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By Collin Breaux

Forty-ninth Congressional District candidates Rep. Mike Levin and Brian Maryott discussed numerous issues, and had heated exchanges, during a virtual Oct. 7 forum hosted by the Oceanside, Carlsbad and Vista Chambers of Commerce. The seat will be decided in the general election on Nov. 3.

Maryott, the Republican challenger and current San Juan Capistrano councilmember, called Democratic incumbent Levin a big government liberal, while Levin labeled Maryott a Trump acolyte. Moderator Mary Crowley, with the League of Women Voters, reminded the two to keep things civil and to stay on track with the issues, per rules set out at the start of the forum.

Among the questions Crowley asked, one was if the candidates support adding a constitutional amendment requiring an annual balanced budget from the federal government. Maryott said he does, and while it won’t happen overnight, a balanced budget is critically important.

“We are in a dangerous zone with regards to our country’s balance sheet,” Maryott said. “It’s going to have remarkable impact on our children and children’s children if we’re not careful. We are getting perilously close to a range as it regards our cumulative debt, relative to our income level as a country, our GDP, as well as our tax revenue.”

Levin said he supports a commission that would take a strong look at revenue and taxation, saying the country is in a rainy-day fund period. Having a Democratic President would help balance the budget, Levin said, citing Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

“We are facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis right now,” Levin said. “We’ve got 26 million Americans still on unemployment. Of the 22 million jobs that were lost as a result of this pandemic, about half of them have come back. We cannot turn our back at this moment on the 11 million who are still out of work.”

The candidates also addressed higher education and student loan debt. Levin said he supports the College Affordability Act, a bill in the House of Representatives that aims to help alleviate student loan debt, and touted legislation that provides a 12-month training program for veterans to get them into high-skill and high-wage jobs.

“Specifically, I’ve been trying to focus on educational opportunities for our veterans,” Levin said. “I’ve worked across the aisle on a number of pieces of legislation, particularly again during this pandemic, to help advance those opportunities. One bill, as part of our DELIVER Act—Dependable Employment and Living Improvements for Veterans’ Economic Recovery—is with Phil Roe, who’s a Republican from Tennessee.”

Levin said everyone should have access to education and that the student debt loan bubble must be eliminated. Maryott said the federal government should create career opportunities for young people who face struggles in the job market due to student loan debt, and student loan rates can be roughly reduced to the same as a car payment.

“We have to take responsibility as a federal government in this area for what we did to help college and university costs explode, roughly doubling in the last 10-plus years,” Maryott said. “We can use the balance sheet of the federal government creatively to bring the monthly tab down for our graduates by at least 60% if we’re smart about this.”

Crowley also asked Maryott and Levin about green technology. Maryott said so much can be done to encourage renewable energy, such as extending tax credits and investing in energy innovation from a market direction.

“We have to stay away from painful mandates. We have to stay away from ideas that are likely to bankrupt employers, bankrupt families,” Maryott said. “That is just political posturing. It’s not helpful. That’s the Progressive Caucus, which my opponent is a proud member of.”

Levin said he has been working on the issue for a long time and is a member of the Climate Crisis Action Plan Committee. Greenhouse gas emissions must be dramatically reduced and sustainability must be accelerated, Levin said.

“I’ve actually worked across the aisle. I’ve got a bipartisan renewable energy development act bill with Paul Gosar of Arizona,” Levin said. “We’re working as hard as we can to actually have the details, and we need details that are commensurate with the science. I didn’t hear much from Brian there, and I’ve looked at the plan he supports, and there’s not much to that plan. There’s a lot of fossil fuel industry talking points.”

A recording of the forum can be viewed at the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce’s YouTube channel.

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