Dold faces tough questions at town hall meeting

Fresh off voting for the so-called Paul Ryan budget plan on Friday, newly-elected Congressman Robert Dold returned to Buffalo Grove Saturday where constituents questioned him about several elements of the Republican budget.

Dold hosted a town hall for the 10th Congressional District that began with a presentation on the federal deficit.

He told an audience of about 45 people that the children of today will pay twice the amount of taxes income-earners do now just to maintain current federal government services, unless meaningful spending reductions are achieved.

And, despite public perception, Dold said ending all earmarks and foreign aid won’t solve the problem. Those oft-criticized elements of the budget only account for about 2 percent of the federal spending pie, Dold said.

But Dold couldn’t even get to the end of the presentation before audience members began peppering him with questions about the Ryan budget, named after House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin. It began with audience members telling Dold they don’t believe chopping 10 percentage points off the highest corporate tax rate will create jobs. A handful of people in the audience identified themselves as business owners and accountants who said their effective corporate income tax rate is already lower than the lowest rates proposed in the Ryan plan. They pointed to companies such as GE that pay almost no taxes despite billions in profits as evidence.

Dold said closing tax loopholes will eliminate the tax anomalies that let GE off the hook, and there are multiple benefits to lowering the tax rates.

“You’ve got to lower corporate taxes to make us more competitive in the international marketplace,” Dold said. “Some people want to penalize companies for moving their businesses off short. A lot of companies out there say, ‘Fine, I’ll take all my jobs overseas.’ We want an environment where we keep them on shore.”

Even that statement didn’t win favor with the crowd, which responded with multiple people yelling, “Let them leave!”

The conversation then turned to the finer points of federal spending and the Ryan budget. With several senior citizens in the audience, Social Security became a hot topic.

Dold said Social Security is now paying out more money than it’s taking in. While some Democrats have suggested that’s not a real problem for the immediate future, Dold said he wants substantive change in the program now. For one, he thinks the age limit that people can begin receiving benefits should be increased. He said he’d also consider increasing the Social Security payroll tax cap so more earnings would be subject to the tax. That idea, which has been endorsed by President Barack Obama, would increase program revenues and make more money available to pay Social Security benefits.

“In 2037, you’ll see 78 cents on the dollar when it comes to Social Security,” Dold said. “But if we deal with it now, we’re going to be able to strengthen it for the long haul.”

Some in the audience then told Dold they don’t like the idea in the Ryan budget plan of Medicare becoming a voucher program that makes senior citizens buy private health insurance about 10 years from now. Audience members said buying private insurance is a shell game where no one really knows what costs a company will cover or to what degree.

“This plan is giving choice to individuals,” Dold countered. “With this plan, those that are sicker will get a bigger portion. And those that are poorer get a bigger portion.”

The Paul Ryan budget now moves to the U.S. Senate where the Democrat-controlled chamber is expected to eviscerate the plan. Dold said he agrees the plan is imperfect but he hopes the need to cut spending is well received.

“This is the best budget that has been produced so far,” Dold said.

  About 45 people attended a town hall meeting Saturday, hosted by Congressman Robert Dold at the Buffalo Grove village hall. James Fuller/