By Dan Kristie
The economy was the primary focus of a forum state House candidate Dan Truitt and U.S. House candidate Pat Meehan held Tuesday at the Hershey's Mill Golf Club.
The candidates, both Republicans, said that economic revival will come only when the state and federal governments enact tax policies that encourage small business growth.
Truitt, an East Goshen resident and owner of an engineering firm, said his experience in business has taught him that fewer taxes and government regulations are key to job growth.
"I understand why a small business decides to hire people, and I understand why a small business decides not to hire people," said Truitt, who is running in the West Chester area's 156th District.
Truitt said that his engineering firm once employed eight people. But, he said, he decided to shrink his work force because taxes and government paperwork were too onerous. He said he now works alone and makes more than he did when his firm had other employees.
Meehan, an Upper Darby resident who is running for the open 7th Congressional District seat, criticized the federal government's stimulus programs and said that business-friendly tax policies are crucial to repairing the economy.
"I'm promoting the idea that a big part of (economic recovery) is favorable tax policy," Meehan said.
Meehan said many businesses are "looking for predictability" from the federal government. Businesses, he said, will not hire until they have some idea how new and changing regulations will affect them.
One business owner, Meehan said, told him "I'm not afraid to take the risk -- you've just got to assure me that the rules are not going to change halfway down the line."
Meehan called for bipartisanship in Washington. He said the strong economy of the late 1990s came in part because the White House was controlled by a Democrat while Congress was controlled by Republicans.
The Republican victory in 1994 "brought Clinton back to the center," Meehan said, promising that if voters turn Congress over to Republicans in 2010, an economically beneficial system of checks and balances would come about.
"(Reigniting the economy) is going to take courageous decisions at a bipartisan level," Meehan said.
After both candidates spoke, they took questions from the audience members, most of whom were residents of Hershey's Mill, a large, age-restricted housing development.
Many of the questions concerned retirement income. Residents wanted to know how the candidates planned to protect Social Security and to ensure that investment income improves.
Meehan said that the federal government should not increase taxes on dividends and capital gains. And he said Social Security and Medicare will be bolstered if more jobs are created.
Meehan also said he opposes the cuts to Medicare that are part of the recently enacted federal health care reform bill.
Meehan is running against state Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161st, of Swarthmore, for the seat left open by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, who is running for U.S. Senate. Truitt is running against state Rep. Barbara McIlavine Smith, D-156th, of West Chester.