Himes visits Sugar Bowl to chat with Darien residents
As part of his 17 towns in 17 days tour, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4) appeared at the Sugar Bowl Thursday morning to meet with residents answer questions regarding policy, the economy and health-care reform.
With less than two months before the November elections, Himes stressed the need for the government to address issues such as education and immigration.
"We have very challenging issues ahead of us," Himes said.
Darien resident Flora Smith asked Himes what he would do to create more jobs. Smith also questioned the validity of using stimulus money to have Darien roads paved through union labor.
Himes responded by saying the money used to pay the union workers created jobs that weren't there before the stimulus money. He referenced the state of the economy when he took office 20 months ago when the nation was losing hundreds of jobs a day.
"The criticism that the stimulus money didn't create jobs is not accurate," Himes said.
However, Himes acknowledged that even with modest job growth, the economic recovery is still not where it needs to be.
"Think about where we were 20 months ago and where we are today," Himes said. "Now we are growing; it's just not enough."
Regulation of private sector business was a hot topic for some residents who questioned the government's regulation methods. Himes, who talked about growing up in the private sector, said that he is advocating for a smart, efficient change in regulating the financial sector.
"I have never engaged in the anti-business rhetoric," Himes said.
As a proponent of clean energy, Himes said he has spent hours discussing ways of giving businesses tax breaks for researching clean energy, such as General Electric.
The most straight forward question for Himes was simply why residents should vote for him.
Himes said he has been thoughtful on the issues, reads all of the bills and has the most independent voting record in Congress.
"I'll break with my party from time to time," Himes said.
He referenced the fact that Dan Debicella has the worst environmental record, whereas Himes cited energy as being an important issue in his campaign.
"He [Debicella] is out there on the extreme," Himes said.
With time left for one more question, Himes addressed concerns that the government would start taxing health care plans that were worth more than $30,000.
"The value of the employer provided insurance will not be taxable," Himes said.
However, Himes said there is a proposal to tax what Congress refers to as the "Cadillac" plans -- health-care plans that exceed $30,000.
"Any increment above $30,000 would be taxed. So, if you had a plan that was worth $35,000, you could be taxed on the $5,000.," Himes said. Himes pointed out that few plans nationally were worth more than $30,000; those that are worth more are typically in Fairfield County where the cost of living is higher.
The discussion, which was organized by a local media outlet, concluded as Himes' staff hustled him off to his next appointment but not before he thanked everyone for their input.