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Jay critical of Bush's tax cut plan

Editor's note: In a session that lasted nearly 112 hours, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., sat down with members of the Clarksburg Exponent and Telegram editorial boards on Friday afternoon, sharing his views on a variety of subjects, from President Bush's tax cut plan to the diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China.

by James Fisher

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is most outspoken when discussing health care, tax cuts for working families and the need for more jobs and economic development. He says those passions stem from his days as a VISTA volunteer in rural West Virginia in the 1960s.

"I consider myself a pragmatic legislator," Rockefeller said. "I'm a Democrat, but I'm not particularly ideological.

"If you don't work with people on both sides you might as well go home."

Following are some excerpts of the session, with Rockefeller's views on a number of topics, including several questions asked by the newspapers' staff.

Bush's tax cut plan

* "If I say I'm against the Bush tax cut, that means I must be against tax cuts. Well, no, I'm not, in fact. I'm just not for doing it to the extent that it deprives us of health care.

* "This is to me mathematical. It's not ideological. It's not political. It's mathematical.

* "You can go to the Bush tax relief (Web site) ... and it will tell you that the average West Virginia family which makes $26,000, that their tax return will be $118. And the way I put that is that if my aunt has arthritis, it costs her $433 a month for arthritis medicine. That gets her one week of arthritis medicine. My question is, wouldn't you rather have a prescription drug benefit? Because then you could take care of that and all other problems for the whole year. And I think it's a fair question.

* "I also have to point out that 42 percent of West Virginia families with children won't get anything out of the Bush tax cut. Under most circumstances, if you're making $25,000 or less you're not getting a tax cut anyway and you haven't been in the past.

* "That is not to criticize tax cuts, it's to criticize the amount. Because what do you do? I mean, you've got roads you want to build around here, you've got aviation, you've got runways, you've got health care, you've got clean water, you've got coal. This is everything. It all depends on, is there a certain amount of money to be spent on social programs?"

China

* "I almost never go to Taiwan (without going) to China and I tell that to each side because I want to be seen as an honest broker because I think the Taiwan Straits is terrifying (in regards to world peace). I think that along with the Palestine-Israeli thing, that's the most scary. More so than the DMZ (demilitarized zone) in North Korea/South Korea. The Taiwan Straits, where the Chinese have missiles pointed all over the place in Taiwan, it's really scary.

* "Where I think Bush is wrong ... I'll say so and where I think he's doing a good job, and so far he has on the China thing, which is a huge, brutal first test to get on foreign policy. I think he's been effective."

Public perception that politicians are "bought and paid for"

* "I've never agreed with that. In fact, I would make the case that ... the quality, the integrity, the nature of the (100) senators there today, compared to when I got there 17 years ago, is substantially better. They tend to be more professional. The old days, when LBJ and Sam Rayburn did it, boy was it efficient but it wasn't a democracy."

Video poker

* "That depends if you want to call me Gov. Rockefeller or Sen. Rockefeller. If you want to call me Sen. Rockefeller you're probably not going to get much of an answer. Do I have views? Yeah. But do I suggest what I think ought to happen or ought to be done? No. Not if it's an issue between the governor and the state Legislature."

Corridor H

* "I want to do Corridor H. I think we're invisible to Washington without Corridor H. And I think (if) we have Corridor H, we stop being invisible and all of a sudden Loudon County (Va.) spills over into West Virginia and keeps going.

Income tax reform

* "If I were doing all this, I think I would probably take a payroll tax approach. I mean, the payroll tax is bigger nationally than the income tax anyway, and by definition the payroll tax gets to people who are working. It tends to get more toward working Americans. It just doesn't get publicity, it's kind of a thing there on your form."

On being president

* "I had thought about it. Or at least I thought I thought about it in 1991. But the answer is no. I'm really happy where I am. I feel productive, I love the work. I want to represent West Virginia, I don't want to represent 50 states. I don't have any interest in being a senator from Wisconsin (or) California.

* "I went through a period in 1991 where I looked at it, but you know, to be honest with you I wasn't really looking at it, what I was on was kind of a health care thing. I had just finished the Pepper Commission, I was on this universal health care thing and I was going all over the country giving speeches. I appealed to some people so it began to turn political in my own mind. It began to turn political vaguely, but when I thought about it, that's not what I was wanting to do then."

Staff writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com

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