PALMETTO -- Budgets, jobs, immigration -- those topics seemed to be the most popular among the dozens attending Congressman Vern Buchanan's town hall listening session Saturday at Palmetto City Hall.
"One of the things I've tried to do over the years is to have conversation," Buchanan said. "I want to get your thoughts. My biggest thing is listening and giving everyone a voice. We all have opinions."
Before fielding questions, the Sarasota Republican explained that balancing the nation's budget is among his primary concerns.
"It was the reason I ran in the first place," said Buchanan, adding that the U.S. is nearly $20 trillion in debt. "I think it's immoral when I look at the young people. It's unfair to them because they won't be able to pay it back. We need a balanced budget amendment that says you can't spend more than you take in.
One woman addressed the national sequester than began March 1.
"Sequestration is a reduction in the increase. There are no cuts, except military. Is that right?" she asked.
Buchanan said the sequestration cut program budgets by 8 percent, except for Social Security, Medicare and veteran benefits. Overall, he said the cuts equal about 2.5 percent of the nation's spending.
Buchanan would not
specifically address areas he thinks should be cut when asked by a man in attendance.
"It would take a long time to look at specific proposals," Buchanan said. "But I think you should look at everything."
Buchanan did say foreign aid should be reduced.
"We want to feed the world, but the bottom line is we have limited resources," he said.
Addressing a question about implementation of a fair tax reform, Buchanan said he is part of a committee looking at various tax reform ideas and "seeing what makes sense."
The discussion moved along to the economy and unemployment. "We need to help small business be more successful so we can create jobs," Buchanan said.
One man said he and his wife own a small business manufacturing airplane cables, but new regulations require them to attend a class in Oklahoma City. The only problem is the classes are full.
"I'm that small business guy," he said. "I'd like to have two or three employees, but now I'm dead in the water. I'm looking for work. I don't get unemployment because I own a business, but I pay an unemployment tax."
Buchanan took interest in his situation, offering to look into what can be done.
The discussion ended with talks of immigration.
"I'm against amnesty," said Buchanan, adding that he expects an immigration bill to be drafted. "We've got to enforce the laws and enforce the border. I'm pro-immigration, but I want to do it legally."
A couple from the United Kingdom living in the U.S. on investor visas said there are many pieces of immigration that should be reviewed.
"If we could stay here we would invest. If we would invest, we would provide more jobs for Americans," the man said.
Instead, every two years the couple has to go through a visa renewal process. Buchanan said he would look into that issue as well.
Buchanan closed with the importance of Republicans and Democrats working together. "We need things we can agree on because Washington is broken," Buchanan said. "I'm trying to do what I can on a bipartisan basis to do what's best for America."
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041.