Upton addresses key issues

Published 8:14 pm Thursday, March 31, 2005

By By ERIN VER BERKMOES / Niles Daily Star
BERRIEN SPRINGS - About 35 members of the Berrien County Manufacturers Council attended its general membership annual board meeting on Wednesday at the Berrien County Intermediate School District building in Berrien Springs.
The group was treated to a speech from 6th District Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph.
There have been many victories in Congress this year, Upton added.
Torte Reform
Upton said that this idea had been floating around in Congress for the past 10 or 15 years, and that it just could never make it through the Senate.
This reform will make it so that class action law suits are reverted to the federal courts, rather than the state courts, making it so there will be less damages paid out.
Upton added that the government needs to take a look at things like welfare and Medicaid, and what they are spending on that.
He also stated that he feels the government is doing its best to try and slow down the rate of spending, so some of the problems can be fixed.
Upton added that in his opinion the price of a barrel won't go below $50 anytime soon, if ever again.
He also said that right now there are two million barrels fewer than we need being produced each day.
When Upton returns to Washington he will be taking part in writing a new energy bill. One of the things that he hopes to focus on is for the automobile industry to produce more alternative fuel vehicles. This would allow us to depend on less oil.
A highway bill was recently passed, and from this Michigan will be receiving some funds that will enable the state to finish the US 31 project, and to expand I-94 between 131 and Sprinkle Road to six lanes in order to cut down on the congestion.
In order for the state to receive these funds Upton talked with Governor Jennifer Granholm to see if the state would be able to match the funds.
The proposed project would cost about $250 million.
Upton also touched on trade between the United States and China.
The U.S. has signed treaties with the country that limit the number of goods that can be brought in and that make it so they can't copy American products there.
But the Chinese haven't kept up their end of the bargain. There have been instances where U.S. companies such as Kellogg's and General Motors, have been losing profits there because goods exactly like theirs are being copied and sold for a cheaper price.
Upton said that Congress is looking to change some of the treaties to make it so things like this won't happen. Also they are thinking of working with Mexico and Canada on those issues as well.
Terrorism/War in Iraq
Upton added that he would like to get the troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, and that we need to keep training the Iraqi people, so they can build a new country.
Social Security
Upton added that in the end there will be some sort of a solution to the problem, with a little give and take from both sides.
Right now young workers are paying into Social Security, but by the time they reach the age where they can start receiving benefits, they won't be able to receive as much as today's retirees and Upton feels we need to do something about that.
He also said that he doesn't think we should raise the retirement age higher than a year more than it is now.
No Child Left Behind
In the last four years education has actually received increased funding, more than the Defense department.
The problem comes with the states having their budgets cut, and the schools not being able to come up with the rest of the funds for each of the students. Only about eight to 10 percent of the per student funding comes from the federal government
Upton concluded his speech by thanking the group for listening to what he has to say and for taking an interest about what is going on in Washington. He also thanked them for giving him ideas about what they are concerned about and what he could work on in Congress.