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Sidebar- Barbieri on the Issues 

by Ted S. McGregor Jr.

HEALTH CARE -- As chairman of the Sacred Heart Medical Center Board of Directors from 1988-91, Don Barbieri saw the problems facing the health care industry from the inside.

Barbieri says the uninsured are a massive drag, as they receive charity care that is paid for by everyone else. To get more people insured, he'd like to see tax credits for companies that fund coverage to their employees. How would he pay for that? He says the savings could be realized easily if the government would use its buying power to negotiate better prices on Medicare drugs. As for the high cost of medical litigation, he says he would focus on weeding out bad doctors, and he would require lawsuit-happy lawyers to earn a formal certificate of merit on any legal action before it could be filed.

JOBS -- "I've grown jobs my whole life in the Inland Northwest," says Barbieri, pointing to his own company's growth.

He says the job growth in America is coming from small companies, not big ones, so he thinks the incentives should favor small businesses. Specifically, he'd like to see a new law that allows investors to avoid capital gains taxes on investments in small startups as long as they don't cash out their stock for five years.

LIFE ISSUES -- Barbieri is pro-choice, and he supports stem cell research. "We need to give our scientists the opportunity to have breakthroughs in solving these diseases," he says.

IRAQ -- Barbieri says whoever wins the White House will have to go back to our allies for help in finishing the job in Iraq. The cost in dollars and lives is becoming too great a burden to bear.

"When you're tearing down a prison and you're rebuilding a prison in Iraq," he says, "and you're refusing to rebuild a veterans' hospital in Walla Walla that serves three states and nine Native American nations, it couldn't be clearer that our commitment to Iraq is withdrawing resources from our own country."

Even though he'd like to see American soldiers come home as soon as possible, he believes the United States must project strength: "We have to send the signal around the world that we are a safe country, and we will not tolerate having our safety challenged."

THE PATRIOT ACT -- Barbieri calls the Patriot Act "a quick, knee-jerk solution" to the attacks of 9/11.

"When I talk to [people at] Whitworth College, Gonzaga, WSU, community colleges, whose phone systems, library systems, Internet systems all are now subject to the Patriot Act provisions of potentially tracking student uses -- it's wrong," he says.

He'd like to retire much of the act, while providing law enforcement and Homeland Security officers with the tools they need. As an example, he points to UPS delivery drivers who have satellite-linked communications systems, while Border Patrol agents still struggle with outdated technology to protect the nation.

FAITH -- Barbieri went to Catholic grade school (St. Augustine's), high school (Gonzaga Prep) and college (Santa Clara), yet he is reticent about advertising his faith. "I just think you should walk the talk," he says.

He has led a faith-based medical center (Sacred Heart), built affordable housing for a variety of area congregations and, as a college student, he even helped create the Santa Clara Action Program, an outreach program that still exists.

While pro-choice Catholics have come under fire, Barbieri says he will stick with his principles.

ENVIRONMENT -- Barbieri sees a clean environment as the "brand" that will distinguish the 5th District. While in the leadership of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce, he helped win funding -- from Boise, Olympia and D.C. -- for a major study of the aquifer, to accurately gauge how much growth the water supply can support.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE -- "I believe marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman," says Barbieri. "That's how it's defined in this state."

As for creating a constitutional amendment to make that description the law of the land, he adds, "I have serious reservations about the Constitution being used in a manner that denies individual rights -- to create discrimination."

FEDERAL DEFICIT -- Barbieri wonders what the country could do with $1 billion a day. That's how much is being spent on interest to keep up with the $7 trillion debt. As a CEO, Barbieri says he is familiar with taking on debt, but he's also familiar with retiring it.

"I'm a believer in that when we borrow money, we have to have a plan to pay off that debt," he says, "and not simply offload it to our kids and our grandkids."

He blames the severity of the debt on the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans -- a group he belongs to. "I've been in that tax cut, and I don't need it," he says. "I want to give it back."

Publication date: 09/02/04
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