Biggert says hard work needed to turn around economy
By Hank Beckman For The Sun August 9, 2011 8:52AM
U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert speaks to the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce at the Hotel Arista on Monday. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:49AM
With the nation’s credit rating downgraded for the first time and the Dow Jones plummeting 634 points — and counting — U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert wants people to know that the job of reconciling our debt is far from over.
“The debt deal may be done,” Biggert (R-Hinsdale) said, “but the real work is just beginning.”
Biggert was in Naperville Monday to receive the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Enterprise award for her business-friendly votes in 2010.
Biggert was given a 96 percent approval rating by the national Chamber.
“That’s the highest cumulative rating of anyone in the Illinois delegation,” Patrick Skarr, Chamber vice president for Advocacy, said in presenting the award.
Biggert spoke for about 45 minutes at the Hotel Arista to a room full of Naperville area business and civic leaders.
Biggert said Congress still has much to do in the way of finalizing spending decisions. She noted that the U.S. House of Representatives had already passed about half of its appropriations bills, resulting in a 6 percent cut in discretionary spending.
“The Senate has not passed one,” Biggert said, characterizing the upper chamber as the “House of Lords,” and saying another temporary continuing resolution was likely.
Biggert said the 18.4-cent per gallon federal fuel tax was in danger of not being extended, which she said is normally considered routine.
“But this is not a routine year,” she said.
Biggert said that extending the tax was important because state and local governments needed certainty in planning for their transportation and road projects.
She stressed the importance of passing free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea. Biggert used the example of the Caterpillar Company, which currently would be charged a $200,000 tariff when shipping one of their pieces of heavy equipment to Columbia.
These particular free trade agreements have been in the works for some time, but Biggert blamed partisan opposition in Washington for delays in implementation.
She said that Democrats, heavily backed by labor interests, had held out for an extension in the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which would have guaranteed 158 weeks of unemployment assistance to workers losing their jobs due to companies taking production abroad.
With workers suffering from domestic competition only guaranteed 99 weeks, “that hardly seems fair,” Biggert said.
As for that debt ceiling deal, Biggert is under no illusions.
“The deal wasn’t perfect,” she said, “but it represents an important first step to protect our credit rating.”
Biggert warned that more battles on the debt were possible, with a committee of 12 Senators and House members being chosen to come up with another $1.2 trillion in spending cuts or face automatic cuts in discretionary spending, with defense spending hit hard.
Biggert left no doubt that she wasn’t particularly happy with Standard and Poor’s downgrading the nation’s credit rating.
Noting that S&P had been found to be mistaken in their numbers, and pointing out that they had also failed to foresee the housing and financial crash of 2008, Biggert was not impressed with the financial giant’s expertise.
“I’m not holding them in the highest esteem right now,” she said.
Biggert also touched on state politics, noting that the recent redistricting of congressional districts had left her with only 1.35 percent of her current constituents, and put her in a district that included O’Hare Airport and Wrigley Field.
Biggert said the map was drawn for partisan reasons and seeks to overturn what the electorate did in November 2010, when Republicans won nationwide in a landslide.
“I don’t think this map will stand up,” she said of the coming court challenge.
Naperville City Councilman Steve Chirico pressed Biggert on the actual spending reductions made, saying the cuts really were only a reduction in the rate the nation was going into debt.
Biggert said that the goal had been to get back to spending levels of 2008, but admitted that even under the plan put forth by U.S. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), “there will still be an increase in the deficit.”
Pat Benton of First Community Bank spoke of the dismal approval ratings of Congress. Biggert noted that both sides had extremists.
“We need to come together in a bipartisan fashion,” she said.
Roger Piper of WIND Radio said that the number one priority for most citizens was, “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and Washington didn’t seem to be listening.
Biggert agreed and said that while government doesn’t create jobs, it creates barriers to job creation.
Biggert spared no words in her criticism of President Obama.
“Maybe he doesn’t realize how crucial this (financial situation) is,” she said.
Biggert acknowledged Republican mistakes.
She praised the Tea Party movement for raising awareness of the debt problem, but urged them to accept compromise.
“We have to govern ... we have to make decisions,” she said.
She noted that Republicans missed a chance to use the budget surpluses of the late 1990s to pay down the national debt.
“Obviously, that didn’t happen,” she said.