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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills said Tuesday that he would support eliminating four federal Cabinet departments, instituting a 17-percent flat tax for individuals and corporations, increasing the retirement age and limiting Social Security payments for higher-income people.

Bills, who Republicans endorsed earlier this month to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, said he backs a recent federal budget proposal from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The plan — the most fiscally conservative of five proposals defeated in Senate floor votes earlier this month — proposes balancing the U.S. budget within five years and reducing the national debt by $2 trillion in the next decade through deep cuts to federal spending and entitlements.

“Let’s look at these things, let’s face our giants,” said Bills, a state representative and high school economics teacher in Rosemount. “Let’s finally face the deficit and the debt and trade deficits, and things I’ve been teaching about for years, let’s finally go and try to solve these things.”

Bills has been clear he would make economic concerns the centerpiece of his Senate campaign. But he also backed the Rand Paul budget’s proposed $5 billion a year cap on U.S. foreign aid, which would be a major reduction from the roughly $50 billion in the federal budget for that purpose in 2012.

Bills said he’d like to eliminate foreign aid entirely, but said he realized if elected he would be only one of 100 senators. While cutting it widely elsewhere, the Paul budget proposal would have maintained U.S. foreign aid for Israel at the current $2.6 billion to $2.8 billion a year.

Rand Paul is the son of Texas congressman Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning GOP presidential candidate whose Minnesota supporters helped Bills nail down the state GOP endorsement.

By backing Paul’s budget proposal, Bills said he hoped to start a debate with Klobuchar about government priorities. Klobuchar’s campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for a response Tuesday.

The Paul budget proposal calls for eliminating the U.S. departments of Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development and Energy. It would preserve the Department of Education’s Pell grants for college students, and transfer nuclear research and weapons development from the Department of Energy to the Department of Defense.

The plan also proposes repealing the 2010 health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama, and the Dodd-Frank act that regulated financial institutions in response to the 2008 financial meltdown. It would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration.

Bills said the budget blueprint does not aim to eventually eliminate Social Security, as some have charged. But it would begin raising the retirement age in 2013 to 2104, and would slow down the rate of benefits for high-income recipients while increasing them for low-income individuals.

Bills said he wasn’t certain at what income level recipients would start to see declining benefits.

The plan proposes shifting Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps and child nutrition programs to a block-grant method of delivery. It would shift seniors in Medicare to the health care plan that covers members of Congress. Most federal discretionary spending would be cut to 2008 levels, federal prevailing wage provisions would be eliminated, government ownership of “bailout” companies would be liquidated and excess federal properties and land would be sold off.

“It’s a discussion that needs to go forward,” Bills said. “A big part of today for me is saying, here’s where I think we should start and now we should have a dialogue.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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