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Hurt keeps top priorities on job creation, finances
Rep. Robert Hurt
Sunday, March 16, 2014
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Fifth District U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt has not officially kicked off his campaign to seek a third term in Congress in the November election, but he plans to do so this spring.
Now, midway through his second term, Hurt said many of the reasons he first sought the seat in 2010 still hold true.
“I was very concerned about the direction of our country,” said Hurt, R-Chatham. Job creation topped his priority list, closely followed by fiscal health.
Progress has been made in several areas, he said.
For instance, to boost job creation and economic growth, Hurt said, he has worked closely with 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats from Virginia, to craft common-sense regulations that will protect the environment but not hinder economic growth.
For instance, they worked to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which represents the EPA) on the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre project.
Essentially, concern about “speculative projects” is holding up work on development of the industrial park in Henry County and a similar project in Pittsylvania County, according to previous reports.
Changes approved in January as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 reject the corps’ interpretation of the Clean Water Act, and hopefully will help kickstart work on the new industrial parks, Hurt said.
“Projects in Henry County and Pittsylvania County are still important, and I am very glad we were able to come together and work in a bipartisan way across the Capitol” to get the changes approved, he said.
“There are other pieces of legislation that we plan to introduce and hope” they will be approved, Hurt said. Some of those proposals also will help spur economic development, but Hurt said it is difficult to get approval in the Senate.
“When you talk to some of these bureaucrats in Washington, they don’t have a clue. They have no appreciation whatsoever” for the struggles in the 5th District, he said.
Job creation “has been horribly slow, and this has been a painful recovery since 2008,” Hurt said.
Martinsville and similar areas have dealt with the jobless situation for much longer, and “I think there are things in Washington we can do to make it easier for the private sector to create jobs” by focusing on “sensible reform that will protect the environment,” Hurt said. “We can’t afford to have any missteps.”
With respect to the country’s fiscal health, “we have done a few noble things since I’ve been in office. For instance, we have done away with earmarks. That has gone a long ways towards stopping the culture of moving legislation by using earmarks to kind of grease up the legislative process — which was an unseemly chapter” in the country’s history, Hurt said.
“People need to be voting on legislation because it’s a good bill or a bad bill, not because they have a bridge in it” for the folks back home, he said.
Also, discretionary spending has been reduced to 2009 levels in the last two years, Hurt said. “That’s a huge deal.”
Overall spending must be reduced, Hurt said. To make that reduction, Hurt said, he supports reforms to “the big programs that cost the most,” such as Medicare, Social Security and the national debt. “If we don’t reform them, we are on our way to bankruptcy,” Hurt said.
He does not think those programs should be taken away from older adults and those currently enrolled in them, “but for people like me and younger, we need to look for ways to change” the programs so they exist in some form in the future, he said.
Recently, Hurt said, “I voted against a clean debt ceiling vote” that basically raised the debt ceiling without providing any type of reforms to cut spending.
“It was not an easy vote,” he said. But raising the debt ceiling, and passing that debt along to future generations, “was not what I went to Washington to do. There are things we still need to do to get jobs and to get the country ready for our children and grandchildren.”
Two candidates — Lawrence Gaughan and Ben Hudson, both of the Charlottesville area — have announced plans to run against Hurt.
The filing deadline is 7 p.m. June 10.