Rainville opposes House cuts to education programs

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(Host) Republican congressional candidate Martha Rainville says she supports her party’s leadership in the U.S. House. But she says she opposes their cuts to higher education programs.

Rainville and Governor Jim Douglas held a joint news conference today to discuss college funding issues.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Higher education was the message of the day. The governor wanted to promote his $175 million, ten-year college scholarship program. And Rainville promised that if she was elected to Congress she’d fight cuts in student aid.

(Rainville) “I was deeply disappointed in the recent federal cuts to student financial aid programs. That’s a move in the wrong direction. As a congresswoman, I would implore Congress and encourage colleagues to do the right thing and restore these cuts.”

(Dillon) But Rainville said she did not know what she’d cut in the budget in order to put money back into college funding. And she said that if elected, she would vote for the House leadership that has supported billion of dollars in higher education cuts.

(Rainville) “I’ve never had a problem challenging leadership on issues I feel are most important.”

(Dillon) Rainville also defended her decision to accept political contributions from a committee linked to House leadership and former majority leader Tom Delay. That decision has been criticized both by her opponents and by editorial writers at the Caledonia Record, which normally favors Republican causes.

Rainville says there’s nothing wrong with raising the money that’s needed to run an aggressive campaign.

(Rainville) “I see that decision to accept that contribution as breaking from politics as usual. I’ve decided not to play this finger-pointing game, and this guilt by association game and judge contributions by the contributor.”

(Dillon) Senate President Peter Welch is the Democratic candidate for Congress. He says that Rainville’s support of the Republican leadership will hurt Vermont.

(Welch) “The Bush Congress has voted to cut $12 billion dollars in higher education funding even as they pursue additional tax cuts for the wealthy. The critical vote that the next member of congress will make is who’s going to be the leadership and I’m running to change leadership because I think we need new leadership to change the priorities and direction of this country.”

(Dillon) State Senator Mark Shepard, one of Rainville’s opponents in the GOP primary, says he supports the governor’s scholarship program. But he says Congress and state government also need to focus on creating jobs for recent college graduates.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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