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3rd District's Curtis, Singer Share Stark Differences On Tax Cuts, Health Care In Debate

Photo of candidates at debate.
Evan Cobb / Daily Herald

In a Tuesday night during a debate at Utah Valley University in Orem, major-party candidates in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District offered very different takes on two issues Democrats are hammering in their fight to take mack the U.S. House: on tax cuts and health care.

Republican incumbent Rep. John Curtis is seeking his first full term in the U.S. House. He was elected to the seat in November 2017 after winning a special election to replace former Congressman Jason Chaffetz.  

Democratic challenger James Singer is campaigning on a progressive platform in one of the nation’s most conservative districts according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index. An instructor in the sociology department at Salt Lake Community College, he is believed to be the first Native American from Utah to run for Congress.

Curtis, who was previously mayor of Provo, defended the tax reform package passed by Congress late last year and said he was “honored” to vote for it on only his fourth day in office.

“I bristle when I hear that it’s a tax cut for the rich,” he said, adding that he believes the bill is helping small businesses in Utah.

The federaldeficit grew to $779 billion in the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, but Curtis said he still believes the $1.5 trillion tax cuts will have a “positive impact” on the national debt. Curtis, along with Utah’s other GOP House members,voted in favor of a second round of proposed tax cuts, which by some estimates would raise the deficit by more than $3 trillion.

Singer sharply criticized the tax cuts, saying the package has largely benefitted “lazy loafers at the top” and has failed to trickle down to middle- and working-class Americans.

“We know there are people working hard whose wages have been flat,” he said. “We’ve seen absolutely no wage growth, but we’ve seen massive amounts of those profits going to the very top.”  

On health care, Singer, whose platform includes tuition-free college and restoring original boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument, said he also believes health care should be treated as a right rather than a commodity.

“That’s why I see health care as a right to every human being in our society,” Singer said. “I think a single-payer, Medicare-for-all, type of system is the best kind of thing that we can do to help us to compete with even other nations.”

Curtis disagreed, saying he does not believe government can solve every problem in health care. While Curtis said he supports at least one provision of the Affordable Care Act, which provides protections for pre-existing conditions, he questioned whether the federal government should require people under 26 to be covered by their parents’ insurance.

“I’m willing to have an open mind and conversation about that,” he said, “But … I’m not fully on board with that one.”

Recent polling from the  Salt Lake Tribune and Hinckley Institute of Politics shows Curtis with a strong lead in the race for Utah’s 3rd District.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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