WASHINGTON – With the Senate out for its August recess, various senators are on the town hall circuit, taking questions, visiting with constituents, and giving updates on their work in Washington, D.C. Sen. Mike Lee did just that at a town hall meeting at the Washington City Community Center on Aug. 22.
“It’s more fun to be in this Washington than the other one,” Lee told the assembled crowd of over 100 people.
Lee then gave an update on the progress of his proposed “Cut, Cap and Balance” deficit-reduction act which he said would put in place “permanent structural finance reform.” Basic tenets of the act include measures that must be observed, such as a balanced budget amendment, before the debt ceiling could be raised yet again.
“The debt ceiling shouldn’t be raised again without something in place,” Lee said when answering a question concerning government spending.
Though the proposed act passed the House last year, it was tabled in the Senate. “What that means is (the Senate) excluded it from debate and discussion,” Lee said. An updated version of the legislation was reintroduced on Aug. 1, 2012.
While the debt and ways to remedy government spending were discussed, so was the matter of the Senate still not having passed an annual budget.
“The last time the Senate passed a budget,” Lee said, “there was no such thing as an iPad.”
Lee said solutions to the budget problem were outlined in his “Saving the American Dream” budget act. Points of the budget cover reforms to taxes, entitlements, health care and Medicaid, defense spending, and federally-enforced regulations.
Lee went on to say the current Code of Federal Regulations should be thrown out and rebuilt – not by a massive bureaucracy of unelected officials, but by the Congress itself. Only Congress was to have the power to create regulatory laws, he said, not bureaucrats.
A question was raised as to legislation, such as the Violence Against Women Act, that Lee voted down in April. Lee said he saw legislation like the VAWA as ways the federal government overstepped its authority. The states were able to enforce their own laws well enough without government interference, he said.
“When the federal government acts,” he said, “it does so at the expense of the states.”
Addressing the WAVA specifically, Lee listed off a variety of violent crimes like assault, murder and rape. “These are state offenses; they need to be state law (not federal).”
Another question addressed whether or not repealing the Affordable Care Act was realistic.
“We can’t always undo what the president has done,” Lee said. However, he said repealing the ACA could be “realistic … depending on the outcome of the election.”
Speaking on health care in general, Lee said people shouldn’t be looking to the government to make decisions for them. “You need to take charge of your own health care decisions.”
The issue of Utah’s public lands was also raised in the meeting.
“The federal government owns two-thirds of our land,” Lee said. “We can’t tax that two-thirds of our own property.”
Lee said the state’s inability to tax public lands was the reason why Utah was “dead last” in education spending, as that is what revenue raised from taxed lands is applied to. So, instead of taxes, the government gives Utah PILT funds, or “Payment in Lieu of Taxes.”
Lee said the PILT money wasn’t much in comparison to the revenue taxes could generate, so he offered a possible alternative – introduce legislation that would make the government pay a taxed rate for the public lands it manages. In essence, the states would be taxing the federal government for using its lands.
However it would come to pass, Lee said, Utah needs to take its lands back.
As the town hall came to a close, Lee told those gathered, “Our best days are still ahead of us.”
The American people are recognizing “founding-era principles,” he said, yet warned against government expansion. “We will be less prosperous and free the more government grows.”
Lee then pointed to the Constitution as the way to stop federal incursion. “It guards against too much power at the national level … The Constitution, then and now, shows us the way to go.”
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