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Democratic Senate candidate questionnaire: Daniel Mongiardo

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By The Staff

Daniel Mongiardo

Address: PO Box 4023, Frankfort, KY 40601

Date of birth: 7/4/60

Family information: Allison Mongiardo (wife); Kathryn Allison (daughter)

Educational background: B.A. Transylvania University; M.D. University of Kentucky School of Medicine

Work history:

Chief of Surgery and Chief of Staff - Appalachian Regional Medical Center

State Senator 2001-2007

Lt. Governor 2007 - present

Community activities (clubs, organizations, church, etc.):

Hazard/Perry County Rotary Free Clinic (Founder, Board Member)

Hazard/Perry County Industrial Development Board

Campaign website:

www.DrDan2010.com

Campaign email:

info@drdan2010.com

1. Why are you running for Senator?

I'm not running to join the Washington crowd.  I'm running to get things done to deliver a strong dose of good old-fashioned Kentucky common sense and values to the political elites and special interests in Washington before they ruin this country.

Washington seems to work great for Wall Street bankers, special interests and big corporations that send our jobs over seas, but for us, for ordinary working Kentucky families it doesn't work at all anymore.  We're losing our jobs, our homes and our healthcare. 

I am running for the U.S. Senate because we need a pro-growth, independent Kentucky Democrat with a record of standing up to the entrenched special interests and political establishment. I did it as a doctor.  I did it as a state senator and I'll do it in the U.S. Senate.

2. What are your qualifications to serve as a Senator? What knowledge and experiences have prepared you for this position?

I will be a Senator who puts the interests of Kentucky's families first. I was the first in my family to attend college and after completing my medical studies I returned home to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I helped start a free health clinic to serve the working poor in my hometown of Hazard. 

As State Senator and Lt. Governor, I have worked to expand children's healthcare, provide affordable prescription drugs for seniors, and been a leader in improving our health care system to make it more efficient and safer. I have also worked to bring jobs to every region of our Commonwealth by helping to develop Kentucky into a national Adventure Tourism destination.

With Kentucky's unique natural resources, central location and talented workforce I believe we can help our nation's economic recovery, creating jobs for all Kentuckians.  This is why I'm the only candidate to propose a Kentucky specific, comprehensive jobs and economy plan that I explain in more detail below. 

My record and my vision for expanding our economy, creating jobs and improving the lives of Kentucky's families are what I believe makes me the best candidate to be the next United States Senator from Kentucky.

3. If elected, what will be your priorities while in office?

As a pro-growth, independent Democrat - jobs will be priority one. I will fight for a real jobs plan to jump start our economy and put people back to work. My jobs plan centers around three core segments of our economy in which Kentucky is uniquely positioned to lead -  three areas in which I can help make a real difference for Kentucky's working families in the Senate - Energy, Transportation and Healthcare.

I elaborate more on these below.

4. What do you believe are the most important issues the country will be facing in the next six years? What can you do as a Senator to address those issues?

Energy

Here in Kentucky, we can develop a new coal-to-fuel industry. Liquid coal is much cleaner burning than foreign petroleum and it is OURS. There are already three such proposals on the drawing board - one in Henderson County, a second in Muhlenburg County and a third in McCracken County.  I envision at least one coal to fuel plant in each region of Kentucky. 

For each coal-to-fuel plant permitted and constructed, thousands of short-term construction jobs and thousands of long-term maintenance and production jobs will be created, as well as the new jobs created by business start-ups needed to supply and support these plants. And it will stabilize the cost of gasoline that is so important to Kentucky's automotive manufacturing industry.

With Kentucky's fertile farmlands and moderate climate, Kentucky is uniquely positioned to develop an entirely new bio-mass industry. Studies show we have the capacity here in Kentucky to produce tens of thousands of acres of bio-mass like switch-grass and miscanthus -- which can be blended with coal and burns CO2 neutral. To meet our growing energy needs in the future, I support developing a nuclear energy industry here in Kentucky - as a clean and safe energy alternative.

Collectively, my plan will keep electric rates low for consumers, businesses and manufacturers. It will preserve Kentucky's coal industry and the 50,000 plus jobs associated with it and the countless communities in the eastern and western coal fields that depend on it.  It will create new industries and tens of thousands of new jobs, provide our family farms with a new, alternative cash crop, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase our national security, and it will reduce CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases by as much or more than what is called for in any of the 'Cap & Trade' bills being debated in Congress.

