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Congressman Duncan Hunter Answers Patch Readers' Questions

Oil drilling, amnesty, term limits, jobs production, corporate taxes and the president's family's trips aboard Air Force One are among the topics.

A few weeks ago, Patch editors from within the 52nd Congressional District met with Rep. Duncan D. Hunter to pose questions. We also asked readers if they had questions they'd like us to ask. , and others were forward to the congressman after the meeting.

Here are Rep. Hunter's answers to the forwarded questions:

1)  With the increased need (and legislative mandates) to utilize renewable energy resources, specifically solar and wind, how does Rep. Hunter propose to balance the need to move to renewable energy with our community of Ramona’s rural character and agricultural business climate (wineries and the tourist industry, orchards, etc.)?

Renewable energy is the future, but traditional energy sources are what we rely on now and what’s needed to ensure communities are functional and productive.  Ramona has special qualities like many other communities in East County and the rest of Southern California.   But we can certainly preserve all these good qualities while securing energy independence.  We don’t need to give up one to have the other.  I would say that we need to continue pursuing renewable energy resources while maximizing traditional fuel sources, but we are definitely not doing enough to increase domestic production.  Look at the Gulf, for instance.  The drilling moratorium just forced 10 platforms to move to other countries—one being Brazil. Many of these countries have production programs supported by the Administration—yet we can’t do the same here.  So I believe we can incentivize energy producers, without harsh mandates, to continue exploring renewable energy while putting greater emphasis on what we need today—and what we can use today.   

2)  Any plans or ideas on how to make Ramona more of a people's workplace? Not a lot of opportunity for teens or adults. Driving down hill for $8 to $12 per hour is not very profitable and you put yourself in danger every commute. From what I've heard it's hard to build or open a business up here. How about a grant for some needed businesses that serve the community, especially our youth and families?

A lot of this has to do with the State of California and decisions made locally—outside the purview of Washington D.C.  California is not a business-friendly state and that’s a problem.  More businesses are moving out, and fewer are even interested in moving in.  So there’s an obligation among state and local leaders to do their part and make California and impacted communities more attractive to business.  At the federal level, there’s a lot we can do also, looking more broadly at the issues facing small businesses.  These are the local job creators.  It’s these businesses that hire teens during their summers.  It’s these businesses that provide communities lifelines and thriving downtown areas.  There’s a lot of uncertainty facing small business right now, due in large part to the new health care law, added regulation and an unpredictable tax structure.  We need to give small business certainty so they can start hiring again—they are the way forward, but they need confidence to start hiring again.

3)  Why aren't we drilling for oil? Whatever happened to "drill, baby, drill?" What are we doing to become self-supportive, as America has more oil than all countries combined? San Diego has the highest gas in the USA.

The major reason is political—plain and simple.  The Administration does not want to drill and previous Democratic majorities, including the current Democratic Senate, have said no.  I often use the example of the Gulf.  The moratorium on deep water drilling, put in place by the Administration, has forced ten platforms to go elsewhere and it’s safe to say that we will only lose more the longer the moratorium stays in place. I think renewable energy is important, and there needs to be incentives that encourage energy producers to examine every resource available, but we need to drill here—and we need to do it now.  It was amazing to see how the unrest in Libya, which provides such a small amount of oil to the American market, impacted prices here.  For reasons related to security, consumer demand and cost, America needs a comprehensive energy program that includes drilling for domestic resources.        

4)  I'd like to ask if Pres. Obama is paying for all his wife's, children’s' & mother-in-law's excessive trips aboard Air Force One? Her latest, a secret trip aboard Air Force One to visit Michelle's brother in Oregon, burning thousands of gallons of jet fuel, numerous members of the Secret Service, escorts & a 14-car motorcade? Her extravagance during this recession is arrogant, self-serving, insensitive & appalling & so is the President's. She is NOT an elected official so why isn't she pulling out her wallet & paying her own way? Are taxpayers being billed for the Obama family's extravagant trips? His last trip to Martha's Vineyard showed a complete lack of sensitivity when our nation's credit was downgraded, budget was a mess & he did nothing to call Congress back to solve this problem.

Leadership at a time like this makes the difference.  The President should always lead by example and why he makes the decisions he does is entirely on him… The credit downgrade was a missed opportunity.  Same goes for the debt ceiling debate.  I opposed the debt ceiling increase the third time around—supporting the previous two plans in the House.  There were ideas coming from House but the President and Democrats in the Senate said no every time without producing a plan of their own.  There were concepts and talk of plans, but there was no plan.  Nothing to compare a House plan to.  That makes negotiation and progress very difficult.  

