Jan 22 2011

ARGUS LEADER: Thune, Noem say cuts in spending essential

Rolling back health care reform will help, congresswoman says

STEVE YOUNG • syoung@argusleader.com • January 22, 2011

South Dakota's two Republican members of Congress told community business officials Friday that they are bent on reining in federal spending and fixing health care reform in the months ahead.

In separate roundtables with business and civic leaders in Sioux Falls, Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem laid out what they called some of their most pressing work this year.

Thune said a looming vote on raising the federal debt limit above the $14.3 trillion cap is critical in bringing spending under control.

Republicans vow not to vote to raise the debt limit unless there is a plan in place for dealing with long-term obligations, including Social Security, and for returning to 2008 spending levels.

With the debt at almost $13.9 trillion - and growing at what he said is $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion annually - Thune said "it will be difficult to get an increase in the debt limit" through Congress.

He gave credit to Gov. Dennis Daugaard's plan for reducing South Dakota's budget deficit with a 10 percent cut to state agencies, saying: "These are hard decisions, painful decisions. But it's better to do it now than kick the can down the road, which is what we've been doing at the federal level."

If Congress doesn't rein in the spending, Thune added, "the amount we spend on the national debt will be as much as is spent on national security a year from now."

Tom Simmons of Midcontinent Communications asked the senator how the Lewis & Clark Water System will be completed if the effort to curtail government spending makes earmarks go away. Thune said that because the project has been vetted and authorized by Congress, it should be paid for out of the Bureau of Reclamation's budget.

Meanwhile, at her headquarters on 41st Street, Noem sat down with 10 or so small-business owners to address what she called the burdens brought on by health care reform.

Afterward, Noem said she some business owners might choose to drop their health care plans and pay government-imposed penalties instead or offer less-effective plans.

Jessie Schmidt of the law firm of Lynn Jackson Shultz & Lebrun said faced with having to force higher increases on their employees next year, "We're looking at the risk of offering not as good of insurance at a higher cost. How is that helping us?"

Clark Sinclair of Montgomery Furniture in Madison and Sioux Falls said he's looking at a 10 percent to 17 percent increase in insurance costs based on reform.

"The last three years have not been easy," Sinclair said. "Now you have to look at this issue, too. It's one more thing that is challenging us."


Noem said a key issue in health care reform that she'll work to repeal is the 1099 reporting requirement. The law requires businesses to track all cumulative purchases from vendors that total $600 or more in one year. The provision was designed to raise revenue for the health care law but has been panned by the business community because of paperwork concerns.

"1099 will be one of the big ones to come forward this year," Noem said.


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