U.S. Representative Ken Buck met Saturday afternoon with about 35 people in a town-hall style meeting on the campus of Otero Junior College.

U.S. Representative Ken Buck met Saturday afternoon with about 35 people in a town-hall style meeting on the campus of Otero Junior College.

Buck began the session with a summary of work being done on a number of varied issues. He saw the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives as a starting place for dialogue on the important work to be done on this issue. But when the Senate bill died, the House bill also died, so Congress is back to work on putting together a solution for this problem

He sees the next broad issue as tax reform, and his aim is to “simplify.” Changes he is working toward include lowering the tax rate on large corporations (which is now the highest in the world), dropping small business taxes to 12 to 15 percent and simplifying the individual tax deductions to include mortgage deduction, charitable deduction and standard deduction.

He touched on the issue of the debt ceiling, noting that the country is currently $20 trillion in debt. He is doing all he can to help control spending, and “reluctantly” votes for a budget when it comes up. A large part of budgetary obligations have to do with entitlements, including Social Security. He sees a possible fix in this area by requiring younger people (20-35 years old) to retire at an older age and also by increasing the cap on FICA (currently FICA tax is deducted only on the first $127,000 of annual earnings, according to irs.gov).

Ed Vela asked what could be done to get the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Arkansas River to prevent future flooding in North La Junta and along First Street. Several in the audience, including Bud Quick, Ed Hunnicutt and Norman Kincaide, filled in with the history of the problem. Buck said he would ask the mayor of La Junta to write a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers and he would follow up with a letter to the Corps.

A question raised by Kelly Jo Smith had to do with how we can get members of Congress to listen to each other and work together to solve the important problems we face as a country. Congressman Buck talked about a small bipartisan coalition he started with New York Democrat Kathleen Rice to promote healthy dialogue and incentivize lawmakers to focus on important issues instead of constant fundraising. The coalition is modeled after the ReFormers Caucus, a bipartisan group of former lawmakers and governors. Buck and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis have co-sponsored bills and toured each other’s district to better serve the people of Colorado. “The media doesn’t want to portray congressional bipartisanship,” said Buck.

On a question about water contaminants, Buck said the Arkansas Valley Conduit is the long-term answer. Short-term, concerns might be addressed by municipalities – city councils and water departments. Some local citizens chimed in that there were seldom serious concerns with state inspections.

Other questions covered the shortage in VA medical personnel and the high cost of health care for small business owners.

Buck was appreciative of people taking the time to come and communicate with him and stressed the importance of dialogue in accomplishing the responsibilities of government.