Menendez and Kyrillos: Where they stand on issues

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Associated Press

Posted on October 3, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 3 at 1:07 PM

Where Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Republican Joe Kyrillos, a state senator trying to unseat him, say they stand on a selection of issues:

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TAXES

Kyrillos wants to cut the top business tax rate to 25 percent from its current 35 percent and to reduce all individual tax rates by 20 percent over time. Unlike many Republican candidates, he has not signed a no-tax-hike pledge.

Menendez opposes both extending current tax breaks for the wealthy and giving them new ones, saying such breaks increase the size of the government's spending deficit. (President Barack Obama wants to let George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire on income after the first $200,000 earned by individuals, the first $250,000 made by married couples.)

GOVERNMENT SPENDING/FEDERAL DEFICIT

Menendez said he supports pay-as-you-go rules that would require lawmakers to reduce spending elsewhere or raise taxes to pay for any new initiatives. He said he wants to eliminate what he calls "unnecessary taxpayer handouts to big oil companies" and subsidies for corn ethanol, to consolidate "duplicative" government programs and change tax policies so that insurance companies will not send revenues to other countries to avoid U.S. taxes.

Kyrillos supports capping federal spending at 20 percent of the gross domestic product and a balanced-budget amendment that would require the federal government to spend no more than it brings in each year.

HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL

Menendez voted for the 2010 health insurance overhaul championed by Obama. Menendez touts portions of the law that allow children to stay on their parents' health insurance plans until they turn 26, bar insurers from dumping customers because they get sick and offer free services such as annual wellness appointments and flus shots for senior citizens.

Kyrillos wants to repeal the law and instead put in place a system in which employees would receive tax credits they could use to buy health insurance on their own, enabling workers to take their insurance with them when they leave a job.

SOCIAL SECURITY

With the Social Security system projected to be solvent until 2033, Menendez said there is no need to rush to major action now, and he opposes any move toward privatization.

Kyrillos wants to let people choose between a guaranteed traditional Social Security plan or coverage from a private insurer. He supports raising the retirement age to receive full Social Security and Medicare benefits to 67 for people who are currently younger than 55. Under current law, the full retirement age is being raised already but gradually and slightly more slowly than Kyrillos proposes. He also wants to see benefits lowered or contributions raised for higher-income people.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Both candidates say climate change is a real problem, humans are a cause of it and the government has a role in trying to curb it.

Kyrillos says environmental policies need to be crafted so they do not harm the economy.

MIDDLE EAST

Kyrillos says that the U.S. should take a different diplomatic track in the Middle East. He criticized Obama for declining to meet recently with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He says the U.S. should make top priorities of demonstrating its commitment to Israel and of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Menendez also gives similar goals for the region — but without criticizing Obama. He says the U.S. needs to help build democracies in Libya and Tunisia and nurture "prospects for peace" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority while responding to threats from Syria and Iran.

CONGRESSIONAL GRIDLOCK

Kyrillos says his interest in fostering bipartisan cooperation and ending gridlock is one reason he won't sign a pledge not to raise taxes. He also says he would work with Democrats and the president.

Menendez says he wants to change Senate filibuster rules to make it harder for a minority of the Senate to keep a majority from passing legislation. He said the Senate should limit the number of filibusters for each bill and require filibustering senators to engage in debate, not just delay action.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Kyrillos supports civil unions, which offer the legal benefits and protections of marriage to gay couples, but are not technically marriages. New Jersey offers same-sex couples civil unions. But Kyrillos said decisions about whether to allow same-sex marriage should be left to individual states.

Menendez wants to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

ABORTION

Kyrillos said he favors restrictions such as parental notification, a waiting period and a ban on late-term abortions.

Menendez opposes any further restrictions on abortion.

SPORTS GAMBLING

Both candidates say they want New Jersey to be allowed to legalize sports gambling. As a state senator, Kyrillos voted in favor of a law to do so, and Menendez says he supports it because it would boost the economy of Atlantic City. New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill in January to allow sports gambling, even though the state does not have a federal waiver to do so. State officials plan to plow ahead with the program, even as major sports leagues challenge the state in court.

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