 

Transportation

Developing a modern, 21st century integrated multi modal transportation system here in Kentucky is one of the soundest investments we can make. In communities with easy access to an Interstate highway, per capita income is one and a half times higher than incomes in communities without easy access.

For every dollar invested in transportation infrastructure, nine dollars of economic benefit are created. Investing in a modern, integrated transportation system here in Kentucky will create thousands of desperately needed jobs and help jumpstart our economy in the short term.

In the long-term it will efficiently connect our workforce with the businesses and industries that employ them, increase productivity and make travel and shipping more efficient and less costly for Kentucky's manufacturers resulting in higher profit margins.

With a modern, integrated transportation system we can attract new industries that will create new manufacturing jobs and expand economic opportunities to more of our citizens. It will connect our rural communities with our Commonwealth's larger cities, reduce traffic congestion, improve our environment, and increase every Kentuckian's quality of life.

 

Healthcare

The exploding cost of health care is the single, fastest growing cost factor for Kentucky families and businesses.

Our current antiquated, paper-based health care delivery system is inefficient and financially is not sustainable.  It is not financially sustainable for businesses or individuals. It is not financially sustainable for either our federal government or our state government. And it is because it is financially unsustainable that this issue is not going to go away. We must address it.

We must transform our out-dated, inefficient, treatment-based health care delivery system into a modern, efficient, technology-driven system based on wellness and prevention. These reform measures will cost a fraction of what either the House or Senate bills cost.

By improving efficiency, ending duplications and eliminating preventable medical errors, we will improve the quality of care and save hundreds of billions of dollars - resulting in lower health care costs for businesses and families alike.

At the same time we will create entire new healthcare-related jobs in medical research, technology, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Kentucky is well suited to serve as a model for the modernization of healthcare information technology.  With our reputable universities and several companies already undertaking these processes - the potential for this industry in Kentucky is high.

5. Health care has been a frequent topic of political discussion in recent years. Congress and the American public are divided over what should be done. What do you believe is the best approach to improve health care in the United States? Why do you favor this approach?

As a doctor, State Senator, and Lieutenant Governor, I've worked tirelessly to improve the economic lives of hard working Kentuckians make healthcare affordable and accessible. 

I know firsthand the troubles plaguing our healthcare system. My older brother died in infancy due to inadequate care. It was his preventable death that lead me to go to medical school. After completing my medical studies, I came back home to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky determined to improve healthcare - eventually becoming chief of staff of the local hospital and opening a rural clinic.

However, it soon became clear to me that I could do more to help improve healthcare and that is why I decided to run for public office.  In my time in public service, I have worked to expand children's healthcare, provide affordable prescription drugs for seniors, and been a leader in improving our health care system to make it more efficient and safer.

But I know there is still much more work to be done.

I would have voted for the final passage of the Healthcare Reform bill if the President provided assurances that more would be done to address the delivery of healthcare to reduce costs and improve quality. I am confident he would have given me those assurances as he himself has said this is a first step.

The insurance reforms included in the bill expand coverage to millions of Americans, ensuring that people are not denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions and other important insurance reforms.  Development of exchanges should help increase competition among insurance carriers and expand access to small businesses and individuals.  But the bill fails to address the other side of our flawed healthcare system - the delivery side.  As a longtime advocate for healthcare delivery reform, working daily on the frontlines of healthcare, I have a fundamental understanding of what is wrong with the system and the further reforms we need to fix it.

It is clear that fight for healthcare reform is not over.  My biggest concern with the bill so far is a failure to deliver real healthcare delivery reform that reduces costs, improves efficiency, or improves patient care. I agree that the insurance side must be addressed but we can't focus solely on one side.  The delivery side of healthcare is what is driving up costs and so far I've failed to see this adequately addressed.

For example, we need to move to a 21st century model of healthcare. Over 200,000 Americans die each year due to preventable medical errors, and recent reports say that 50% of the dollars we spend in healthcare are wasted.  Healthcare is the most information intensive industry and that information flow is still largely paper based.  By re-engineering the processes in healthcare delivery and using information technology we can save billions of dollars and countless lives. Kentucky is well positioned to lead in developing a 21st century model of healthcare innovation by using our universities to research and prove the new model improves quality and reduces cost. 

