U.S. Representative Randy Neugebauer visited with Sweetwater and Nolan County business leaders on Monday morning at Texas State Technical College. Neugebauer talked about redistricting concerns and updated everyone on happenings in Washington.
A major point of concern he brought up was the national debt. Neugebauer stated "People, including the government, need to learn how to live within their means. We must get our fiscal house in order."
Neugebauer also mentioned work on appropriation bills — how the tax payer's money is spent — that was started over the summer. "The federal government expires October 1," said Neugebauer. "We have to pass the bills before that date. If not, we use CRs — continuing resolutions — which I'm not a fan of. We need to be doing our jobs. Continuing resolutions essentially mean "let's keep doing what we've been doing, and that's not working."
Neugebauer believes the whole structure of the government needs to change. "It's too easy to borrow money and raise taxes and too hard to cut spending. Changing the majority vote to two thirds would make it harder to increase taxes and raise the debt ceiling," he said.
Speaking about our area, Neugebauer said what we need most are good paying jobs. "If families have good paying jobs, it solves a lot of the problems. We could be hiring more people, but businesses are being cautious because of Obamacare and several other issues," he said. "We have to stop the government from intruding so much in the every day lives of the people. It's become very suffocating."
Another issue impacting our area is the farm bill. Neugebauer mentioned the bill will be brought to the table in the early fall and that it has been divided into two pieces — the growing/production portion and the food stamp portion.
The remainder of the meeting consisted of business leaders and Nolan County residents voicing their concerns on several issues and asking questions of Neugebauer. County Veterans Service Officer Robert McBride brought up issues he has with the VA hospital and benefits for Veterans. McBride also expressed his concerns with immigration and college benefits.
Other residents voiced their concerns and opinions on the war in Afghanistan. Neugebauer has been to both Afghanistan and Iraq. "That whole area is a dangerous, unstable part of the world," he said. "We thought we could bring democracy to those countries, but too many factors are keeping it from happening."
He believes our troops are long overdue to come home.
A brief discussion took place on immigration reform. "The reform bill is being broken down into pieces in the Senate to be easier to manage," Neugebauer explained. "Border and interior security are two big issues on the table right now. The way that we let immigrants into our country is also being looked at. It needs to be changed, but there are many diverse opinions on this issue. There is always going to be something that someone doesn't like."
Another resident asked if the government would be bailing out Detroit, to which Neugebauer said "I voted no. I was opposed to the whole Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae bail-out as well, because once you start down that road, it doesn't stop."
Education reform was another topic brought up at Monday's meeting. Neugebauer and Sweetwater ISD Superintendent Terry Pittman briefly talked about a number of key issues, such as a better No Child Left Behind policy, making Kindergarten through 12th grade classes more relevant, and a less intrusive federal footprint in local schools (i.e. states should have more control over their school systems). "Not every child, school or district is the same," stated Neugebauer. "This is a different world from what it was 20 years ago. Not every child will go to college. We need to improve vocational training in the early years."
Neugebauer also expanded on the issue of student loans and the interest rates that accompany them. "Borrowing money shouldn't be the only solution to going to college," he said. "There needs to be more incentive to save. Policies in the past have encouraged and rewarded people to borrow and spend money. Future policies should encourage people to save and invest and reward people for that instead."
Gabriel Acosta, with EMA, brought up the Wind Tax Credit. "The Wind Tax Credit expires at the end of 2014," stated Neugebauer. "The debate right now is whether to extend it further, phase it out, or let it expire on its own. Discussion on that could start in the fall or early next year, but it's my feeling they will be let to expire."
The meeting ended with a brief talk about the 2014 elections. Neugebauer stated that several retirements have opened opportunities to change the face of the Senate, but that inner party politics is still a hurdle that needs to be jumped.