5)  We need term limits NOW! Why isn't something being done to pass a bill for same?

The Supreme Court has said term limits are unconstitutional.  And when it comes to the gridlock and the other problems we face today, I’m not so sure term limits would solve the problem.  The Republican majority today has over 60 new faces, but there is still resistance from this White House and Democratic Senate to working closely with House Republicans… Think about this: The Senate has not passed a budget in over 900 days.  The House has done its part, but the leadership in other areas has different priorities.  So the issues that stand to benefit most from term limits can more easily be addressed by good, honest, accountable government.  In the House, we have to make a case for reelection every two years.  There’s a quick turnaround in the House, which I think is a good thing.  Majorities can easily change hands as we have seen over the last two administrations—that’s because of the system, which, as an institution, has worked for the most part.  I’m unsure that Congress, understanding the election process and timeline, would suddenly become even more accountable under term-limits.

6)  What's being done to block the latest amnesty by the president & illegal immigration?

The Administration has already granted reprieves, which I believe shows a disregard for law.  I drafted legislation even before the Administration announced its plan and that bill will be formally introduced in the next couple days. Here’s a summary: http://hunter.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=407&Itemid=60

7)  If the Bush tax cuts, introduced in 2002, for the top 2% of income earners create jobs, then where are the jobs? Why is it that 1/3 of US corporations pay no tax, while I do? The international corporations cut 2.9 million jobs in the US since 2000, and at the same time added 2.4 million jobs overseas. How is that helpful to our economy? http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20110828/BIZ13/308289982/1031/BIZ.

I touched on this in a recent op-ed in the Washington Times, titled Stop Exporting American Jobs. (http://hunter.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=408&Itemid=61). Even Peter Orszag, President Obama’s former Budget Director, wrote in the New York Times that extending the Bush tax cuts was a necessary action—at least for two years, he said.  The point is that you can’t raise taxes in a recession.  Knowing tax rates means certainty for job creators and, when there’s certainty, businesses are more willing to hire.  But I do agree, we need to reform the tax code and we need to close many of the tax loopholes that force jobs overseas and allow corporations to avoid paying taxes altogether.  GE was exempt from all corporate taxes last year—and that’s not right.

8) Will you reduce the Congressional retirement to only Medicare and Social Security?

My health plan is the same as any other federal employee—and I pay into it.  I pay into Social Security too. And federal retirement (eligibility starts at 62 with less than 20 years) is funded through a combination of individual and employer-based contributions, to which I also pay.  As a cost saving initiative, as some people suggest, simply reducing the retirement opportunities for federal employees—myself included—is not going to solve the budget problem.

9)  Would you support a Constitutional Amendment to knock off unlimited corporate funds used to buy our government? If it's true that "money is free speech" then doesn't it also follow that those with more money have a lot more 'free speech' than the rest of us?

It’s an interesting point, but, right now, there are limits in place on contributions in elections.  That’s the law.  I don’t think an amendment to the constitution is necessary in this and most other cases proposed, but, if there is ever an opportunity to increase transparency and ensure equal representation during elections—then those ideas deserve to be looked at more closely. 

10)  Why should a young new voter, someone who just turned 18, vote for you next time your name is on the ballot?

It’s great to see such strong interest, with this being your first election.  Voting is a responsibility every American should take seriously, and should put the time and attention into learning who and what is on the ballot, and what each candidates stand for.  I stand for a strong national defense, strong borders and strong manufacturing—which I believe is key to restoring many of the lost jobs that have gone overseas.  America is at a crossroad and we face tough choices together.  We need to get this economy back on track and we need to start preparing the next generation to enter the workforce and compete with other countries—which are developing at a faster rate than ever before.  So we need to get small business going again.  We need to get manufacturing going again and we need to maintain a robust national defense in order to protect our interests at home and abroad.  I joined the Marines after 9/11 and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and my time in Congress so far has allowed me to continue serving America—something for which I’m grateful.  I’m thankful for the opportunity and never take for granted the support that I receive from the people of East County, and will continue doing all I can, through every opportunity and platform possible, to ensure they are strongly represented in Congress.        

tom Comeau September 15, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Shoot, the hack didn't answer my question!
Jean September 15, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Tom must have asked about the payment for the families trips as I was looking for that info too. If they are not on the plane with him, they should pay the air force for the cost of operation of the plane. That would require some character and ethics so .....

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