Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey charged today that Obama administration's health care bill poses a threat to high-tech medical manufacturers through its imposition of a 2.3 percent tax on medical device sales.
The former congressman assailed the tax as he renewed his criticism of his opponent's support for the overall health care bill. Mr. Toomey spoke after meeting with a variety of technology executives, including Pete DeComo, the CEO of ALung Technologies.
In introducing the GOP candidate, Mr. DeComo warned that the tax, which goes into effect in 2010, would inhibit investment in research. While stressing that he was not taking a position on the Senate race, he echoed the anti-tax position central to the Toomey candidacy.
Mr. Toomey is running against Democrat Joe Sestak to replace Arlen Specter in the U.S. Senate.
"In an environment with onerous taxation and complex business environment it has been shown that investor money goes elsewhere,'' Mr. DeComo said. It is already happening in the U.S. with more and more venture capital dollars being invested offshore where taxes are lower and regulator approvals are more streamlined.
In a statement responding to the Toomey event, a spokesman for the Sestak campaign contended that the Republican's words of concern for the medical manufacturers was at odds with his voting record while a member of Congress. The campaign argued that Mr. Toomey had cast votes unfriendly to the industry in supporting budget cuts for the Food and Drug Administration.
The Sestak campaign also pointed out that Mr. Toomey voted in 2002 to raise fees on medical device manufacturers.
Tim Kelly, a spokesman for Mr. Toomey, dismissed the comparison. He contended that the user fee had been broadly supported by the industry and that it represented a significantly lower burden for business.
Mr. Toomey had traveled to the Pittsburgh news conference from a State College appearance with former Gov. Tom Ridge. Mr. Ridge's formal backing offered a contrast to his earlier views on Mr. Toomey, a candidate he had once considered challenging for the Senate nomination. Mr. Ridge had been courted by some centrist Republicans and toyed with the idea of entering the race for several weeks before his public decision to remain in private life.
"I am endorsing Pat today because he is an honest, principled leader who is unafraid to stand up for what's right," Mr. Ridge said in a statement distributed by the Toomey campaign. "As a member of Congress Pat consistently fought for taxpayers, and in today's economic climate, that trait is more important than ever."
Mr. Sestak was in Philadelphia, campaigning with Rep. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. Mr. Dorgan was an outspoken opponent of the 1999 legislation, supported by Mr. Toomey, which loosened government oversight over the finance industry.
The Democratic nominee used the appearance to renew his contention that Mr. Toomey's is a defender of the large financial institutions whose actions precipitated the world financial crisis.