Matheson visits Vernal residents

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He came into town with boots, a blue shirt and no tie, and was given a warm welcome by the citizens of Uintah, Duchesne and Daggett coutny citizens.

Monday was a blur of meetings filled with questions for Congressman Jim Matheson as he spent the first week of the Congress spring break in Utah, meeting with his constituents. First stop-- Vernal. It was not hard for Matheson’s staff to fill a day long schedule that began with meeting Rotary Club members in the morning, chamber business members for lunch, and community leaders from the three county area in the afternoon.

Matheson told Rotary members that service organizations in the United States play a big part of the county’s success.

“We need to nurture our next generation to participate in service groups,” said Matheson. “Government can’t, nor should it, do everything for everyone.”

Questions throughout the day were centered on three main concerns – energy extraction, health care and tight money markets. He was asked several times about the issue that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar raised when he stopped the issuance of 77 oil and gas leases in Utah and put them on review status.

“I talked with him in person and sent him a letter about making the review process as quick as possible,” said Matheson.

Matheson explained that Salazar is setting the agenda for his department with oil prices dropping, reduced drilling activity and a deep recession. A slow economy looming and the question about the leases should be taken care of as soon as possible.

When he was told that most believe the federal lease difficulty will get worse before it gets better, Matheson stated that he felt the jury was still out on this energy paradigm shift.

“We need to maintain our domestic energy levels,” said Matheson. “We are still going to use the products, it boils down to where are we going to buy them, and home production is essential.”

When asked if mineral lease monies would be used to fund social program expansion in the nation, Matheson stated, “Not at all!” But he was unaware of the extra two percent the federal government voted to keep of this money two years ago.

PILT (Payment in lieu of taxes) money provided to the counties for services rendered on federal lands will continue to be a battle for states in the west, He says. He stated that it is hard for eastern politicians to understand the costs of federal land to the counties when they have such small areas of federal lands in their state.

“This program (PILT) was set up in the 70s and has never been fully funded, and I don’t see this changing,” said Matheson.

Business ownership by the federal government was discussed by Matheson. He explained that whether we like it or not the Federal government already owns 80 percent of AIT.

“What we are lacking is the plan on when it will be best to back out and then define government’s appropriate role with these businesses,” said Matheson. “Bankruptcy is the orderly way to re-apply assets and many of these businesses the federal government is helping may end up there anyway.”

He explained that in the auto industry, with the help of easy money and upside down lending practices there were over 16.5 million cars and trucks sold last year. This year that number has been reduced to 9 million and that adversely affects all of the parts companies, workers etc. providing service to that industry. “That is how widespread the problem is,”

Health care is the real problem of the United States according to Mattheson. He cited that in 1980 health care accounted for 8 percent of the gross national product and in 2008 it has increased to 15 percent.

“We can’t sustain prices going up for the long run” said Matheson. He stated that there is plenty of money in the system but the money is going where it shouldn’t and that is where government can help.

“In health care one third of all the money goes to administrative costs,” said Matheson. “We are paying physicians by the procedures they do. The more they do the more they get paid and this needs to be addressed.”

He also pointed out that Americans want more preventative care options, but stated that one quarter of all children in the United States are not immunized. “We talk but we don’t act,” he said.

On the subject of illegal immigrants he pointed out that the current rules are not working and both political parties are gridlocked with very little happening. He stated that for a start there are simple changes that could be made in the guest worker system that would help the problem, plus the idea of coming down hard on employers who are employ illegal immigrants.

“And that is not even addressing what to do with the 12 million or so illegal immigrants already in the country,” said Matheson. “I think that people don’t mind those who are guests in our country. It is when they are here uninvited that becomes the problem.”

The credit crunch has brought a lot of businesses to their knees in the Basin and business owners voiced their concerns to Matheson.

New 2009 tax rates were also shown to Matheson where a a single mom employee as well as an employee earning $50,000 a year had withholding taxes that doubled. Matheson hadn’t seen the details of the tax charts and found that comment interesting.

Matheson cautioned local residents that the climate change debates will begin soon in Congress and he encouraged locals to stay involved in that process. “I need to know the impacts in the real world when we are talking about climate changes,” said Matheson.

Matheson said he would look into the proposal to divert 250,000 acre feet of water from the Green River to the Denver area when brought up by a commissioner from Daggett County. He also felt the jury was still out on whether it is a good idea or not to have the EPA govern carbon dioxide emissions for air quality.

“When half of Utah’s power comes from coal fired electric plants there is going to be an income shift with other states who are paying higher prices for electricity now as compared to coal power,” said Matheson. “And this will be unfair.”

Matheson summarized his feelings about the budget when he explained that when government spending increases are greater than inflation then it’s a big deal. “Government can not grow faster than the economy.”

kashby@vernal.com

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Citation

Taylor, T. (2009). Matheson visits Vernal residents. Retrieved from http://uintah.utdem.org/view/article/51cbeafb7896bb431f686a4e

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