By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor
Democrat U.S. Rep. Tom Udall made a stop on the Eastern New Mexico University campus in Portales Wednesday as a part of his campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Udall faces U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM in his bid to replace retiring Republican senator Pete Domenici.
Speaking to students and residents in what he called his “Doing Right By New Mexico Tour,” Udall began his town-hall style meeting by outlining his stance on energy issues.
“We’re seeing the debate develop about energy,” Udall said. “We’ve seen middle class families hit hard economically. The American dream is slipping away for many. One of the biggest challenges we face is how we move forward on energy.”
Udall said the U.S. needs more exploration, but he said that nuclear power, conservation and investment in alternative energy and technology research were equally important.
He said he has supported loan guarantees for expanding nuclear power and he would like to see the country invest more in alternative energy, including wind and solar, which could be a boon to eastern New Mexico. He said he believes stronger partnerships between national laboratories, universities and government need to be forged to advance exploration of new energy technologies.
Udall said conservation was also a big component of sound energy policy and said it didn’t necessarily have to be a hardship for people if technologies are applied to the problem.
Portales resident George Speck asked Udall if he was prepared to propose a national energy policy.
“The energy policy we’ve had for the last four years — we don’t even know what it is,” Udall said, claiming it was formulated in secret by the Bush administration. “(The policy) looks like Bush travels to Saudi Arabia with hat-in-hand to get them to turn the spigot back on. That’s not going to work.”
Udall said forward-looking ideas for dealing with energy such as those proposed by President Jimmy Carter were needed. He said that oil prices went back down and his ideas were abandoned.
“Do more with less, that’s what we’re asking people to do,” Udall said.
Opal Greer, an education student at ENMU, worried that students in elementary and secondary schools don’t have access to enough text books and asked Udall what could be done.
Udall said $10 billion has been pulled away from schools to fund the Iraq War. He said that money needed to be invested in education and infrastructure at home instead of in Iraq. Udall said that he felt President Bush had compromised on the No Child Left Behind Act and over several years funding had fallen behind by $80 billion.
Linda Uttaro of Portales questioned Udall about the nation’s $300 trillion budget deficit.
“I don’t see how the deficit will ever be fixed without raising taxes for everyone,” Uttaro said. “Somebody has to pay for it, we’re the somebody. How do you see this deficit coming down?”
Udall said a pay-as-you-go policy recently put into effect in Congress requiring a bill sponsor to find money for proposals will help. He said that he felt that previous tax cuts would eventually be repealed. Udall said he would like to see that effort applied to the top levels of income and possibly cut taxes further for middle and lower incomes.
Udall also fielded questions on veterans issues, immigration, marriage laws, abortion and coal power generation.