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 TIME on politics TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and TIME Gore serves as 'anniversary gift' for couple

By Brad Leighton/The Telegraph of Nashua, New Hampshire

December 6, 1999
Web posted at: 11:47 a.m. EST (1647 GMT)

MILFORD, New Hampshire (The Telegraph of Nashua) -- Paul Bagley of Milford got his wife, Micheleen, two 29th anniversary gifts on Sunday -- opal earrings and the vice president of the United States.

Vice President Al Gore came to the Bagley home on Union Street complete with policy positions ranging from health care to education to campaign finance reform.

The earrings came with a box.

"Great, what am I going to have to get her next year -- the queen?" quipped Amy Bagley, a third-year law student who threw her parents a big 25th anniversary party, only to be trumped by her father four years later.

Along with the Bagleys were about a dozen local folks chosen by the Gore campaign for the "family issues" campaign stop.

Seated in front of the Bagley hearth and flanked by two local 14-year-olds, Gore came to talk about family issues and to push for a debate with his challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

"One of the best ways to show the differences between our policies is to have a debate," Gore said at an earlier event at Charman's Restaurant in Nashua. "I want to have a debate on a different topic every week, but the soonest he has been willing is 11:30 at night on the Friday before Christmas."

He reiterated his challenge in Milford. "I want to debate, but it looks like he's just not going to go along."

Fourteen-year-old Tess Amodeo-Vickery of Amherst asked Gore about campaign finance reform. The vice president said he supported the McCain-Feingold bill co-written by his possible Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

But he said the "ultimate answer" is full public funding of federal elections. "I proposed full financial backing of federal elections 20 years ago. Wrote several newspaper columns about it back then and met a lot of resistance back then."

Gore criticized Bradley for his idea of replacing Medicaid with a private voucher system. "Sen. Bradley is a good person and I'm not going to criticize him on a personal level, but I think that is a policy mistake."

"Two out of three seniors rely on Medicaid for at least 40 percent of their medical expenses. If you eliminate the program and replace it with something viable, that's one thing, but his policy doesn't," Gore said.

Bradley's "little vouchers" would be capped at $150 a month -- not enough to buy good private health insurance, Gore said. "Then he talks about letting people buy into the federal employee health insurance plan. One hundred and fifty dollars a month is $1,800 a year. The federal insurance plan is $8,000 a year. Then he says we'll make adjustments. What adjustments could you possibly make to close that gap?"

The vice president advocates spending 15 percent of the budget surplus to give seniors prescription medication benefits and to "shore up" Medicaid.

He also criticized Bradley's universal health care plan as too costly and inefficient.

Instead, he advocates a 25 percent tax credit to help small businesses pay for employee health insurance or to help individuals buy their own.

He also said the government should provide health insurance for "every child in America" as well as to families "within 250 percent of poverty level."

Gore also voiced his support of public schools, advocating for early childhood programs and higher teacher salaries. "We need national participation to make pre-school universal."

Teacher salaries, he said, have not kept up with economic realities. Women were once limited to becoming either teachers or nurses if they entered the workforce, Gore said.

"That meant half the talented people in America were going to one of those two professions. Given supply and demand, that pushed down their salaries."

But as society changed, many talented women (and men) are opting for better pay in other professions "because the (teaching and nursing) salaries have not kept pace with the economic realities."

Economic realities have also forced families to have both parents working and social realities have created more single-parent families. Both have driven the need to have more federal money put towards helping pay for day-care, Gore said.

"One parent families are five times more likely than two parent families to below the poverty line," Gore said. "We need to eliminate the so-called ‘marriage penalty' in the tax code. Anything we can do to support families staying together, we need to do."

Asked by Gerald Reilly of Milford how he proposes to pay for his policies, Gore said sound fiscal management is the answer. "We have one of the biggest surpluses in history now. We have to make sure we keep that prosperity going."

"Every Republican candidate is advocating tax cuts that would more than use up the surplus and put us back into a deficit situation. My Democratic adversary suggests spending that would more than completely use up the surplus. We have to prime the pump and keep the economy going and to keep paying off the deficit," Gore said.

Marji Maiocco of Milford asked Gore about President Bill Clinton. "We all feel so betrayed by Clinton. We want to see a president in the White House that will inspire children," Maiocco said.

"I'll take my own values to the presidency," Gore said.

Like the Bagleys, he and Tipper Gore have been married 29 years. They have four children and one grandchild.

"My grandson was born July 4. He's a Democrat," Gore said.


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