Thune talks jobs, spending, debt
By ELISA SAND, Staff Reporter
U.S. Sen. John Thune said that three main themes came out of the November election -- job creation, spending and debt -- and all are interconnected.|
Thune was the keynote speaker at the Lake Area Improvement Corporation annual meeting on Tuesday at the Dakota Prairie Playhouse. During his speech, Thune discussed potential votes he expects to take place and some of the challenges ahead for U.S. congressmen.
Thune said that expects a vote to repeal the healthcare legislation. His prediction is that it will pass in the House of Representatives but likely will fail in the Senate. Even if it passed both chambers, he said, the action will meet a presidential veto, which would then take a two-thirds vote override that veto.
"Absent repealing it entirely, we will see rifle shots at mandates that are being challenged right now in court," Thune said.
Thune said he also expects a vote to enact permanent extensions of tax cuts, and Congress will have to take action on increasing the debt limit beyond the current $14 trillion deficit.
"This will present a challenge and an opportunity to do something about spending and serious reform," Thune said. "If we're going to change something, we should change something about the budget process."
In areas of reform, Thune said, one measure would include passing a biannual budget. Congressional leaders could pass the budget during the odd-numbered, non-election years and use the even-numbered years to address spending control measures.
He suggests creating a binding budget resolution, allowing a line-item veto and the creation of a committee that would address cost-saving measures.
As for the nation's deficit, Thune said, that item is something that needs to be under control in the next three to five years.
"Spending in the past two years is up 21 percent," he said. "There's some talk of reverting to 2008 levels. That would demonstrate a desire to get spending under control."
The $3.5 trillion discretionary budget is one-sixth of the federal budget. Thune said four-sixths of the budget is Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and the national debt.
"Social Security reform is long overdue," he said. "We're heading for a fiscal train wreck if we don't reform."
As for the future of South Dakota, Thune said, he is optimistic. While 4 1/2 percent unemployment is high for South Dakota, it's half of the current national unemployment rate.
"It's staggering what California and Illinois are dealing with," he said. "I'm very bullish and optimistic about the future of South Dakota."
When asked about the outlook on ethanol, Thune said that continuing federal subsidies for ethanol is becoming more difficult because there's a growing coalition of people against biofuels. Thune said what's needed for ethanol is an increase in the ethanol market, more flex fuel vehicles and an increase in blender pumps installed across the country.
Thune also highlighted infrastructure funding, the highway bill, funding shortfalls and how those things relate to local projects like an effort to widen SD-34 to a four-lane highway from Madison to Colman.
One thing that's critically important when it comes to obtaining federal funding, he said, is having the SD-34 project on the state's priority list.
"It's a different environment; we have to be willing to adapt to different ways," he said.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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