By FRANK PHILLIPS
Environmental concerns are hindering the military's ability to train, said U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, Ind. 8th District, Monday night.
Hostettler fulfilled a campaign promise to conduct town meetings in Indiana's 8th District by coming to Brazil to meet with Clay Countians. About a dozen people showed up in City Hall to meet the Congressman.
During a discussion of energy policy, Hostettler said new oil refineries have not been built since the 1980s due to environmental concerns.
A resident then asked, "Is it politically feasible for Congress to relax laws to build refineries?"
During his answer, Hostettler said environmental laws have made it difficult for the nation's military to train.
For example, if the military practices taking a beach, the unit will have to stop on the beach and then be transported inland to another training area. The reason is that laws prohibit disturbing certain wildlife habitat.
Another example involves practice using SONAR, a type of radar used to detect underwater objects. The transmissions from SONAR equipment harass marine mammals, so the military is not allowed to fully use SONAR for training.
"Some environmental laws need to be changed to facilitate military training," Hostettler said.
Other questions included:
"Are we making enough jobs for immigrants coming into this country (as well as Americans)?"
Hostettler replied, "The question really is enforcement of immigration laws."
There must be enough agents to enforce the laws. In light of the current economy, Americans must decide if they want to pay the cost in light of a $300 billion-plus projected deficit this year, Hostettler said.
He believes there are three reasons for the deficit: The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the post-attack recession and the war against terrorism.
"I'm concerned about illegal immigrants getting Social Security," said one area resident.
Hostettler emphasized only U.S. citizens are legally able to receive Social Security benefits, though Mexico's President Vincente Fox and others would like U.S. benefits to include Mexicans who pay Social Security tax while working in the U.S.
The problem is that some immigrants, non-citizens, obtain false identification papers and manage to get Social Security payments illegally.
- Republican tax cut proposal.
"Is there any incentive for companies to use the tax cut to create new jobs?"
The incentive is to "stay afloat and prosper in this economy" said Hostettler. "The market system that has worked so well will reward industries that use resources wisely and punish those that don't."
"In what areas does the President want to reduce spending?" another asked.
Everything is on the table except Defense and Homeland Security, said Hostettler. The President wants to increase spending on Defense to shore up budget cuts made under the Clinton administration.
"It is ultimately up to Congress to do the right thing," Hostettler said.
Concerning the Estate Tax, Hostettler said it is to be phased out by 2011. However, an older Budget Rule will cause it to be brought back in 2012, unless Congress acts to make the estate tax cut permanent, which Hostettler supports.
The U.S. House passed a permanent repeal in 2002, but it was not taken up by the Senate. A new bill is not likely to be introduced this session, he added.
"What incentive is there to move toward renewable fuels?" a resident asked.
The incentive is to do research, said the Congressman, a 1983 Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology graduate.
The purpose of encouraging research is to lower the cost of products when they reach consumers.
"Why not keep domestic oil here, instead of shipping it overseas?" asked another.
Hostettler said the answer is refining capabilities. With no new refineries being built in the U.S. when older refineries are retired, crude oil pumped in the U.S. is shipped to Japan and other countries to be refined.
Both President Bush and Congressman Hostettler spent Monday night in Indianapolis, but their paths were not expected to cross.
Today, Bush is scheduled to make a speech in the capitol city and Hostettler will be back on Capitol Hill, fulfilling his obligations as chairman of the House Immigration, Border Control and Claims subcommittee.
He believes strongly in the Republican budget plan. At the same time he cautions decisions made under current conditions -- the national debt, war, increased spending a slowed economy -- will impact Americans for a long time to come.