COOS BAY — Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) held a town hall at Southwestern Oregon Community College’s (SWOCC) Hales Center for the Performing Arts Monday to inform and listen to his constituents.

Nuclear missiles, Social Security, health care and climate change were all topics that were discussed in the auditorium of nearly 100 attendees.

DeFazio began by giving an update of the most recent session, which he said was maybe a little too interesting.

“Neither the House nor the Senate has passed appropriations for fiscal year 18, which starts October 1,” DeFazio said, “It’s estimated by the treasury that they will run out of extraordinary measures, meaning that unless congress increases the debt limit for money already borrowed and spent, the government would enter into an unprecedented default on its debt, perhaps causing a worldwide economic collapse or at least panic.”

He followed that up with “more mundane matters,” of infrastructure and transportation.

Earlier this year, DeFazio introduced a bill with Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) to keep money in the Harbor Maintenance Fund in place.

Investing in America: Unlocking the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act aims to increase investments in critical harbor and port projects and guarantee that money intended to dredge the nation’s coastal and inland commercial ports would go toward harbor maintenance.

DeFazio also discussed two other pieces of legislation, one that would involve a tax on airline tickets that would go towards improving airport’s “significantly unmet funding needs.” The other looked at raising the national gas tax to repair roads and bridges.

DeFazio used FedEx’s complaints as an example of the shabby state of the roads.

According to DeFazio, the company said its tires are wearing out twice as fast because of the deteriorated roadways.

“It’s costing us a huge amount of money not to reinvest,” DeFazio said.

The rail system was frequently brought up during the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s visit.

DeFazio called himself a supporter of improved rail service in this country, which elicited applause from the crowd.

One audience member asked how the congressman felt about subsidizing Amtrak.

“There is no rail system or transit system in the world that isn’t subsidized one way or another,” DeFazio replied.

Concerns eventually gravitated to North Korea.

“There is no military solution to North Korea,” DeFazio affirmed.

DeFazio said he disagrees with rebuilding the nuclear triad, which involves constructing new stealth submarines, a new fleet of bombers with stealth missiles and class of missiles into silos.

“The proposed increases in military spending are incredibly excessive,” DeFazio said.

He said the missiles aren’t particularly helpful to the troops and are more Cold War era.

“In terms of how to deal with North Korea, that’s probably the most difficult foreign policy question that has bedeviled four presidents,” DeFazio said.

Teresa Rigg asked what could be done to incentivize more doctors to work in rural areas.

She said many of her doctors have retired and she’s been without a primary care doctor for a year.

Monday, DeFazio announced a $3 million grant he secured for SWOCC to build its health and science technology building, which would help alleviate some of the problems stemming from limited capacity in the nursing program.

During the town hall, DeFazio said a lot of medical students say they can’t afford to live in rural areas after graduating from school a quarter million dollars in debt.

He said he has legislation that would allow graduate students to get federal loans that they could then work off by going to underserved communities.

He will host a town hall in Florence Tuesday. 

Reach Saphara Harrell at (541) 269-1222 ext. 239 or by email at saphara.harrell@theworldlink.com

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