DANVILLE - In a town hall meeting here Monday, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, discussed with attendants their concerns, ranging from job creation to health care, and more.
Gerald Buckley, 59, of Danville, asked the senator to "come down to our level," as jobs that pay $9 or $10 an hour aren't family sustainable. "Real jobs," jobs to support a family, have to be at least $15 an hour - those are the sorts of jobs that need to be created, he said.
The work ethic isn't the problem. "The work ethic in Pennsylvania is excellent," Buckley said, but noted many jobs are going overseas.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, discusses residents’ concerns at a town hall meeting Monday in Danville.
There used to be plenty of companies in the area, Buckley said, but their large absence leaves a glaring hole in their pockets and lives.
Toomey agreed more family sustainable jobs need to be created. "I think a dynamic, growing economy ... does take more than $9-an-hour jobs," he said.
Fred Gaffney, 39, of Bloomsburg, president of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce, asked what tax reforms Toomey thinks are necessary.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's town hall meetings
WHEN-WHERE: 2 p.m. today at Laporte Community Center, Muncy Street, Laporte; 3 p.m. Wednesday at VFW Post 813, Fuller Street, DuBois; 12:20 p.m. Thursday at Gunzburger Building, 1 N. Main St., Coudersport
Toomey answered, "We have a ridiculously complicated tax code that we need to reform." He said repeated tax hikes aren't part of the solution but the problem, and he is against high business tax rates, citing them as the highest in the world.
"That's a big incentive to put corporate headquarters elsewhere," Toomey said.
In response to a resident's question about Toomey's background-check legislation for gun owners, Toomey said while he is opposed to a national registry, he thinks a 3-minute check will make it more difficult for criminals to obtain firearms.
A local salon owner said as a small business owner, it's difficult to find a health care provider for her employees, let alone afford it. Just to receive a plan quote, one provider asked her for her Schedule C form (a business tax form), she said.
Toomey said the Affordable Care Act is making health care affordability more difficult, and said he wants to take it in the opposite direction.
Toomey's two main talking points were government spending and "excessive" federal regulations, both stemming from his fundamental question, how to get economic growth.
"Government spending is out of control," Toomey said. "It's an unsustainable path our government is on."
For four years in a row, the federal budget deficit has topped $1 trillion, according to Toomey. He chided congressional Democrats for not abiding by spending caps in the annual appropriations process.
"Even if the spending caps were observed, we would still be in debt," Toomey said. "This is all a result of the fiscal policy."
He claimed excessive federal regulations are costing Americans jobs, and listed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act as an example. The bill was signed into law in July 2010, and is "one of the most significant regulatory reform measures since the Great Depression," according to cfr.org.
Proponents of the act contend its major provisions will help prevent another financial crisis. Opponents argue the reforms will inhibit economic growth.
Toomey said while it was a well-intended bill, it's "an incentive not to lend money," due to the act's complexity. He claimed banks now hire more compliance officers than loan officers.
Toomey warned the Affordable Care Act, signed into law March 2010, will hurt small business owners. If a company hires a 50th full-time employee, and the company doesn't offer health insurance, the employer would pay a penalty.
"This is legislation that actively discourages job growth," Toomey said, emphasizing health care ownership should be patient centered, not government centered.
He advocates dismantling the act by stripping away certain sections, defunding parts of it, and delaying it.
The act holds five key changes for health care: guaranteed issue of insurance, individual mandate, essential health benefits, advanced premium tax credit subsidies, and state-run and federally facilitated marketplaces, according to thehealthplan.com.
Toomey also slammed the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the agency is "making it hard to survive in industrial America." He said with increased restrictions for coal plants, many are losing work and electricity costs are rising.
He promised to take up an energy bill in the Senate "to see if we can push back renewable fuel standards."
"We should not accept this slow growth, weak economy as the new normal," Toomey said.