Ventura County's congressmen split along partisan lines on President Clinton's economic plan Thursday--with Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly blasting it as "devastating" and Democratic Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson calling it vital for the nation's economic health.
The two lawmakers have been consistently outspoken in their reactions to Clinton's sweeping five-year program of tax increases and spending cuts. Both reported that their constituents have registered overwhelming opposition.
"It would be absolutely devastating" to the economy, said Gallegly, whose district encompasses all of Ventura County except most of Thousand Oaks. "Taxation has never stimulated the economy."
The Simi Valley Republican said Clinton's proposed energy tax would be especially harmful to Ventura County because of the "region's reliance on agriculture--an energy-intensive industry--and oil production." He also cited commuters' heavy use of gasoline for their vehicles.
Gallegly cited a study by the Washington-based Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan, business-oriented research organization that claimed 1,063 jobs would be lost in his district by 1998 "as a direct result of the sharply higher energy costs that would have to be absorbed or passed along to consumers by virtually every business in the U.S."
Beilenson, whose congressional district includes most of Thousand Oaks, maintained that the region would gain the same economic benefits as the rest of the nation--more than offsetting any downside to higher energy costs.
"It will reduce the deficits by about $500 billion over the next five years," said the Woodland Hills Democrat, who has been one of his party's most vocal proponents of cutting the deficit. "Everyone knows this will be of great help for the economy."
Beilenson has long advocated dramatic increases in the gasoline tax to help reduce the deficit, decrease U.S. dependence on imported oil and encourage conservation. He said the energy tax would boost taxes for the average middle-class family by $14 to $18 a month when it is fully implemented in five years.
"That's their contribution for bringing their country's deficit under control," he said. "The benefits are well worth the costs."
Gallegly has voted for an alternative proposal by Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio), the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, that would reduce the deficit by $425 billion over five years without any tax increases by imposing deeper spending cuts. This includes making the higher-income elderly pay more for Medicare, raising the minimum retirement age for federal workers from 55 to 62 and eliminating 162,000 federal jobs.
"It's not a perfect plan," Gallegly said. "But it is a plan."
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