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Decision '94 / SPECIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA'S ELECTIONS : U.S. Senate : The Issues

October 30, 1994

A look at the key issues in the race for the U.S. Senate:

Economy

One of the major issues of contention between the Senate candidates is the 1993 Clinton economic package that was narrowly passed over Huffington's objection and with Feinstein's support.

Feinstein believes the package of spending cuts and tax increases is responsible for a reduction in the federal budget deficit and, she said, it is a major factor in recent improvements in the economy.

Huffington has described the vote as a tax hike and a typical Democratic solution to budget problems. The GOP candidate voted against Clinton's economic package as well as the Republican alternative, which he said did not cut enough from government spending. He has also called for a repeal of all tax increases in the Clinton package.

The Clinton package included an increase in the gasoline tax and a higher income tax for upper-income payers. Defending her vote, Feinstein's office has calculated that only 163,000 California taxpayers received an income tax increase-- representing the state's wealthiest 1.5%--while more than 12 million people saw no increase or a reduction.

Both candidates have supported a number of incentives for businesses, including a reduction in the capital gains tax and tax credits for research. Feinstein authored provisions for both, as well as funding for urban enterprise zones, in a bill that was passed last year.

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Huffington has voted against most of the major appropriations bills to come before Congress, underscoring his point that government spending should be reduced. He has rarely been specific, however, about his objections or offered alternatives.

Huffington said he supports a reduction in federal regulations as a means to improve the economy. He supported a plan to require that future federal regulations include an economic impact report assessing their effect on private property values. Another measure would allow businesses adversely affected by federal regulations to apply for a waiver. Another sought to improve available credit by reducing the regulatory burden on financial institutions that are considered safe.

On trade, Feinstein opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement, but she is a supporter of the upcoming General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. Huffington supported NAFTA, but he is undecided about GATT.

Health Care

Neither candidate has embraced a specific health care plan. Feinstein was originally a co-sponsor of the Clinton plan, but she withdrew her name in May. Since then, she has worked with moderate lawmakers in Washington to craft a plan that has a more limited government role in the health care system. Huffington opposed the Clinton plan and the subsequent compromises that have been offered. He also ruled out any employer mandates or tax increases.

Welfare

In a statement outlining "the central theme of my campaign," Huffington unveiled a plan during the summer to end government welfare and replace it with charitable giving. Huffington said the welfare state is a root cause of many growing social problems such as crime, homelessness, poverty and declining moral values. He endorsed three steps to reduce government's welfare role--a bill to expand tax breaks for charitable giving; a proposal to prohibit cash grants to parents who have children while they are on welfare, and a plan to provide federal welfare money to states in block grants, allowing for more experimentation.

Huffington was not specific about how government would transfer its duties to private and community groups except to say that he believes the nation is becoming more spiritually aware and generous. Critics of Huffington's plan, including Feinstein, said they do not believe charitable groups have the capacity to assume the responsibilities now handled by government.

Feinstein also has been critical of the welfare system. She has supported Clinton's plan to stop welfare benefits after two years for those who have not found work.

Environment

One of Feinstein's major landmarks in the Senate was passage of the California Desert Protection Act, dubbed by supporters as the most significant environmental legislation in more than a decade. The bill was introduced by former Sen. Alan Cranston and stalled in Congress until Feinstein made it a priority of her first term. The legislation elevates Death Valley and Joshua Tree national monuments to national parks--affording greater protection--and adds 4 million acres of wilderness to their territories as well as a new national preserve in the east Mojave Desert.

Huffington opposed the desert bill, saying it is a federal land grab that government cannot afford. He also said it will cost jobs by adversely affecting some of the state's interests including ranchers, miners and recreation advocates.

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On other issues, both candidates have told farmers they support modifications to the Endangered Species Act.

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