In an election year where the majority of voters say the economy and jobs are their top issues of concern, New Hampshire Senate candidates Republican Kelly Ayotte and Democrat Paul Hodes show stark differences in their approach to taxes, business development and spending.
The candidates squared off in their first debate since the primary season, in a face to face match-up broadcast on New Hampshire Public Television Wednesday evening.
Hodes, a congressman first elected in 2006, believes the Bush tax cuts should be repealed for the wealthiest Americans, applying the influx of cash to the country's increasing deficit.
"It is simply reckless. It's fiscally irresponsible to allow the tax breaks for the top 2%, where all the wealth has gone, while the middle class has been clobbered, to continue. That's 700 billion dollars," said Hodes who argued an opposing strategy would double the deficit. "That's not fiscally conservative. That's not fiscally responsible," Hodes said.
Ayotte, a former state Attorney General, argued a repeal of the tax cuts amounts to a tax increase that would hurt the Granite State small businesses and cost $300 million.
Ayotte argued it is simply the "wrong philosophy to raise taxes during difficult economic times" as she believes her opponent is trying to do."We're a small business state and these tax increases are going to hit our small business owners," said Ayotte.
As for the controversial stimulus spending that supporters argue kept a recession from becoming a depression, Ayotte believes the government's role should be one of support through pro-growth policies and lower taxes.
"It's not the government that's going to create jobs in this country, it's our small businesses. It's the private sector," said Ayotte. "Many of the so-called jobs that were created under the stimulus were essentially temporary jobs, government jobs, not private sector growth."
Hodes defended the spending and argued the stimulus funds created needed jobs for teachers, fire fighters and police officers. "It was certainly necessary to stabilize our economy that was in absolute free fall," said Hodes. "At the time the recovery act was passed we'd lost almost 4 million jobs, the financial markets were locked, the economy was in a free fall."