The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

April 22--Congressional Candidate Clark Hall's (D-AR) Answers to Questionnaire

Posted on April 22, 2012 at 11:21 AM

State Representative Clark Hall, (D-Marvell, AR) First Congressional District Candidate–Answers to Delta Caucus Congressional Questionnaire on 10 Key Economic Issues

This is the first in a series of answers we expect to post from Clark Hall, US Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR), Prosecutor Scott Ellington (D-Jonesboro), and ASU Economics Professor Gary Latanich (D-Jonesboro). They will be speaking at our May 3-4 Delta conference at the Clinton Center on May 4.

“Big picture” question on your priorities for job creation and economic recovery: It is clear that the economy requires a much stronger recovery to put people back to work, spending cuts, and more revenue to jump-start economic development while getting our fiscal house in order. What are your top priorities in job creation and economic recovery?

I believe creating jobs and economic development opportunities should be our top priorities. I will advocate policies that promote good-paying and lasting jobs, with special emphasis given to the economic pillars of the Delta: agriculture and small business. My efforts will work across party lines to balance our budget, as I have done in Arkansas, while ensuring access to a world-class education that grows our economy for future generations.

EPA and other regulations: The Delta Caucus partners are strong advocates for protecting the environment, but there are concerns that some of the new EPA regulations may inhibit job creation or retention and weaken the already fragile recovery. Would you support delaying implementation of EPA and other regulations that would inhibit job creation at least until the economy is fully recovered?

Regulations should not inhibit job creation or economic recovery. They should serve the public interest, move our economy and nation forward, and be developed in consultation with the constituencies that they affect. This consultation should be open and transparent. I will not support regulations which put onerous and unreasonable burdens on our economy.

Health care: The Delta suffers from inadequate access to affordable, high-quality health care. This is harmful both to our health and to our region’s economic situation. What policies would you advocate to improve health care in the underserved Delta?

The Delta’s health care needs are greatly underserved. That is why I am especially proud, as a former mayor of a small Delta town, that we improved health care in my community by attracting a medical clinic and pharmacy. I’m proud to have expanded access to quality, more affordable health care. Going forward, I will support policies which eliminate pre-existing condition denials and remove expense caps from health coverage. No one in America should ever go bankrupt or lose everything they own for medical attention.

ENERGY: The expanded use of biofuels and other sources of renewable energy is supported by many people in the Delta as a way to create jobs, develop an independent source of energy and reduce dependence on foreign oil, and promote economic development.

a. Renewable energy: Do you consider renewable energy a priority for Arkansas? What steps would you advocate to promote the development of renewable energy? How would you work with the eight Delta states as well as other states that border the Delta to implement these programs?

We need an “all-of-the-above” energy plan which develops the proven resources we have in America, such as oil and natural gas, and also brings renewables to market. As your Congressman, I will always support domestic energy independence with the Arkansas worker and consumer in mind – workers who will build everything from pipeline to turbine blades and consumers who expect affordable and reliable energy. My policies will responsibly explore for domestic resources because it’s our economic, environmental, and national security at stake.

Like all Arkansans, I believe we must get the gross speculation out of oil prices, end those oil and gas subsidies that do not lower consumer prices, and stop sending money overseas to people who don’t hold our nation’s interests at heart. We must also make continuing improvements in efficiency to lower costs and promote American manufacturing. We cannot and will not lose out on the next generation of technology to overseas competitors. I will work with the eight Delta states and all interested parties, both in Congress and outside its halls, to make sure that these pillars of a comprehensive energy plan will lower our energy costs, grow our economy, and better our national security.

b. Energy retrofits, the LIHEAP program to aid lower income customers, and energy efficiency are increasingly important in reducing energy costs. Energy retrofit programs such as Arkansas’ Home Energy Loan Assistance (HEAL) program (where the costs of retrofits are paid for by the savings in energy bills) have been successful. Would you support LIHEAP as well as energy retrofit programs similar to the HEAL program? If so, what would you recommmend to implement those programs?

I support energy conservation programs, such as HEAL, which seek to increase the competitiveness of Arkansas businesses by lowering facility energy costs and increasing disposable income for working families. I will support those programs which are efficient and effective with taxpayer dollars, as the conservation of energy is in the public and private interest; and I will support those programs at historic funding levels for the people of the Delta.

To implement, I believe that we must continue proven partnerships which have yielded positive results and savings. Potential and established partners include the Arkansas Energy Office, the Clinton Foundation, community colleges, and organizations of the Delta.

c. Gas prices: We know that the federal government cannot totally control gas prices. But to the extent federal actions can deal with this issue, what policies in addition to expanded renewable energy–if any–would you support to reduce gas prices?

I support an “all-of-the-above” energy plan which develops the proven resources we have in America, such as oil and natural gas, and also brings renewables to market. As your Congressman, I will always support domestic energy independence with the Arkansas worker and consumer in mind. This support includes the responsible expansion of exploration, leasing, and extraction of oil and gas from American lands. It also includes the ending of speculative abuses, the promotion of policies that expand our nation’s refining capacities, and supporting efficiency improvements that further competitive advantages in the global marketplace.

