Hill (Congressional Pictorial Directory)

A Republican congressman said Monday he supports cuts to Medicare and Social Security in order to balance the federal budget while declaring opposition to a ballot measure to raise Arkansas’ minimum wage.

There was a marked contrast on economic issues between Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., and his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Clarke Tucker, during Monday’s Arkansas Educational Television Network debate.

The debate, putting a spotlight on one of the most closely watched congressional races in the nation, will air at 8 CDT tonight.

Hill, a former banking executive who is running for a third term, told the audience that Congress and President Donald Trump should “follow up on how to reform our spending, particularly for mandatory spending programs,” referring to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Tucker, who has made protecting Medicare and Social Security a cornerstone of his platform, fired back, saying it would be wrong to balance the budget “on the backs of our seniors who have paid into Social Security and Medicare for their entire lives.”

Tucker also criticized Hill for supporting “handouts to billionaires and the largest corporations in the United States,” referring to the GOP tax plan Trump signed into law in December.

Hill voted for the plan, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated would add $1.9 trillion to the national debt in the next decade and which independent analysts have determined mainly benefits high-income taxpayers.

In June, the trustees who oversee both Medicare and Social Security reported that this increase in the national debt is threatening the lifespan of both programs by reducing their available funding.

Hill also criticized a ballot initiative that Tucker is supporting to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas from $8.50 to $11, saying, “I don’t support the proposal on the Arkansas ballot.”