Beyond big cities

Presidential campaigns pitch ideas for rural America

— Campaign spokesmen for presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama shared different plans and philosophies for rural America, including Northwest Colorado.

Matt Chandler, Obama's Colorado press secretary, highlighted tax cuts for small businesses and new agriculture producers, an emphasis on strengthening rural health care and education and on maintaining the Colorado River Compact as some of Obama's proposals that will affect and help rural Coloradans.

"Those all are things that are specific and important to our state and the people here," Chandler said.

Tom Kise, McCain's Colorado spokesman, said the senator is "deeply connected" with rural America and can be counted on to protect its cultural values, such as the ability to work without government interference and gun ownership rights.

Obama "doesn't get the dirt under his fingernails," Kise said. "He doesn't understand what it means to be from rural America.

"It's just a cultural difference."

Chandler submitted to the Daily Press about a 14-page breakdown of Obama's planned policies for rural communities. Kise did not provide a similar document, but he did speak about McCain's philosophy and intended ideas for rural areas.

Below is information provided by both campaigns regarding small businesses, agriculture producers and energy.

Small business

Obama's plan includes a variety of provisions for small businesses and agriculture producers, among them a small business and micro-enterprise initiative.

The program would mix training and technical assistance programs for rural small businesses with a 20 percent tax credit for as much as $50,000 invested in small, owner-operated businesses across the country.

The plan also proposes a 0 percent capital gains tax rate for all investments in small and start-up businesses, including agriculture ventures, as well as a $3,000 tax reimbursement for every new employee hired in 2009 or 2010.

"When people invest in new or small businesses, their investments will be allowed to grow and will face no capital gains taxes when gains are realized," Chandler said.

He also pointed out that Obama's tax plans "would not add a single new burden or penalty on small businesses in any vein, and specifically with regards to health insurance."

Small businesses would not be required to pay into the health care system, Obama's plan reads, but those who choose to provide health insurance would have half of their employees' premiums paid through a tax credit.

Obama proposes to pay for the health care reforms by returning income tax levels for the country's top 1 percent to Clinton-era levels, which would raise an estimated $65 billion, according to the Urban/Brookings Tax Policy Center.

McCain's plan is to switch to tax credits and try to force the health care market to self-correct and provide lower costs to consumers. He would eliminate the tax provision excluding a worker's health plan costs from taxable income, and he instead would provide a $2,500 income tax credit for individuals or $5,000 for families.

Businesses still would be able to deduct health insurance from corporate income taxes, but some business leaders - including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Federation of Independent Business - think the proposed income tax credits for workers won't make up for taxes paid on health insurance premiums.

Workers then could begin demanding more health coverage and drive up costs for businesses. For that concern and others, those groups, which historically have supported the Republican Party, do not support McCain's health care plan.

Kise said Obama's plan to raise taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year could drastically affect small businesses, including the country's farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture producers

Kise said Obama's tax plan to "spread the wealth" wouldn't affect only faceless companies with huge bankrolls.

"A family farm could easily make $250,000 a year, but with the cost of grain and everything else, that's a fake number, and that's someone Barack Obama wants to tax," he said.

Under Obama's plan, however, revenue thresholds for farmers and ranchers only apply to net profits. In other words, there is no tax increase for those who make $250,000 a year in revenue, but less in net profits.

Kise said McCain stands for "no new taxes."

"Rural America's taxes are going to stay low in a McCain presidency," he said.

Obama's plan, as provided by Chandler, also provides other provisions for local agriculture producers to make them more competitive regionally and nationally.

The plan advocates using the USDA to promote local and regional growers, regulating large-scale food distributors so small agriculture producers can compete without "undue price discrimination" and breaking down trade barriers while enforcing regulations on new trade agreements so that American producers may compete on a "level playing field."

There also is a provision to give landowners selling to beginning farmers a break on the capital gains tax, as well as a first-time buyer's tax credit for new farmers to encourage more independent and family-owned farms.

Obama's plan further states government regulations can burden small businesses more than larger ones and that the presidential candidate would work to make federal laws and regulations "more sensitive to these considerations."

Energy

McCain sees an America that needs to use all its natural resources, including the fossil fuels found in rural places that support those communities, such as Moffat County, Kise said. Those fuels are available and economically beneficial to rural residents.

Obama's plan focuses on encouraging renewable resource production and clean fossil fuel technology.

It would require electricity providers to obtain 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. It also proposes harvesting trees killed by pine beetles for biomass fuel, which would help protect Colorado's forests from a potentially devastating fire.

There also are provisions for government investment in clean fossil fuel technologies to speed the development of new technology.

Kise described Obama's philosophy as a "no doctrine," as in "no" to nuclear plants, "no" to allowing the coal industry to thrive as it does now and "no" to offshore drilling in some areas.

"When you're a dairy farmer, looking to fire up the milkers, the kilowatt-hours go through the roof," he said. "The idea (for McCain) is to keep that energy cost as low as possible."

Kise added that coal provides 72 percent of Colorado's energy and that jeopardizing that industry could harm the state's economy and every resident who pays an electricity bill.

Obama's plan states it will turn renewable energy into a new boom industry for the United States by investing $10 billion each year for five years in a venture capital fund for new energy technologies.

The plan puts an emphasis on making rural America the primary destination for new energy technology development and implementation, which it attests will create new jobs and industries not dependent on finite resources.

Having a say

Residents may vote for either major party candidate for president, or any of the 14 other candidates from third parties who appear on the ballot, during early voting this coming week or Nov. 4 on Election Day. Write-in votes for president are not valid in Moffat County.

Early voting is from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday to Firday at Moffat County Courthouse. On Election Day, vote centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Craig, Maybell and Dinosaur.

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