USDA programs: USDA has a broad array of tremendously important programs to the Greater Delta Region. We support a new farm bill that will fully fund these programs:

a. Rural Development: Rural Development programs are vital for rural small business and job creation, rural housing, infrastructure, expansion of broadband to the underserved Delta, telemedicine, renewable energy, and other constructive activities for rural America. There have been unwise attempts to make major cuts in such programs as rural housing, for example. In the farm bill and other legislation would you support full funding and oppose cuts in USDA Rural Development programs?

I believe that we must get our fiscal house in order and balance our budget. I’m proud to have worked with Governor Beebe these last six years in balancing Arkansas’s budget, cutting taxes, providing essential services, and expanding the state’s economy. I will take this same common-sense proven approach to Washington. It is an approach which will oppose unreasonable and counter-productive cuts to effective and efficient services. Rural America needs development programs. Our present farm bill needs to be tweaked, not replaced indiscriminately. I will oppose any cuts to Rural Development programs which undermine the needs of the Delta and the First Congressional District.

b. Hunger and nutrition–The Delta unfortunately has extremely high rates of food insecurity, as well as diabetes, obesity and other nutrition-related diseases. Would you support full funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, WIC, aid to food banks, school meals, and the other key USDA nutrition programs in the new farm bill and other appropriations?

I will consider future appropriations in relation to revenue. We must get our nation’s fiscal house in order while not abandoning the neediest among us. I am the only candidate for office that has worked with our Governor to maintain a balanced budget in the state of Arkansas. I will take those same principles to Washington as our next Congressman.

Many hunger and nutrition experts in the Delta oppose proposals to block grant SNAP and thereby reduce SNAP benefits by $127 billion (over 10 years). Would you oppose this policy?


c. Family farmers: While it may be inevitable that some farm aid for higher income farmers may be reduced or in some cases eliminated, there are many middle class, lower-income, and/or minority farmers who need aid to continue their essential work in raising the food and fiber we all use. Would you support full funding in the new farm bill and other appropriations for aid to limited resource and middle class farmers?

Food and fiber security is economic security. It is national security. I believe in effective and efficient farm aid programs. That is why I believe the new farm bill should be tweaked, ensuring needed aid to limited resource and middle class farmers, and not indiscriminately abandoned.

The Delta Regional Authority has done a fine job with its limited resources, but has been seriously underfunded throughout its brief history. When the legislation was signed into law in 2000 with bipartisan support, its funding level was envisaged at $30 million annually. During the early Bush administration that funding was cut sharply to $5 million, and since then the agency’s supporters at grassroots, state and federal levels have raised its funding to approximately in the range of roughly $12 million through the energy and water appropriations bill and another $3 million through USDA Rural Development.

The DRA is a relatively new agency in our region: Since its creation ten years ago, the DRA has worked diligently to improve the lives of the 10 million people who live in the Delta. Targeted investments in each of the eight states has created over 6000 jobs and retained nearly the same number of jobs. With a leverage ratio of 23:1, the Delta Regional Authority leveraged $1.4 billion in private investment with DRA projects and helped 17,000 families gain access to clean water and sewer service.

In addition to this impressive targeted investment program, the DRA has many other constructive activities, such as the Delta Doctors Program that has placed over 150 doctors in underserved parts of the Delta; a series of strategic plans on issues such as transportation, health care, broadband and other key issues; the Delta Healthy Initiative and other issues. Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall, the eight governors of the DRA states and the entire DRA team forge partnerships throughout the region. Local development districts are key partners, as are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development offices in the region and state economic development departments.

Given the DRA’s impressive track record, would you oppose cuts to the DRA until the economy strengthens, on the grounds that it makes no sense to cut funding for a program that helps create jobs and improve infrastructure during a weak economy?

The DRA serves the entirety of my congressional district, and it serves it well. Unlike my current Congressman, I will oppose cuts that will undermine the strength of the First District’s economy.

When the economy recovers and the increase in revenue from having more people at work strengthens the budget, would you support an expansion of the funding at least up to the original level of $30 million?

As the only candidate for office that has worked with our Governor to maintain a balanced budget in Arkansas, I understand the importance of paying down our debt and I will consider expanded funding for worthy investments as a growing economy allows.

Finding the budgetary resources needed to invest in the domestic economy: We need for our nation’s elected officials to tell us where they will make spending cuts and where they will raise revenue in order to reduce the deficits and find the funding to invest in domestic economic recovery in the Delta and throughout the rest of the country.

a. Reductions in foreign military interventions and exorbitant weapons systems to provide funds for America’s economic recovery: By far the largest potential areas for spending reductions are the military budget, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. While there are many different points of view, many people in the Delta would not support cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

In reducing the deficits, many people believe that one of the key areas for spending cuts is to reduce military spending on foreign interventions and exorbitant weapons systems, in order to have more funds to invest in the domestic economy. (We know that a premeditated, major act of aggression against the United States would of course require the country to defend itself, so that kind of calamitous event would obviously change the situation.) But currently, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, would you agree that military spending should be substantially reduced, and if so what level of funding cuts would you support?

