Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Montross) explored a variety of topics Saturday afternoon during a town hall forum sponsored by the Middle Peninsula League of Voters (MidPenVOTE) in Gloucester Library’s community room.
Over 30 people attended the forum, as Wittman took the time to address the national deficit, which he said is one of the most important issues facing the nation at this time. The floor was then opened to the audience, where Wittman faced questions about health care, offshore drilling and more.
Wittman jumped right into discussing the country’s economic woes, saying that the United States is over $13 trillion in debt. He said on June 30, that single day produced the second largest increase in national debt in the history of the nation—$160 billion.
To compare, Wittman illustrated that the Commonwealth of Virginia has an annual budget of $30 billion.
He projected that by 2015, the national debt will be at $20 trillion. "We’ve borrowed money and now we’re going to have to borrow money to pay the interest back," Wittman said.
He offered some ideas to implement to get the nation back on track.
"This nation has always been based on innovation and creativity," Wittman said. "The jobs we are losing are the people who make things."
He said many of these jobs are being sent overseas. "If you want to have productive growth in this country, you have to have a level playing field (with other countries) and regulatory structure," he said.
Wittman said that business owners from across the district are telling him that Washington needs to "step out of the way" and let them do what they do best: create goods and services.
The congressman said he felt the legislature needs to ensure capital is available to small businesses. "As the government takes up more and more available money, it’s causing money not to flow into the private economy," Wittman said. "We need to try to reign spending in to get back to a balanced budget."
When asked if the country was going to face a double-dip recession, Wittman said, "We’re not going to come out of this recession like people may have anticipated. Economic indicators show very low levels of growth, if not recession periods, for the next 18 months or so." He said, "If job growth stays flat, we will not see uplift in the economy."
On offshore drilling, Wittman said the country should learn from the mistakes in the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. "There were so many problems in the decision-making leading to that disaster," he said. "We should continue to develop oil and gas offshore, learn from this and do it responsibly."
One member of the audience asked if offshore drilling had been considered in the Chesapeake Bay. Wittman said the only offshore drilling opportunity from Virginia that has been explored is about 50 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, and no there have been no efforts to explore drilling in the bay.
"There’s some reason to believe there are some oil deposits underneath the bay," Wittman said. However, being that it is a very sensitive environment, he doesn’t foresee any exploration efforts to be made there in the near future.
When asked if he was in agreement with the health care bill, Wittman said, "I’m in full agreement of applying elements of that bill and repealing it (certain elements)." He said if such aspects of the bill are just going to add costs, he is not going to support it. He also said people should not be denied coverage for their pre-existing conditions.
Wittman is seeking re-election for his Congressional seat Nov. 2 His opponent, Democratic candidate Krystal Ball, will be speaking at a MidPenVOTE town hall meeting at 1 p.m. on Aug. 21 at Gloucester Library in Main Street Center.