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Kilmer focuses on jobs, economy during Bainbridge visit
Nearing the end of a six-city tour across the region, he took to a Bainbridge Island stage without missing a beat.
Congressman Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor and U.S. Representative for Washington’s 6th Congressional District, visited Bainbridge’s IslandWood Wednesday evening for a town hall meeting. The lawmaker took the opportunity to drive home his message on the nation’s economy and to listen to local constituents.
Kilmer began by taking a moment to note that his kids are “super cute” — not uncommon for the first-term congressman who emanates a familial and lighthearted vibe at public appearances.
But after showing off his children’s smiles, it was time to talk about the harsh truths of the nation.
“Our biggest challenge as a nation is getting this economy back on track,” Kilmer said.
“We are coming out of what was the longest and deepest recession in our nation’s history,” he said. “In fact, we have not fully recovered from the number of employment losses that we saw over the Great Recession.”
Kilmer drove a three-point message: Cut spending; pass needed tax reform; and grow the economy.
While the three issues were separate in nature, Kilmer tied them together on their relation to the economy.
Kilmer dove into his experience in Washington, D.C. so far, and the problems brought on by elected officials and their passage of the law now simply known as the “sequester,” the automatic budget cuts that stem from the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“Having only been there less than five months, I’ve got some sense of why (Congress) is held in such low regard,” Kilmer said. “Probably the most acute example of the failure of Congress is sequestration, these across-the-board cuts.”
Kilmer said that he has no problem with making spending cuts, rather, sequestration failed to make “strategic cuts.” Quoting the Congressional Budget Office, he said that sequestration will result in the loss of 750,000 jobs this year.
“In your family budget you pay for rent or a mortgage, food, gas and other stuff,” he said.
“During difficult economic times you prioritize, you wouldn’t say you will cut everything by 12 percent,” he said. “You would say that you will keep a roof over your head and make sure your kids eat, but maybe you will cancel your subscription to ‘Sports Illustrated’ and not go see the newest ‘Star Trek’ movie.”
“The wisdom we use in our own families, is not being shown by our own congress right now,” he added.
Kilmer used the Department of Defense as an example, and pointed to the 680,000 workers across the nation who have received furloughs. He reminded the crowd that Naval Base Kitsap is the region’s largest employer.
He also noted the impact to social and mental services and addressed his desire to close tax loopholes.
“There are a fair number of loopholes in our tax code,” Kilmer said.
“Right now we have tax code that is hard for a family to navigate and for a small business to navigate,” he continued.
“It’s also not a competitive system because we have all these carve-outs. The general base rate that middle-class families and small business pay is a lot higher than it ought to be, because we are sending a bunch of money with tax breaks to big oil companies and companies that move jobs overseas.”
Jobs, and how to create them, was another focus for Kilmer during his first-ever town hall on Bainbridge as a congressman.
“I look at education as the door to opportunity, and student loans are a key to that door,” he said.
Kilmer also spoke of his support for STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and said that students need to engage the subjects at an early age to compete with other nations.
Small businesses also play a part to economic recovery.
“Small businesses are your star running back,” he said. “If you look at how our nation generally makes it out of recessions, it’s not the big guys that are growing our jobs. It’s by and large the Main Street businesses.”
“If you look at recent years, a lot of our star running backs are getting tackled at the line of scrimmage,” Kilmer added. “It’s the role of government to call some plays so they can score the touchdowns that they need.”
Kilmer’s speech was only half the purpose of the town hall. The island crowd came stocked with their own topics to discuss, from Social Security and how to protect it, to keeping money out of politics.
“I think politics are disrupted by money. Broadly I support campaign finance reform,” Kilmer said. “I don’t believe that money is speech and that corporations are people. I believe that if the Supreme Court believes that it is, and that the Constitution says that it is, then we ought to amend the Constitution.”
Another hot topic was the issue of global warming.
“What are you going to do about climate change and when are you going to add it to your presentation?” asked islander Erica Shriner.
Kilmer brought the subject back to the economy and said that there are economic opportunities in green technologies and jobs.
He also said that he would add climate change to his presentation.