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Medicare, tax gripes pepper Pence event

Pence

– The first comment Rep. Mike Pence heard at a town hall meeting Wednesday was a complaint about Republican efforts to revamp Medicare.

Randy Hisner of Decatur said Congress is “reneging” on its pledge to provide health insurance to older people.

“I don’t think any voucher will be big enough for me to buy private insurance” in retirement, Hisner said about the GOP proposal.

His turned out to be the last comment on the subject.

At least three congressmen – among them Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the architect of the House budget proposal – have been booed at recent town hall meetings because of their plan to privatize and subsidize Medicare for those currently younger than 55.

An audience of more than 100 people at Riverside Center spared Pence, R-6th. Instead, he listened to gripes about the threat of socialism, people who buy “junk” with food stamps, taxes on businesses and environmental restrictions on oil companies.

In an interview after the meeting, Pence said: “I think there’s a great deal of willingness to accept compassionate and responsible reforms in Medicare and Medicaid. People need to understand that we are not jeopardizing benefits to current seniors and near-seniors, and maybe that’s why we didn’t hear as much about it today and yesterday” at a town hall meeting in Anderson.

Pence had brought up Medicare in his opening remarks Wednesday. Without restructuring, the health care program “is scheduled to go broke in nine years,” he told his Decatur audience.

Hisner also disapproved of Congress’ extension of income tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and what he considers low tax rates for the wealthy.

“I wanted to see us make them permanent,” Pence said about the cuts. “In fact, I voted against the two-year extension because I don’t think you can build an economy on a temporary tax code.”

He said he favored reducing income taxes while eliminating “a lot of the (tax) shelters and loopholes.”

Pence received criticism for his comment March 31 regarding a potential government shutdown if Congress failed to produce a budget for fiscal 2011. Unless the Democratic Senate would accept GOP spending cuts, “then I say shut it down,” Pence said on PBS’ “Newshour.” A compromise was approved April 14, although Pence voted against it.

“My son in the military cannot shut it down,” Darlene Zeitvogel of Decatur told Pence.

Pence recalled he had voted for a temporary spending resolution to fund the military through September but that Senate Democrats and President Obama rejected it.

“I will be supporting legislation in this Congress that makes sure that in any future budget confrontation we never, ever jeopardize funding for the payroll for our troops again,” he said, drawing applause from the audience.

“I never, never, never want our troops or their families to ever, ever be given anxiety again about that,” he said.

Pence was asked whether he will vote to raise the $14.3 trillion national debt ceiling.

“I will not vote to increase the national debt ceiling without real and meaningful spending cuts in the short term and the long term. … Take it to the bank: It’s gotta be real. I’m going to fight for it.”

bfrancisco@jg.net

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