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Visclosky gets earful from constituents

US Rep. Pete Visclosky D-Merrillville town hall meeting Friday Jan. 3 2014 Dyer Town Hall. | Carrie Napoleon~for Sun-Times Media

US Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, at town hall meeting Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, at the Dyer Town Hall. | Carrie Napoleon~for Sun-Times Media

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If you go

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky’s
remaining town forums:

Saturday, Jan. 4

10 a.m.: Valparaiso City Hall, 166 Lincolnway. An interpreter for the deaf will be present.

Noon: Portage City Hall, 6070 Central Ave.

2 p.m.: Michigan City-City Hall, 100 E. Michigan Blvd.

4 p.m.: Westchester Public Library Service Center, 100 W. Indiana Ave., Chesterton

6 p.m.: American Legion, Miller Dunes Post 27, 6601 Hobart Road, Gary

Sunday, Jan. 5

2 p.m.: Hebron Community Center, 611 N. Main St.

4 p.m.: Crown Point Civic Center, 101 S. East St.

6 p.m.: Fraternal Order of Eagles, 13140 Lake Shore Drive, Cedar Lake

Monday, Jan. 6

10 a.m.: Hobart City Hall, 414 Main St.

Noon: Lake Station City Hall, 1969 Central Ave.

2 p.m.: Gary YWCA, 150 W. 15th Ave.

4 p.m.: East Chicago Main Library, 2401 E. Columbus Drive

6 p.m.: Merrillville Town Hall, 7820 Broadway. An interpreter for the deaf will be present.

Tuesday, Jan. 7

10 a.m.: Calumet College of St. Joseph, 2400 New York Ave., Room 200, Whiting

Updated: February 5, 2014 6:04AM



DYER — Questions and complaints about the Affordable Care Act dogged U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky in his first Town Hall meeting of the New Year.

Visclosky, D-Ind., brought a message about the need for investment in crucial infrastructure including the extension of the South Shore to Lowell and Valparaiso to provide good-paying jobs for Hoosiers and to create an environment where the state’s young people want to stay in the region.

However, the majority of questions posed by about 40 residents who filled out question cards prior to the 10 a.m. meeting at Dyer Town Hall focused on the Affordable Care Act, Visclosky’s views on the legislation and how it was impacting people.

Visclosky said he voted for the ACA to ensure all Americans will have access to affordable health care regardless of their situation. He told the crowd he did not believe President Barack Obama was lying when he told Americans they would be able to keep their present coverage.

“The president certainly misspoke and made a mistake,” he said.

Visclosky acknowledged the plan was not perfect but expressed faith in the government’s ability to address problems and the ability of the marketplace to increase competition and work through the factors driving up prices.

He said the plan levels the playing field for all the insured and stops discriminatory practices against women by insurance providers. Prior to the act, women of child-bearing years paid up to 60 percent more for insurance than their male counterparts, he said.

The ACA and its provisions also add several years of solvency to Medicare, which is fully funded through 2024. At that time, it is expected Medicare expenditures will be greater than tax revenues coming in to pay for the program. Because of the law, 2014 also is the first year many Medicare recipients will not see an increase in their premiums.

Now that the ACA is in place, it is time to start solving the problems that arise within the program and make it better.

“That’s what our attention should be focused on,” Visclosky said.

The American economy has survived the implementation of the ACA and is poised for growth. Investment in infrastructure will be key to that continued growth and significant job creation.

Visclosky said he is “particularly concerned” about the lack of economic investment in the nation’s infrastructure. He said it will take $28 billion to dredge the nation’s ports and harbors to proper depth and federal officials have not yet come to grips with that issue.

For the first time since 1970, he said, the Indiana Harbor ship canal now is dredged to depth, a fact that will help the region’s steel producers.

However, not all the statistics of the last 40 plus years are positive. While the U.S. population has grown consistently since 1970, the population in Northwest Indiana has declined by 9.6 percent.

The median income in the region is 15.3 percent less than it was in 1970 and Lake County residents are 43 percent older than they were in 1970.

Visclosky said he attributes the flagging statistics to a continuing drain of young people from the region.

“Many of our children go away for specialized training and military service, and they are not coming back,” he said.

Visclosky said the extension of the South Shore to Lowell and Valparaiso, a project expected to cost between $450 million and $500 million, is key to keeping young people in the region. However, any investment by the federal government in that project will require a local match. Visclosky said he sees Lake County’s new 0.25 percent economic development income tax as a potential funding vehicle for that expansion.

He said even though stops may not be in a particular city or town, the extension will be an economic driver benefiting all the region.

“I truly hope every local community participates (in funding the South Shore extension). We have got to start thinking of ourselves as a region,” Visclosky said.



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