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Mikulski seeking third Senate term

April 08, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., campaigned through Western Maryland Wednesday, stopping in Hagerstown to tour the Advanced Technology Center at Hagerstown Junior College.

It was her first campaign stop in Washington County this year and she used it to praise the technology center and tout her role in creating it.

Mikulski, 61, said she worked hard to secure federal funding for the center, which opened in 1989, and the college's Technology Innovation Center, which opened five years later.

Wednesday's stop was one of three Mikulski made in Western Maryland. It was part of her three-day swing through the state to announce her campaign for a third term as senator.

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Washington County is not Mikulski's base of support, but she looked as if she were campaigning in her native Baltimore.

"I'm with it. I've got my own Web page," she exulted as a student called her Internet address up on one of the computers in the technology center.

After meeting with college officials, Mikulski toured the facility, which once was the school's gymnasium. She also met several of the business owners who are using the Technology Innovation Center, a business incubator sponsored by the college.

Mikulski said she is particularly proud of the Maryland Space Consortium, which links college students in Maryland to the space program.

"Who knows, we might have a future astronaut here," she said.

In an interview, Mikulski also addressed two other pressing issues - tobacco and Social Security.

Mikulski said she favors increasing the federal tax on tobacco products.

"Let's place a tax on it so it discourages it," she said.

Tax revenues from cigarettes and other smoking products should be used to fund children's health programs, Mikulski said.

She dismissed concerns that linking children's health to tobacco money could prove risky if it has its intended effect - reducing consumption. If smoking decreases, so will health costs, Mikulski said.

Mikulski also pledged support for stabilizing Social Security, which will begin paying out more money than it takes in early in the next century.

Any solution must not raise taxes or lower the floor on benefits, she said.

Mikulski said she has not yet taken a position on proposed solutions, such as increasing the retirement age.

She said she is wary of any solution that subjects Social Security to the ups and downs of the stock market.

Some economists have urged the country to adopt a system similar to that of Chile, which allows citizens to invest their retirement money in stocks. Mikulski said it has not been in operation long enough to draw conclusions and has been rejected by many Western economic powers.

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