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Oregon U.S. Representative Greg Walden District 2

Oregon's Congressional Connection 2/27/13

Dear Friend,

Another week in Oregon wrapped up with another 300+ miles and more town halls in our district. And it’s a big week this week in Washington with all eyes on government spending. My subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing today investigating how the government spent (or misspent) $7 billion in “stimulus” money to pay for broadband build out (more on that below).

Meanwhile, at home, I have been contacted recently by two World War II veterans—one in Bend and one in Christmas Valley—who had lost medals they earned during the war.

Claude Davis, of Bend, spent two years fighting in Europe as an Army truck driver and qualified as an expert marksman. Claude drove 2,700 miles in support of combat action during the Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes, and Normandy, just to name a few. He and his family told me and my staff that his attempts to get replacement medals had been a long and frustrating endeavor for him.

Richard Weir, of Christmas Valley, served in the Navy during the war. His original World War II Military Service Medals were destroyed in a fire about a decade ago, and he too has had trouble with the Department of the Navy in getting replacements.

I got involved in both of their cases with the Army and the Navy, and I’m proud to tell you that both have received their medals within the past few days. One of the best parts of my job is being able to help men and women who served, like Richard Weir and Claude Davis.

Hundreds turn out for town hall meetings

Malheur and Baker county citizens turned out in large numbers to give me feedback, ask questions and add to my “to do” list. Much of the discussion centered on federal deficit spending and the President’s “sequester.”

People in eastern Oregon know that there’s wasteful spending in Washington that can and should be eliminated. They read about how the federal government will get a record amount of new tax revenue next year, and still rack up another near-record deficit.

They see where real federal spending has increased $2,437.64 per household between 2008-12 and know we can’t afford to keep spending money we don’t have.

And then they hear about the $4 million PER YEAR the IRS spends for its own TV studio, or the $100 million a year spent by the EPA on grants to foreign countries, and wonder why we can’t afford meat inspectors here?!

The President’s sequester amounts to $85 billion for the remainder of the fiscal year. The Federal government admits in 2011 it made $115 billion in improper payments.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report documenting billions in agency duplication. The Obama Administration spent $51.6 million last year promoting ObamaCare and paying public relations firms, and yet we don’t have funds to pay air traffic controllers?! Really?

You could save $44 billion just by requiring individuals return overpayments for exchange subsidies in ObamaCare. Or you could save $26 billion by simply requiring food stamp recipients prove their eligibility.

Folks, if we can’t make savings at a time when there’s all this documented waste and the government is over $16 trillion in debt, when and how will we ever get America back on track?!

Other topics at the town halls included protecting the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans, while working to enhance local health services to help prevent individuals from committing the kinds of horrific acts we’ve all see too much of in recent years.

We also discussed the need to access America’s forest, mining and energy resources to create good paying jobs, especially in our rural communities.

By the middle of next month I will have held town halls in all 20 counties in the district since January, and more than 46 in a little over a year.

For more on my visit to Ontario, please click here to read the Argus Observer’s take.

What are we getting for $7 billion?

Today, I held an oversight hearing on the how the government has spent $7 billion in “stimulus” money to expand access to broadband in unserved and underserved areas. To put that number in perspective, the private sector has spent $65 billion per year for the last 10 years.

From what we know now, the government has spent millions on equipment it did not need and on stringing fiber to areas that already had fiber. There are undoubtedly some success stories but, overall, was the program well-conceived and well-implemented? I won’t tolerate any waste or abuse, and it appears we’ve uncovered millions that fit that category. At a time when government is considering cutting meat inspectors and FAA traffic controllers to address the federal spending problem, we need to be careful how we use taxpayer dollars.

Four years after this $7 billion was allocated, approximately $611 million of the funding covering 42 projects has been revoked, relinquished, or suspended. Advocates of the law said it needed to be rushed through Congress to infuse money into the troubled economy and that the funding would go to shovel-ready projects.

Yet only 60 percent of the broadband funds have been put to use so far even though all $7 billion was awarded by September 30, 2010. And of the 553 projects funded, only 58 are finished or in the finishing stages, even though all were originally supposed to be completed by September 30, 2013.

Please click here to learn more about this oversight hearing.

Lots of Oregonians visit DC this week

Late winter and early spring are always very busy times for meetings in Washington, D.C. as many organizations hold conferences in the nation’s capital. Just yesterday, I had meetings with Dan Arp, the OSU Dean of Agricultural Sciences, and Scott Reed, OSU Extension Director; Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker; Nyssa resident Kay Riley from the National Onion Growers; and Nils Christoffersen of the Wallowa Resources and Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, just to name a few.

I also met with Bob Huff from Eagle Point, Charles Schmidt from Hines, and Richard Clark from Malin (below), who are in town for The American Legion’s annual conference. We discussed issues important to our heroes including access to health care for our rural veterans and allowing military training to count toward state licensing and certifications as vets return to civilian life.

Oregon county commissioners are in town this week as well, and I’ll be meeting with commissioners from Crook, Deschutes, Harney, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa Counties. I’ll learn more about their priorities back home this year, and talk about our efforts to solve problems and create jobs in all twenty counties in Oregon’s Second Congressional District.

For the latest on what’s happening in Congress and in the Second District, please friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon's Second District



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