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Calitics talks with Bill Richardson

We just had a group interview with Bill Richardson.  Below is a transcript of sorts.  Not included in the transcript is his response to my question on the US Attorney Scandal, where he said basically that Gonzales should resign and he would make sure that his AG would be a servant of the people, not a political flak.

Full text below.

Bob: As the only Western candidate, what are opportunities for Democrats in the West?

Richardson: The West is veering Democratic.  Four years ago, the governors from Canada to Mexico were all Republican.  Now 5 out of 7 were Democrats.  What has helped make that trend permanent is the rise of environmentalism and renewable energy.  Non-traditional supporters, sportsmen and recreationists turned off by Bush’s energy policy.  Clean air and roadless areas.  Second is a strong Hispanic migration.  Even smaller-scale, like Utah.  But Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, that has been an important issue.  Third, I’m the only Presidential candidate with a transportation and smart-growth policy.  A lot of folks are moving to escape the traffic and the northeast and Midwest are doing the same.  And that’s causing a new set of voters to be there that think quality of life is important.  And that’s causing Westerners to assess-in Las Vegas the biggest issue is traffic, and a lot of Western governors are looking at light rail and energy efficient mass transit.  Every year the president gets billions to build new highways.  We need smart growth and strong land use policies.  In terms of other issues-individualism-the West is very independent, and there’s very strong anti-government initiatives that do well.  The West is pro-choice, and pro-second amendment.  I can’t underemphasize the energy side.  The most progressive policies in renewable energy-New Mexico is 20% renewable by 2020-California with climate change-we have the strongest targets, a 75% in greenhouse emissions reduction by 2030 in New Mexico-we’re the only state that abides by the Kyoto treaty.  And we have progressive governors.  I believe in growth, and I believe in cutting taxes.  You give a company a tax cut if they pay over a prevailing wage.  We should be the party of science, R&D, high tech.  In New Mexico, if you’re a technology startup, we don’t tax you for three years.  We’ve been stuck in the politics of redistribution instead of economic growth.  My point is as a presidential candidate, I can bring several Western states do the Democratic column.  We build our coalition around 20 states.

DDay: taxes.  We had a PPIC poll in California that said that at least 65% said they would pay higher taxes if it meant they could get healthcare.  I want to know how you respond to liberal Democrats who think that the rhetoric about taxation needs to change, about how America is worth paying for and taxes are the price you pay for a free society, instead of the rhetoric about taxes that the Republicans have been successful with.

Richardson: I think that kind of thinking has gotten us in trouble.  I would replace the Bush tax cuts with cuts for the middle class and companies that create more jobs.  I believe in tax cuts for the country to become green, and I’m for an Apollo program to reduce our dependence on foreign oils  There’s a huge job market for America in this.  And I would ask Americans to sacrifice.  I have a fuel-efficient vehicle.  I’d double fuel efficiency in ten years.  I’ve got the strongest policy on climate change.  There needs to be aggressive mandates.  I’d have a cap-and-trade system.  On health care I believe you can have a universal plan and I think it can be financed through the existing inefficiencies in the system.  34% goes into bureaucracy and no electronic records.  Then I’d do existing reforms, like allow every American to purchase a Congressional healthcare plan.  Second, the war in Iraq.  I’d shift lots of that to healthcare.  I’d also have what Massachussetts and Cali are starting to do-everyone pays their fair share on healthcare, and those that can’t, you give them a little subsidy and incentive.  Not a tax cut, just hold down insurance costs.  More personal responsibility.  Taxing the rich to pay for everything won’t help.

DDay: would you repeal the AMT?

Richardson: yes, I would fix that

Juls: 49% of Californians feel they’re falling behind.  How would you address that feeling?

Richardson: I believe we have to have policies-I was on an airplane, and by the way, we need a passenger’s bill of rights.  But I’m sitting with this woman, and she said that she was in the middle class and felt like she was paying for both the poor and the rich.  What I’d do is use the tax code to reward companies that create jobs.  I’d raise the minimum wage.  I’d focus on California’s strengths.  But we’re taking a lot of your people because your state income tax and business taxes aren’t competitive.  A national healthcare plan.  The key to everything is education.  Community college and vocational training.  And you pay for it with a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.  This has been proposed before, and I have to do it as a governor.  I’ve run a bureaucracy of 110,000.  I would eliminate earmarks, which wouldn’t be popular in Congress.  Eliminate tzaax breaks for companies that take jobs overseas.  I would restructure the Bush tax cuts to focus those that produce jobs.  My priorities are human needs.  But my solution isn’t to tax the rich.  It’s to build coalitions like I’ve done in New Mexico.  Education is huge for me  I’d extend the school day and hear, pay our teachers better with accountability.  I’d have a goal-in 15 years, move from 28th to number 1.  We have a crash program.

On Iraq: construct legislation to de-authorize the war.  Challenge it on the war powers act.  I want no residual troops.  I would redeploy those forces.  All contractors out too.