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Garamendi covers wide range of topics on district tour
Saturday wasn't the first time US Rep. John Garamendi toured his new congressional district, but his series of town hall meetings in Lake, Sutter and Glenn counties was his first official visit as the area's representative.
Garamendi, a Democrat in a largely Republican stronghold, opened the day at a gathering on veterans issues in Yuba City, before being greeted by a crowd of about 100 people in Clear Lake.
He ended his day answering dozens of questions in Orland's Carnegie Hall before heading to Hamilton City for a brief meeting on the J levee.
The $7.5 million earmarked in Obama's 2012 federal budget for the 6.8 miles flood protection and restoration project is still on hold, he said, and only funding for projects already under construction is being released.
"The no-new-starts policy is a major hurdle," said Lee Ann Grigsby-Puente, whose Reclamation District 2140 has worked to secure funding for the $52 million project for two decades.
Garamendi said he will be faced with a number of challenges over the next three weeks as house Republicans and Democrats continue to battle over the federal budget, including what to do about the sequestration cuts that just started kicking in and how to slow the growth of a $16 trillion national debt.
His district includes a $5 billion farming industry, two military bases and 200 miles of the Sacramento River, all of which will be impacted by federal spending cuts.
"This uncertainty is very debilitating for the economy," Garamendi said, as he fielded dozens of questions from residents and government officials from Glenn and Colusa counties.
Where Garamendi stands on Obamacare, taxes, the next farm bill, water storage projects, immigration, veterans affairs, Medicare and a host of other issues he spoke about on Saturday could determine whether Garamendi becomes the most liked or least liked politician in both counties.
Garamendi said he fully expects discussions on Capital Hill over the next 21 days be difficult.
The Republican budget, he said, retains $85 million in automatic cuts as a result of the sequester, which Democrats believe will result in 750,000 lost jobs over the next six months.
The Democrats' budget, he said, proposes a fairly even spilt between program cuts and new taxes.
Among those he supports is imposing transaction fees on stock trades.
Most of those attending Saturday's gathering in Orland made it clear to Garamendi they want to see an end to tax credits for big oil companies and an end to direct payment subsidies to farmers.
Garamendi agreed both policies have outlived the reasons they were implemented, although government has traditionally promoted research and development of industry and infrastructure since the founding fathers, he said.
For that reason, Garamendi said he supports tax breaks to promote clean energy development, and a partially-subsidized insurance program to protect crops rather than the government providing direct payments to farmers.
He also wants to see water storage projects move forward, but not just the Sites Reservoir in Colusa County but sanitation water storage projects in southern California.
Garamendi also said he doesn't want Medicare privatized, a plan proposed by Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Budget Committee chairman, which will turn Medicare into a premium-support or voucher program.
"It will end Medicare as we know it," he said.
Garamendi was also urged Saturday to support the restoration the Glass-Steagall resolution, which was introduced by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, on the first day of the new Congress.
Glass-Steagall was the 1933 law implemented after the crash of 1929 that banned commercial banks from owning investment banking.
The law was repealed in 1999 under President Bill Clinton to allow banks to use commercial deposits and assets as fuel for securities trading on the derivatives market.
Garamendi said it is widely believed that the derivatives bubble blew up the system and bankrupted the US banks in the 2007-08 crash.
"One-third of the wealth of the nation disappeared," Garamendi said. "It was the wealth in the hands of mom and pop."
Those attending Garamendi's first town hall said the Congressman was a "breath of fresh air."
"I'm so happy to have an intelligent, well-versed representative in Washington," said Judie Noffsinger of Orland. "We didn't have that before."
Like Noffsinger, Willows resident Pat Ireland said she was thrilled to have a representative who listens to the concerns of the people and understands the issues.
"He has a lot of good ideas and information," Ireland said.
About 50 people attended the town hall in Orland, as well as educators and local government representatives from Glenn and Colusa counties.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.