Without seriously addressing these issues, healthcare reform will not succeed.  The healthcare reform bill did not go far enough - to lower costs or fundamentally improve the quality of care that each and every one of us deserves.  In the Senate, I will continue to be a fierce advocate to continue the fight to reform healthcare in America.

6. The United States military remains active in Iraq and Afghanistan. What should the military do in each of those countries? How long should the United States maintain its military presence in each country?

I support the President's proposal to increase our troops in Afghanistan to defeat Al-Qaeda and their terrorist supporters.  In Iraq completing the withdrawal of our military forces by 2011 is the right strategy for America; transitioning control of Iraq to the Iraqi government as the current plan stipulates is in the best interest of our national security.   I believe we have to defeat the Al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the attacks on 9/11 who are still present in the region and remain a threat to our national security. I believe the President clearly defined the mission, how he intends to accomplish that mission and equally important a reasonable time frame for when we can expect to bring the war in Afghanistan to a close.

With Fort Campbell and Fort Knox and thousands of Kentuckians serving in uniform, I believe we must do everything we can to make sure they have the resources necessary to complete their mission as safely and quickly as possible.

7. What role should the federal government play in education? Should No Child Left Behind policies be revised, changed or continue as they are? Why?

I want to make Kentucky into a model of next generation education by using evidence-based curriculum. We need to use science to shape our education system and I firmly believe Kentucky can be at the forefront of this effort.  I also believe that No Child Left Behind is a good program but needs to be fully funded in order to realize its full potential.

I believe that the federal government plays an important role in ensuring that education is affordable and accessible to all Americans.  As a person who greatly benefited from a great public school education and later on student loans and grants for college, I understand how important they are to students and parents.

Expansion of early-early childhood education is key to Kentucky's educational future.  "Cradle schools" or "parent academies" are excellent steps to ensuring that not only are Kentucky's children prepared for school, but also their parents. I believe early-early-childhood education sets a strong foundation for a child's educational success.

It is also essential to provide educators with the tools they need. Salaries should reflect the true value of a teacher, classrooms sizes should be smaller and professional development programs should be made available to all teachers.

I also strongly support programs that improve classroom safety and programs that engage parents to actively and fully participate in their child's education.

8. Job creation remains an important issue for millions of Americans. What can the government learn from its stimulus packages and its bailout of the automotive industry and financial institutions? What is the best way for the government to encourage more jobs to be created?

At the time, the bailouts were necessary to prevent a complete collapse of our economy. Hard working American families were losing their homes, jobs and healthcare.  However, many of the recipients of this money are now back to business as usual.  The Wall Street banks that took taxpayer money are now posting record profits and handing out obscene bonuses.  Meanwhile, small businesses and families on Main Street are still struggling. 

I will fight for hard working Kentuckians not the special interests, lobbyists and political insiders from Washington and Wall Street. I will fight for Main Street. This is why I support a temporary fee on Wall Street's biggest banks that took bailouts to recoup our federal tax dollars. These large banks owe us their existence and it's time to get them working for Main Street again.  It is equally outrageous that these Wall Street bank executives are lavishing millions of dollars on themselves in the form of bonuses

I outlined my Kentucky specific jobs plan above, but I also believe in and support expanding markets for goods manufactured by American companies. With passage of NAFTA, CAFTA and other similar trade agreements, America has become one of the most open markets in the world. However, these agreements have failed to require the same open access to markets abroad.

Instead of benefiting American workers and manufacturers, our trade policy has hurt American workers and manufacturers, and sent American jobs over seas. The truth is our trade policy has amounted to little more than a jobs plan for other countries.

I understand that one of the quickest and least expensive ways to spur economic growth is through trade expansion.  By expanding access to foreign markets, American manufacturers can sell their products to more consumers and businesses.

And given the fact that American consumers - either do not have the money to spend or are unwilling to spend it -- combined with the fact that 95% of all consumers live outside the United States, boosting trade is essential to our economic recovery.

However, though we have reduced or eliminated barriers to our markets, foreign barriers and foreign tariffs on American exports remain in place. It is amazing to me that the politicians from both political parties in Washington continue to vote for trade agreements that allow access to our markets and lower U.S. tariffs without asking for - much less demanding - reciprocity.

