Rep. Tim Bishop said Monday at a News 12 Long Island debate that he supports a tax hike on high income earners to help balance the federal budget, while his opponent Randy Altschuler opposed any new taxes.
Bishop (D-Southampton) and Altschuler, a Republican, laid out sharply divergent views of how to boost the economy in the 30-minute debate at the News 12 studios in Woodbury. However, they agreed that Social Security needs to be reformed to make it sustainable, and that they support President Barack Obama's sanctions on Iran.
The debate is available on news12.com and on Channel 612.
Bishop said he supports extension of President George W. Bush's tax cuts only for households earning less than $250,000 a year. He said the tax hikes on people making more than that would affect only about 2 percent of Americans.
"If we're going to protect programs that all of us, or at least most of us, support -- Medicare, Social Security, having a strong national defense, veterans benefits, investment in education and infrastructure -- the reality is that we simply need to generate more revenue," Bishop said.
"We have to take a balanced approach," Bishop said.
Altschuler, a St. James businessman, said he supported all of those programs, but rejected tax hikes of any kind.
"I just simply can't support raising taxes on anybody right now," he said. "People on Long Island are taxed up the wazoo. Anytime we start talking about taxes in Washington, it usually comes back to us right here."
Altschuler said the government should look to control spending and pass a bipartisan budget -- "But more taxes? No, sir."
The candidates also split on how to spur local job growth.
Bishop said job creation "has always been a partnership" between the private and public sectors. He cited a new Shop Rite grocery store in Selden, which has hired 350 people. The owner explained that he chose Selden because of public road improvements recently made there, Bishop said.
"That's the kind of partnership I'm talking about," he said.
But Altschuler said "more government mandates" are burdening small business. He noted that his 10-point jobs plan would provide more tax incentives with less regulation.
"It's so hard to start a business now," Altschuler said. "Sometimes, government is the adversary, not our advocate."
Bishop and Altschuler debated Monday as total spending by independent groups in their race officially topped $3 million -- triple what those groups spent in 2010, when the candidates first faced each other.
Outside spending in the past two months now equals what Bishop's and Altschuler's campaign committees have spent in the 2011-12 election cycle.