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Northwest Salmon

 

NEWS

Thune says economy is his main focus

by Amanda Fanger
reporter@reporterandfarmer.com

United States Senator John Thune stopped in Webster last week and while here, he visited with locals about things going on in Washington, DC as well as listened in to what has been happening here.

“It’s encouraging to me to see some of the good things going on,” Thune said April 17 at the Izaak Walton League clubhouse with about 40 individuals seated in a circle to hear him out.

Thune spoke for about an hour on the recent activities in Washington but also took time to answer questions from those in attendance.

“Congress has actually been getting something done – surprising, I know,” he said with a laugh, which was echoed back from the room full of people. He told about the passing of the national budget and several other bills that steady progress has been developing.

One such bill is a piece of legislation out of the senate education committee that shifts the power out of Washington and back to the local schools. He says he thinks the bill stands a good chance of passing.

“Things are moving again. I’ve been frustrated the past few years, but we’re open for business, having an open debate and open amendments. All the things we’re supposed to get done in the United States Senate,” he said.

Thune went on to say that the focus in Washington has been to create jobs which will help build up the economy.

“We are fighting regulatory issues that are costly to the economy and hard for farmers especially,” he noted. “We’re $18 trillion in debt right now. One of my biggest guiding principles in DC is, ‘let’s not add to the debt for our future.’ I’m always encouraged when I’m in South Dakota. I’m impressed with the local government. The regulatory action of DC is very troubling.”

One example he gave was of the new legislation that gives control of waterways to the feds. The EPA’s new clean air act is also one of the most extensive pieces of legislation in history and could impact South Dakota by causing electricity rates to skyrocket.

“It makes it harder, not easier,” Thune said.

His office is working on a trade promotion administration bill which will come out of his office next week, he says. The bill will help open more agriculture exports which will benefit South Dakota farmers.

Regarding questions from the group of local residents, he answered questions on the following:

Highway funding
“I think we’ll end up doing another short-term extension,” Thune said of the federal funding bill, which expires at the end of May.

Thune says he’d like to see a five to six year plan put in place but feels it’s more likely to be a six or seven month extension that will happen while Congress continues to work on a long-term solution.

Figuring out funding for such a bill has been one of the biggest hang ups, he says. Thune feels the solution is in the gas tax.

Rail transportation
On the rail front, Thune said, “Things are kind of back to normal now,” following new legislation that is intended to stabilize rail service after last fall’s predicament where farmers were unable to ship crops to market via rail.

“Railroads are the only show in some towns,” he said. “We have to have rail service in the state. This will make the railroad much more reliable. We need them, but we need them to be reliable.”

His hope is that railroad companies will be more accountable and transparent now that changes have been made in the Surface Transportation Board regulations.

Policies on Iran
About a bill that recently passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would require Congress’ vote to approve or disapprove a final deal with Iran, Thune expressed his concern.

“There’s conflicting narratives, for sure,” he said. “You need to look at the details. Right now, all we hear is the general framework.”

Currently the attitude in Washington, he feels is that it’s not a question of if, but it has become a question of when Iran will get a nuclear bomb.

“I think our policy has to be to prevent it in the first place,” he said.

Discussion topics were held in regards to the health care reform and executive power as well as workforce issues facing South Dakota as well as other.

Following the roundtable discussion, Thune toured Webster’s industrial park, visiting Mereen-Johnson Machine Company, Dakota Foundry, Anderson Industries and Webster Scale.

Fiksdal Funeral Home

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