Congressman McHenry listens to county

Congressman Patrick McHenry spoke at a meeting for the Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), defending President Bush’s proposed Social Security overhaul, and taking questions in a town hall style forum.

The meeting was held at the Mitchell County Courthouse.

McHenry said Social Security is a “key issue” for the nation.

He said Bush’s proposal, which would give younger workers the option of creating private investment accounts, funded with Social Security payroll taxes, will be good for everyone.

“It’s going to change the way the country operates,” he said. “It’s going to increase prosperity.”

Jana Reid asked McHenry about the “transition age” group (age 50-55) that would not necessarily be included in the plan.

McHenry said demographics, namely the “baby boom” generation, is the reason for the option.

He said people 55 and older would not be affected by the changes, and people ages 50-54 will have the option of participating, or sticking with the old system.

But not all questions related to Social Security.

County Commission Chairman Keith Masters asked McHenry about the $3.5 million recently allotted in transportation bill, for a Hwy. 226 improvement study. Masters asked if there was a second part to the plan, actual funding for the project itself.

McHenry said he is working on finding the money, noting that many people in Raleigh think “The state ends at I-77.”

“The first step is the study,” he said. “It will take a long time, but we’ll keep working.”

Mike Silver asked McHenry about what he called “A sellout by Republican Senators”, who sided with Democrats on the filibuster compromise.

“A sellout is exactly what it was,” McHenry said.

He said the seven “sellouts” only pushed the fight until later.

“We need an up or down vote,” he said.

McHenry said one solution to the problem would be to, “Lop off that end of the Capitol and start over again.”

The comment drew laughter from the crowd, and McHenry repeated the comment later in the discussion.

Ed Henson asked McHenry why western North Carolina is the state’s “stepchild” when it comes to funding, meaning that money tends to stay in the eastern part of the state.

McHenry said that Democrat Governors, such as Mike Easley, come from the Piedmont or eastern part of the state. He said money, such as the allotments to repair damage from last year’s hurricanes, was often given to eastern counties.

“It’s a partisan issue,” he said.

Kathy Woody, owner of Woody Lumber, said she is frustrated with the lack of help from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Her family business, located next to Cane Creek, was heavily damaged last September, and has not received the funding it needs to relocate, she said.

“It’s a government program,” McHenry said. “It’s frustrating to deal with.”