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Jobs top issue for candidate Santorum

BEMIDJI, Minn. - Eliminating corporate taxes and streamlining government regulations will allow the nation's small businesses to create new jobs, Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum said here Sunday, two days before Minnesota's precin...

BEMIDJI, Minn. - Eliminating corporate taxes and streamlining government regulations will allow the nation's small businesses to create new jobs, Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum said here Sunday, two days before Minnesota's precinct caucuses.

Santorum toured Bemidji Woolen Mills as part of his "Made in America" campaign, highlighting the importance of small businesses to the economy.

"Places like the Woolen Mills is very typical of small-town America," Santorum said in an interview with the Pioneer. "Small manufacturing, in many cases family owned - but I suspect if you ask Bill he will tell you a lot of competitors he used to have ... whether it's woolen mills or steel mills, a lot of jobs have gone overseas."

America has made manufacturing less competitive because of the costs associated with manufacturing, the former Pennsylvania U.S. senator said. Foreign competitors don't face high taxes or high rates of regulation or permitting.

Bill Batchelder is the fourth generation owner of Bemidji Woolen Mills, which is making Santorum's signature sweater vests.

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"Throw on top of that the high energy costs that we've had in this country, high litigation costs - a whole bunch of things, all of which are government policies that don't really affect the ability of Bill and his people to be able to compete." Santorum said. "If they had a level playing field, the ability to compete from the standpoint of costs, regulation and oversight ... I believe the productivity of the American worker and the advantages of being in this country will more than offset the labor costs. We would have an explosion of manufacturing in this country."

It's about 20 percent more expensive to make something in the United States than overseas, he said. "If we can eliminate that 20 percent cost differential, you will see an explosion of jobs here. Manufacturing can and will drive this economy to greater heights for small-town America, because that's where manufacturers go."

To do that, Santorum would start with taxes. "If I'm elected, there will be no corporate tax on this business," he said. "It's a great incentive for (manufacturers) to form corporations and then be under the structure where there're only taxed once." Corporate taxes average about 35 percent of income, he added.

"We'd also take the regulatory environment and restructure that, getting rid of all the high-cost regulations," he said. Santorum also said he favors free trade in foreign markets, but with strict enforcement of trade agreements to prevent product dumping.

Santorum, aside from winning the Iowa caucuses, has usually finished third to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Yet Santorum plans to continue his quest for the Republican nomination.

A race for delegates is not over after only five states, with 45 more to go, Santorum said, with Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado holding caucuses or primaries this week. "You have folks who are not overwhelmed the candidates' media or overwhelmed by the campaign. They really have the opportunity to sift through it all and actually look at the candidate and make a decision based upon information from neutral sources.

"That's a great opportunity for us," he added. "The more this race evolves, the better we're going to look to beat Barack Obama." One national poll shows Santorum as the only Republican who can beat Obama in November.

"The longer this race goes, the more people see that we have the best contrast, the best record and the best vision for America," Santorum said. "We can appeal to a lot of Reagan Democrats who will cross over and support us ... I feel confident we're going to do well in Minnesota ... I hope we do well in Bemidji, anyway."

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