Questions and Candidate Answers for US House District 12
An estimated 300,000 people have died from gun violence between 2004 and 2014. Do you believe the Second Amendment leaves any room for limits on gun rights? If so, please outline what those limits should be. Would you support overturning the federal ban on research on gun violence?
Bilirakis, Gus Michael (REP): I strongly support the right to responsibly bear arms under our Second Amendment, and I am hesitant to support legislation that would curtail the rights guaranteed by our forefathers in the Constitution and, more specifically, the Bill of rights. There are already over 20,000 gun control laws on the books. Instead of enacting even more gun control legislation, I believe that we should vigorously prosecute and punish those criminals who unlawfully possess and use firearms. I believe that the most effective crime control measures would be severe, mandatory sentences for those convicted of using firearms in the commission of a crime. Further, we must examine the underlying causes of gun violence. Law-abiding Americans who exercise their Second Amendment rights are very rarely the aggressors in a violent crime. Many Americans legally purchase firearms and use them for sport or self-defense without problem. I believe that Washington can come together in a bipartisan manner to enforce current policies that make it more difficult for criminals to obtain guns, as well as policies that will be more effective in treating those with mental illnesses. In this way, Congress can address the root cause of gun violence and help to further reduce it, without infringing on law-abiding citizens’ Constitutional rights.
Tager, Robert Matthew (DEM): There are limits to gun ownership rights. We already have prohibitions based on age and being a convicted felon. I support prohibiting people on “no fly” lists and terrorist watch lists from having firearms. I support reversing the ban on federal research on firearm violence. I also support extending the waiting period for purchasing firearms if the information a person provided can not be verified because they gave inaccurate or incomplete information.
Some 30 million Americans remain uninsured. Would you support or oppose the Affordable Care Act as currently written? Explain why you would support its continuation or what kind of plan, if any, should replace it.
Bilirakis, Gus Michael (REP): The ACA has failed to live up to promises made. Many Americans lost their health plans. Premiums have increased yearly. In 2016, average Florida premiums increased by 9.5%. In 2017, it’s estimated that premiums will increase 13%. Health plans are exiting the Exchange. In 2017, 44 of the State’s 67 counties may only have 1 health plan available. This is killing competition in the marketplace and will lead to higher premiums. I support the Republican plan that would provide more control for patients as health plans compete for business. It would provide health insurance portability, allow sales across state lines, allow small businesses to band together to increase buying power, and enact real medical liability reform. Our plan would protect patients with pre-existing conditions, allow kids to stay on their parents plan longer, protect patients from sudden cancellations, promote continuous coverage, and do so with lower premiums to encourage young people to purchase insurance. Our plan would provide flexibility in the Medicaid program to empower states to build a Medicaid plan to fit the needs of their state. It would also modernize the Medicare program by eliminating the Independent Payment Advisory Board, an unelected board of bureaucrats charged with cutting physician Medicare payments. It would stop the raid on Medicare funds that were used to pay for new spending in the ACA, and would protect … (Candidates were instructed to limit responses to a maximum of 225 words & informed that answers would be cut off at the word limit, as we have done in this instance.)
Tager, Robert Matthew (DEM): I support the Affordable Care Act but want to change several things. First, I propose lifting the ban prohibiting the government from negotiating medicine prices. Secondly, I support caps on pharmaceutical profits. Consumers are being ripped off and exploited. Third, hospital costs must be reined in. Hospitals should charge people the same rates, regardless of the type of insurance they have and those rates should be capped. Fourth, Insurance companies should have to disclose their negotiated prices with providers, doctors, hospitals, and drug companies, so consumers can understand how much their out of pocket costs and co-pays would be. I also support people being permitted to buy into medicare through a public option. Most seniors Love medicare, so why not allow all Americans to buy into it until retirement age. I also support medicare for all. I DO NOT support returning to the way things were before the Affordable Care Act.
Some presidential candidates have said they would favor getting rid of the U.S. Department of Education. Explain what kind of role you believe the federal government should play in education and what federal education policies you would support or oppose.
Bilirakis, Gus Michael (REP): I supported the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177). This would reauthorize the Department of Education’s K-12 programs. This bill adopted a new approach to education by minimizing the role of the Department of Education and empowering the states. It restores local control and moves Washington out of the classrooms so that teachers can run their classrooms free to Washington driven bureaucratic red tape. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, States are in control of choosing the academic standards in reading and math. This will allow them to align their standards to meet their needs, not Washington’s needs. The federal government should not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards such as Common Core. The Department of Education has abused their power to force adoption of Common Core by states that did not want to use this standard. Every Student Succeeds Act reduces the number of existing federal programs to streamline duplicative programs. However, it does provide dedicated funding to support priorities such as teacher quality, afterschool programs, increased access to STEM education, and greater community involvement in schools.
