Congressman Randy Hultgren entered Geneva's Public Works facility knowing he was in his home district but not exactly on home turf Thursday night.
Some constituents held signs that read "Where are the jobs?" and "Tax Wall Street Millionaires." Others stood outside with a greeting of "Throw the bum out" while passing out literature with a photo altered to show President Barack Obama with crossed eyes and a Hitler-esque mustache.
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Hultgren would get simultaneously booed and cheered no matter what he had to say, on topics from job creation to taxes.
The Winfield Republican told a standing-room-only crowd of people that companies aren't hiring and creating new jobs because their scared of what employee health care costs they'll face under Obama's health care laws. He said he's spoken to more and more businesses hiring temporary workers rather than full-time employees to work around having to offer employee benefits.
"They are frustrated with uncertain regulation," he said.
The freshman congressman then spent most of the evening fielding questions about taxes and the federal deficit. Hultgren said he supports a balanced-budget amendment and ultimately voted against the raising of the deficit ceiling (after twice voting to raise it) because the final plan lacked any long-term commitment to deficit reduction.
But Hultgren also said cutting spending isn't enough to dig the federal government out of the hole.
"We can't cut our way out of it," Hultgren said. "We can't tax out way out of it. I think the only way is we grow our way out of it."
Part of that includes significant tax reform. Hultgren said it's "wrong" that General Electric and Bank of America paid no federal income taxes in 2010.
"Our tax structure is broken," Hultgren said. "We've got a tax system that punishes productivity. It needs to be flatter. It needs to be fairer."
However, Hultgren drew the line for reform at any tax increases, particularly tax increases for individuals.
"We raised taxes in Illinois just eight months ago," Hultgren said.
"They've already told us they've spent all that money. Illinois is the No. 1 job creator for Iowa and Indiana."
Hultgren said tax reform must also tread lightly so as not to kill small businesses and manufacturing. There are a number of land mines to reform. For instance, Hultgren discussed the existence of "S Corporations." Such businesses use shareholders to report the corporate income and losses on their personal tax returns.
That allows the income and losses to be taxed at individual income tax rates instead of corporate rates.
"If you raise taxes on people who earn $250,000 a year, you are also raising taxes on small businesses," Hultgren said. There's a similar problem with oil company subsidies, Hultgren said.
"A lot of these subsidies for oil companies are manufacturing subsidies," he said. "I don't want to discourage manufacturing in our country."
Hultgren said he will also not support the creation of a new financial transaction tax because it would penalize everyone with 401(k) and IRA investments.
"I think that would be the worst thing for us to do right now," Hultgren said.