Our military must remain the preeminent fighting force for good in the world. At the same time, military spending is expected to change with the ending of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resulting monetary savings shall be applied to upholding Social Security and Medicare promises, to our returning service men and women – true heroes – and to paying down our national debt. Future funding levels for military expenditures must consider the ever-changing national security landscape and threats to our nation’s vital interests.

b. Revenue from highest income brackets: Even with substantial spending cuts in the military and other areas for reduced spending, the deficit are so massive that much greater revenue will be needed to stop the flood of red ink. Reliable polls show that roughly two thirds of the wealthiest people themselves would approve of this in order to get the deficits under control.

Would you support higher taxes on higher income people in order to reduce the deficits? In particular, would you support a surtax on incomes of $1 million a year? If you would support a surtax, would you recommend a 5% rate or what level would you support?

I will not support any tax increase on working-class Arkansans. I have consistently supported the extension of the payroll tax cut and strongly opposed the idea of a national sales tax. My opponent has not.

I would support revising our tax code to ensure that everyone pays their fair share and we get our budget back in order. This includes closing loopholes and ending burdensome regulations. Having worked alongside Governor Beebe, I know that government can responsibly cut taxes, balance the budget, and grow the economy. I have a record of sound fiscal policy, and the people of the First Congressional District will always know where I stand.

Priorities in spending: In choosing priorities for spending cuts, many people in the Delta would oppose cuts to programs that create or retain jobs or provide aid for the most vulnerable populations that are most damaged by the recession, especially in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, aid to senior citizens, hunger and nutrition, flood control and disaster relief, veterans and housing; therefore, would you oppose cutting spending for these job creation and vital programs for the most vulnerable populations?

We must balance our nation’s budget in a responsible manner, but responsibility does not mean the privatization of social security, the dismantling of Medicare into a voucher program, or breaking our nation’s promises to seniors and vulnerable populations. I will work to balance the budget, as I have in Arkansas with Governor Beebe, while opposing unreasonable cuts to vital programs.

Transportation and other infrastructure: There have been very unfortunate and unwise delays in passing the new highway bill. Not only in this bill but in many infrastructure areas, there is substantial support in the Delta for major infrastructure and job creation investments, which would not only get the economy rolling but also repair our seriously deteriorating infrastructure. The WPA investments are a successful model for this type of beneficial investments.

Would you support a major, WPA-like program of job creation by major expansion and improvements in schools, roads (including the Interstate 69 Corridor and the entire Delta Development Highway System plan), bridges, broadband, rails, inland waterway systems and other essential infrastructure?

I will work to balance our nation’s budget while improving its infrastructure. Unfortunately, Congress has put partisanship before policy in delaying needed infrastructure projects –including the much debated highway bill and investments in expanded broadband service. Bringing high-speed internet to all corners of the Delta, so that individuals may learn and businesses may compete, serves the regional and national interest. It also serves our country’s interest to replace the leaders in Washington who are unwilling to do what is necessary to put America’s economy back on track.

Housing: In addition to the highly unfortunate and ill-advised efforts to cut funding for USDA rural housing programs, many people in the Delta believe that one of the weaknesses of the federal economic recovery programs has been thus far an inadequate program of cleaning up the mortgage and housing crisis. USDA’s new pilot program to help families refinance in the hardest hit states is a good start. But it should be expanded.

Would you agree that much more aggressive action needs to be taken to reduce the numbers of foreclosures and reduce the mortgage debt of many Americans whose housing values have declined?

Until the housing sector fully recovers, the economy will not fully recover. The federal government has not adequately addressed this crisis.

There are differing points of view about providing aid to the many home-owners who are struggling with foreclosures or heavy mortgage debt. Some believe that these people made unwise decisions regarding their mortgages and should be punished to set an example and avoid future unwise decisions. Others emphasize more that the recession and housing collapse was so severe, difficult to predict, that foreclosures harm not only the ones who lose their homes but their neighbors who have their housing values reduced, and that the damage to the economy from foreclosures and massive mortgage debt is so widespread that the priority should not be in punitive action against those in distress but in removing this road block to economic recovery.

Many housing experts believe that both points of view have some merit, but they emphasize that no oneshould pay more than 30% of their income for housing and a program that adjusts the length of payment for mortgage rather than foreclose could serve to fill both needs. The homes could remain occupied, saving property values for neighbors & helping owners keep their homes.

Which of these points of view has more merit, and what is your position regarding an aggressive program of federal aid in reducing mortgage payments and preventing foreclosures?

When I am in Congress, I will work with people on both sides of the aisle to develop and implement common-sense solutions that enjoy a broad base of support and understanding back in the Delta. My policies are about people before politics and policy before partisanship.