GENEVA – Congressman Randy Hultgren’s town hall meeting at Geneva’s public works facility Thursday night reflected the nation’s divide on issues of taxes, health care and jobs.
More than 100 people packed the room, creating a standing-room-only crowd that would clap, cheer or boo depending on the comments and questions.
Some carried signs calling for millionaires to be taxed, referring to the continuation of Bush-era tax cuts on the nation’s wealthiest citizens.
Hultgren, R-Winfield, praised the group for coming out, no matter what their views and stayed an extra 10 minutes over his allotted hour to take more questions.
“To take time out on a beautiful summer night ... amazing,” Hultgren said. “Some support me ... others vehemently disagree. Democracy is messy. Please respect each others’ opinions.”
Two constituents challenged why powerful corporations do not pay taxes, such as General Electric and Bank of America.
“I pay a lot of taxes,” he said. “Bank of America paid none.”
“I think that’s wrong,” Hultgren said. “The same with GE.”
A woman from St. Charles said large corporations needed to pay their share of taxes as well as millionaires.
“ Raise taxes on rich people in this country, we are not sharing sacrifice,” she said. “Millionaires say, ‘I make more money, I just spend more money.’”
“I stand by my commitment of not raising taxes,” Hultgren said.
A woman from Elgin suggested other areas to get revenue than taxes is to look at what federal departments are doing.
“Look at departments that have existed for years, but do not meet their goals,” she said. “Some are better met at the state level, such as the Department of Education.”
Hultgren said when he served in the Illinois General Assembly, it was easy to see where all the money was going.
“In Washington, it gets lost,” he said.
A man asked about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“What is going to happen ... [when] Obamacare is going to hit us?” he asked. “Are you committed to getting rid of this nightmare?”
Hultgren’s reply was lost in the crowd’s reaction: Clapping and booing and chanting both “Repeal Obamacare” and “Single payer” but his website states that he thinks the health care system can be improved without increasing government.
A Geneva man questioned Hultgren’s pledge not to raise taxes.
“It’s impossible to have any kind of compromise for revenue,” the man said. “[Speaker] Boehner got 98 percent of what he wanted. What are the Republicans going to give?”
Hultgren said he would see what the committee on the debt comes up with.
Another woman asked why Republicans call millionaires and billionaires “job creators.”
“Where is the evidence that these [tax] cuts create jobs?” she asked.
“I believe the tax structure is broken and ... punishes productivity,” Hultgren said. “We raised taxes in Illinois ... we are driving jobs out of Illinois.”
A woman from Wasco said she was concerned about the environment and the Environmental Protection Agency losing power.
“Our new corporate citizens – corporations are people now – do they have morals to keep them from poisoning our water?” she asked. “We look to Congress to regulate them, and they’re getting money from the corporations.”
Hultgren replied that the business people he talks to are committed to preserving the environment. As to whether other corporations would be as committed, Hultgren said, “As voters and consumers, don’t buy from them.”
Regarding job creation, Hultgren said he has voted on some jobs bills.
“What I hear from job creators is uncertainty on regulations, health care and they are frustrated with the tax structure,” Hultgren said. “Through our budget and committees [we] can rein in regulation and that is something specific to create jobs.”