I will oppose any new trade agreement that does not include a reciprocity clause. Second, any new trade agreements must also include provisions that allow the U.S. to quickly reinstate domestic tariffs if the foreign government with whom we have negotiated a trade agreement does not honor its commitment to remove its barriers. Such an enforcement mechanism is one of the missing pieces in U.S Trade policy. Third, I support legislation to strengthen Congress' role and responsibility in making trade policy to include a periodic review of existing trade agreements and establishing higher standards to protect workers and the environment in developing countries.

American workers and manufacturers are at a competitive disadvantage with countries that do not have reasonable protections for worker and environmental standards. This is why I support the bi-partisan legislation to enhance and bolster small business exports.

9. Coal, oil and renewable energy sources are likely to be part of U.S. energy policies in the future. What is the best way to meet our future energy needs? Should nuclear energy be included in those plans? Why or why not?

I addressed my energy plan that will help create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil above.  We import 70% of our oil from foreign countries.  Directly or indirectly, sometimes that money for foreign oil gets into the hands of people who don't like us and turn around and use it against us. 

We also send our military men and women to protect this foreign source of energy for use here.  We need to do everything in our power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, which will in turn increase our national security, save lives and money, and create jobs.

In BTU, of all the energy reserves we have, 2% is oil, 4% is natural gas, and 94% is coal.  The only true avenue we have to replacing foreign oil with a domestic source is with coal to fuels.  If we converted all our coal reserves to liquid, we would have the equivalent of 800 billion barrels, more than the entire Middle East.  Saudi Arabia, for example, has 267 billion barrels.

Because this is a matter of not only national security, but also for job creation, the federal government should be involved in two ways.  1) Similar to the federal government's investment in battery research, it should also invest in clean coal research, such as at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research to reach zero emission coal and Coal to Liquids (CTL) as quickly as possible.  2) Set federal policy so that private companies can invest with confidence to build clean coal facilities of the future including CTL.

I believe we must have a comprehensive energy plan that utilizes our own resources - our oil, our wind, our solar, our natural gas, our coal and our nuclear energy. By developing our own plan with our own resources we can create jobs and improve our national security.

Kentucky is in a unique position to lead the way in developing these new technologies that will create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and help the environment.  From the research level to the implementation level, Kentucky can be at the forefront of new energy technologies.

10. What other issues do you think the country should focus on, and what can you do as a Senator to address those issues?

I firmly support reducing taxes on businesses and individuals by restoring fiscal responsibility to the federal government.  Growing up, before I bought something, my father always told me to ask myself these three questions:  do we need it, do we have to have it, and can we do without it?  These are the commonsense Kentucky values I will bring to Washington. 

Returning fiscal responsibility means above all reducing the costs of health care, because Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security collectively account for sixty cents of every dollar spent by the federal government.   Because healthcare is the number one expense of the federal government, reducing it will alleviate the need for higher taxes or cuts in services provided.  In addition repairing the federal tax code would add $300 billion a year in revenue; last year because of poor oversight, loopholes, and evasion of federal tax revenues were $300 billion less than they should have been.

Additionally, we must address earmarks. The problem with pork spending is excludes the people from the process of how public money is spent - the people are not having the input they should be having. Pork spending is out of control but it can be brought back under control with some simple, commonsense solutions that change the way Congress does business.  For example, some ideas that I support are requiring every bill to have a period of at least a day from the time it is reported to the time it is debated on the floor so members will know what they are voting on and requiring lawmakers to disclose any personal or financial interest in projects steered to their district.  We ought to know where our money is going and who is benefiting from it - we need more transparency in government.

11. What else would you like voters to know about you?

I was born to working class parents who taught me the value of faithful worship, a hard work ethic and the notion that there is dignity in all work. I wasn't born with a silver spoon. As a young child, we lived above an old country store in the small mining town of Bulan, just outside Hazard in Perry County. 

I was the first in my family to graduate high school and go to college.  Thanks to my parents' sacrifice, student loans and working construction jobs during the summer months and busing tables during the school year, I realized my dream of becoming a doctor. After completing my medical studies, I came back home to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky determined to improve health care.

Throughout my career is public service and medicine; I've been on the side of Kentuckians. And I will continue to stand up and fight for you in Washington. I am not in the pocket of the big utilities, Wall Street insiders and Washington special interests. I'll be focused on creating jobs, getting spending under control, standing up to Wall Street and making healthcare affordable for everyone.