ISHPEMING - U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, answered questions and addressed the concerns of about 30 community members, including Negaunee Mayor Richard Wills, at a town hall meeting at the Negaunee Elks Lodge Monday.
Many concerns were centered on federal spending, America's debt and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but also focused on bringing jobs to the area, and perceived federal government obstruction, particularly the U.S. EPA's decision to kill plans for Marquette County Road 595.
"I was never really all that partisan, but I know that we can argue how to spend money, but I know we can't spend money like this and expect to have a country that has opportunity," Benishek said, addressing the audience before the start of the question and answer session. "So that's really why I ran for Congress. Because I think that we're mortgaging our kids' future."
Benishek then fielded questions.
"One of my big concerns is what can be done to slow down our federal bureaucracy," said Rich Oas. " ... It seems like their focus is to regulate, harass and generally try to put business and industry out of business ... Is there anything that can be done to stop them, in particular the EPA?"
The first step, said Benishek, is to elect people to government who feel the same way as Oas and to educate one's neighbors and community members.
"That example of (County Road) 595 is, I think, a perfect example of overreach," he said. "I mean, I want to have clean air and clean water. My dad was killed in a mine, I don't trust the mining companies - they need to be regulated. But we should be able to regulate them in a manner that we have clean air and clean water and have jobs."
Benishek said he doesn't see why the U.P. can't have the Keystone pipeline come down from Canada, which he says would provide many area jobs and might lower gas prices, as well.
Benishek also addressed questions about the Affordable Care Act and its implementation.
"Do you think it's a good bill, or do you support it or not support it?" asked Troy Connors.
"I think it's bad," Benishek said. "I think it's bad for America."
"It's a great promise," he said. "You know, we're going to have everybody have access to health care, it's going to cost less and it's going to solve all our health care problems in the country." But Benishek said the ACA won't work and claimed the Legislature didn't even read the bill before they passed it.
Benishek said that one of his biggest problems with the ACA is it takes money from Medicare. "The Medicare is said to be bankrupt in about 12 years," he said. "If we don't fix Medicare, they're going to be out of money and the benefits are going to drop even further."
When asked how he planned to cut federal spending to balance the budget in 10 years without raising taxes or cutting federal medical programs like Medicare, Benishek said to check out the House's budget plan, available at its website budget.house.gov.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.