuts, according to a review by the Tax Policy Center.
Love won the Republican nomination at the state convention last month, receiving 70 percent of the delegate vote. The National Republican Congressional Committee considers the 4th District one of its top targets, which likely means an infusion of about $1 million to her campaign.
A Salt Lake Tribune poll in April showed Matheson and Love running neck-and-neck among likely general election voters.
If she is elected, Love would be the first black Republican woman to serve in Congress.
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