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Visclosky again critical of Congress in community meeting tour

Congressman Pete Visclosky answers questisubmitted viemail as he  holds town forum Portage Library Portage Ind. Friday January 11 2013.

Congressman Pete Visclosky answers a question submitted via email as he holds a town forum at the Portage Library in Portage, Ind. Friday January 11, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 14, 2013 6:46AM



GARY — Reciting the 1977 statistic that one hour of work was worth more then than it is now, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky told a room of at least 60 people that right now, America is not the place his parents — or anyone else — intended to leave for future generations.

At the city’s YWCA for the seventh of his 12 annual Town Hall meetings and the second of five on Saturday, Visclosky, D-Merrillville, expressed concern over the economy and how Congress handled the so-called “fiscal cliff crisis.”

In his view, economic distribution among Americans is clearly skewed toward the wealthy, and Congress all but failed with the fiscal cliff, which he voted against, he said, because it was a bad deal all around.

“We had 24 months to look at each spending program, then we had 18 months where we knew that these spending cuts were to take place,” he said to the packed room of at least 60 people. “Then there were seven or eight weeks left; at first, it was only the president and the speaker (Rep. John Boehner) debating the bill. Eventually, there were four before it came to Congress.

“What happened to the legislative process? (The people) deserve better.”

And he forewarned the audience that the upcoming budget negotiations are likely going to be more ridiculous because Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader, has said the GOP is done talking about raising taxes.

“Where are these cuts going to come from?” he said.

One source in the crosshairs is Social Security and Medicare, Visclosky acknowledged, and while he thinks both need shoring up well before 2033, when they’re expected to lose solvency, they are guaranteed benefits toward which people have paid and therefore are entitled to.

Visclosky touted his accomplishments since he last visited the city. The Glen Ryan sewer project, for example, came to pass because angry residents came to his Town Hall meeting two or three years ago and demanded something be done about flooding in the neighborhood. While the project, for which he got federal money, isn’t perfect, it will help those residents. As well, he was able to procure $17 million to reconstruct the Nine-Span Bridge on Indianapolis Boulevard in Hammond, on which construction starts Monday, as well $3 million to redo Gary’s Martin Luther King Drive.

Additional projects include $71.3 million in Federal Highway money to improve at-grade railroad crossings from Porter County to the Indiana state line. After nine temporary attempts at getting the Federal Highway funds secured, Congress finally extended them for 27 months, he said.

The Indiana Harbor and Shipping Canal in East Chicago is also being dredged, a project that will go along way in helping commerce as well as cleaning up the environment, he said.

Despite what seems to be constant turmoil among the two parties, Visclosky assured the crowd that cooperation between local officials and the state “hasn’t been better” and promised he’ll do his best to vote on issues that will keep the country secure and keep the jobs we have in it.

Greg Wielogorski, of St. John, wondered if Congress might consider withholding highway funds over Indiana’s right-to-work bill.

“That’s how we passed the seatbelt and speed limit laws,” he said.



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