Tager, Robert Matthew (DEM): Teachers are an integral part of our society and democracy. They are as valuable and as important as police, firefighters, paramedics, and all first responders, yet they are always attacked. I support the U.S. Department of Education and believe setting education standards and minimums is an important function of the Federal Government. Teachers should be able to teach to the needs of their students without having to worry about teaching to all these standardized tests administered by the States. These tests only make the companies that create and provide these tests and test prep materials richer, detract from true teaching time, and provide no more information about students learning. The federal government should spend more on education and assist the States in properly funding all schools including inner city schools.
In South Florida, we are witnessing the alarming rise of the sea level first hand. What is your opinion about the current resources dedicated to this issue in the state of Florida and what actions will you take to address this issue?
Bilirakis, Gus Michael (REP): The debate in Congress over the prospect of global warming and what the United States could or should do about it has yielded, over the last several years, a range of legislative proposals. Representing a district with a thriving coastal community makes me particularly sensitive to the threats that we face. Flooding and hurricanes continue to cause the biggest concern, and I am happy to see local governments addressing these threats in our area. Pinellas County, in particular, has engaged in flood prevention activities that recently resulted in a flood insurance discount for certain communities. I hope that this success spurs other Florida counties to consider the benefits of such improvements. On a federal level, we must be careful about regulations imposed on energy companies. If the law becomes too burdensome, it will result in a lack of competition and innovation in the energy sector with higher energy prices for everyone, which hurts the elderly and working classes the most. Results will come sooner and at less cost when we rely on free-market solutions as opposed to new regulations and bureaucracy. Research and development must be encouraged to lead the way toward newer and more advanced energy technology and the use of the next generation of energy sources. Government should support the industry in innovation, not force change upon it.
Tager, Robert Matthew (DEM): There are no state resources being spent because our Republican governor and our Republican representatives are all Climate Change deniers. There is also no federal support because the Republican controlled House and Senate are also climate change deniers. I would like to bring Federal Money back to the district to unclog and fix our aging drain systems. This will also create good paying jobs. I will advocate for federal recognition of the climate change problem and fight to lower the emissions and other factors causing and contributing to climate change. These fixes include: More renewable energy, not just run by big business but the right for a homeowner to have solar panels for their own source of renewable energy. Tax incentives for individuals and the right to sell any excess power to the electric company or energy exchanges.; Tax incentives for companies to line their roofs and vacant fields with solar panels or other means of creating their own clean energy, and permitting them to sell the excess to the electric companies or energy exchanges.; Tax incentives for energy companies to immediately implement solar panel fields or windmill farms or hydroelectric generation stations to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.; Tariffs against any country’s goods that do not begin the elimination of harmful emissions. This is a problem we have been dealing with for a … (Candidates were instructed to limit responses to a maximum of 225 words & informed that answers would be cut off at the word limit, as we have done in this instance.)
The U.S. debt is approaching $20 trillion, and interest payments on the debt were $223 billion in 2015. What measures would you support to reduce the annual deficit that contributes to the national debt?
Bilirakis, Gus Michael (REP): Over the past years, our federal deficit has remained unchecked and has continued to skyrocket out of control. We must continue to reform Washington’s current out-of-control spending habits in order to ensure the fiscal credibility of the United States both at home and in the global market. Serious spending reforms must be implemented. Our federal spending programs must be carefully examined so that wasteful and duplicative programs are eliminated in order to make government more efficient and accountable. I do not believe that the federal government ought to default on its loans. However, it is imperative to the long-term prosperity of this country, for my generation and for generations to come, to enact serious spending reforms which must include a balanced budget amendment. Americans have been forced to spend less during these troubled economic times. I believe that our government should do the same.
Tager, Robert Matthew (DEM): First, wages must be increased and we must bring our manufacturing jobs back to America. When wages are higher, demand for goods and services increase, companies are created, competition for employees increases and competition between companies increases giving more power to consumers, and more jobs are created. When more people work, tax rolls are higher and less borrowing is needed, so the deficit decreases. Second, we need to eliminate government subsidies that pick winners and losers, as examples, sugar, corn, ethanol, and gas and oil development subsidies. Thirdly, we need to make big business pay their fair share. No more big loopholes for businesses. They have been sitting on trillions of dollars of earned income they have not paid taxes on because they buy legislators who write their rules. WE are subsidizing their profits. What they don’t pay in taxes, we must borrow and add to the deficit. Fourthly, we need tax reform. Eliminate the carried interest tax rate, redefine what constitutes non-profits for tax purposes so companies that make $5 billion in revenues and over $600 million in profits can’t claim they are non-profits and escape taxes, and we must fund the IRS to do its job, collecting taxes. The establishment elite and super rich MUST pay their FAIR share of taxes. The tax cuts for the superrich and tax loopholes for companies like … (Candidates were instructed to limit responses to a maximum of 225 words & informed that answers would be cut off at the word limit, as we have done in this instance.)