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Where Crist, Graham stand

    A look at issues in the race for senator.

By CURTIS KRUEGER

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 18, 1998


Chat are the facts behind the issues that Bob Graham and Charlie Crist will be talking about in their debate? And will their answers be consistent with stands they've taken before? Here is a reference guide to some key issues facing federal lawmakers and an overview of the candidates' past positions on those and other concerns.

Taxes

Crist raps Graham for the Clinton administration's 1993 deficit reduction plan, which included a $240-billion tax increase. But Graham said the plan helped turn the federal budget deficit into a surplus and create the economic growth the nation has enjoyed in recent years. Graham said he has pushed several measures designed to give tax breaks to working families. He successfully pushed to eliminate the capital gains tax in most cases when a personal residence is sold.

Crist has said he wants to reduce taxes. He also said he wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and replace it with either a flat tax or a national sales tax; he's not sure which. He says he would listen to voters before making that decision.

Health care

Graham has developed legislation, now pending, designed to regulate health maintenance organizations. It would require HMOs to allow patients access to specialists and emergency care and require HMOs to produce reams of information so consumers could compare different plans.

Crist said he agrees HMO regulation is needed to provide for greater patient access to care, and said he would support the rights of patients to sue HMOs, in contrast to several other Republican lawmakers.

President Clinton

Graham has expressed deep disappointment with the president, but says resignation or impeachment would be bad for the country. He also has reservations about a congressional effort to censure him, saying that such a procedure is not spelled out in the Constitution.

Crist says Clinton should resign.

Social Security

Both Crist and Graham say the current budget surplus should not be used for a tax cut until Social Security is stabilized.

Graham wants Social Security to be treated as a separate trust fund, kept apart from the rest of the federal budget. He has said he opposes privatization of Social Security but supports allowing some Social Security monies to be invested in "a mutual fund of the most stable stocks," to help the fund grow.

Crist slams Graham for having voted to increase taxes on upper-income Social Security recipients and says "I would never have done that and never will." Graham has said the vote was part of a deficit reduction package that has led to the current U.S. government surplus and improved the economy.

Crime

Local sheriffs and police have more direct dealings with crime than a U.S. senator, but both candidates discuss the subject on the campaign trail.

Crist touts his record of fighting for a law requiring state inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. Previously, state prisoners were released after serving as little as one-third of their time. He criticizes Graham for signing a law as governor that allowed the early release of prisoners in the case of prison overcrowding. But some of his criticisms misstated the provisions of the law.

Graham has said he is proud of his record as governor and senator on law enforcement issues. Among his accomplishments: obtaining more federal dollars to use to fight drug trafficking in central Florida.

Experience

Graham says his knowledge of Florida, his history of working day jobs with average Floridians, his service in the Senate, as governor and at other levels of government, make him clearly the best qualified candidate.

Crist says he is more in touch with average Floridians, and he has more energy than Graham to fight for their needs.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has unusual status within the United States. Its people are U.S. residents who join the armed forces and fight in U.S. wars, and who are eligible to receive welfare and Social Security. Yet they are not allowed to vote in presidential elections, and they do not have congressional representation.

Graham supports a Congressionally approved plebiscite, allowing Puerto Ricans to vote whether to become the 51st state. Crist said he agrees with that approach.

 

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