On summer-recess visit: Dicks shares his view of issues in Congress

Shelton-Mason County Journal


Sixth-District Congressman Norm Dicks visited Shelton last week on a swing
through part of the district during Congress' summer recess.

The incumbent Democrat, first elected to Congress in 1976, is seeking a 14th
two-year term in office this fall. Seldom at a loss for words, Dicks, who
resides near Belfair on the South Shore of Hood Canal, talked with The
Journal about several topics.

The economy

If he was president, Dicks said he'd be pushing public works projects now.
"The economy's soft, we've gotta get people back to work," he said.

"You can take projects that need to be done. You know, we've got an
$8.9-billion backlog on roads in the Forest Service lands. So some of these
things could be done. I mean, you've got all kinds of highway projects that
you could be working on."

The Shelton Area Water and Sewer Regional Plan would be a great candidate to
accelerate and put some money into, Dicks added.

Homeland security.

Dicks voted for the bill to create the Homeland Security Department, but
says the idea of slowing down its creation is the way to go. The Senate will
take up the issue in the fall.

"Anything of this importance - you're talkin' about a number of different
agencies, 70,000 people - you'd better get it right, and you'd better
reflect on it. You'd better have enough hearings in order to get it right,"
he said.

Dicks hopes President Bush puts Tom Ridge in charge of the department. He
served with Ridge in the House and said he would be a good first leader of
the agency.
He doesn't like the idea of people snooping around under cover of the
administration's proposed TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System)
program. "I think we can go too far and destroy the country that we all are
trying to defend. My hope is that we won't undermine individual liberties,"
he said.

The thing he worries about most is the Office of Management and Budget,
which he said is underfunding "because they're trying to be fiscal
conservatives in the middle of a war, in the middle of a time when we're
tryin' to improve domestic security and they're still tryin' to act like
they're fiscal conservatives.

"They're tryin' to hold down the spending of money for the Coast Guard, for
all of these agencies that desperately need resources to do what we need to
do for domestic security. And the laundry list of things that has to be done
is just immense, and yet they're dramatically underfunding."

Prescription drugs.

The administration's prescription drug program is a bust and isn't going to
help seniors, Dicks said.

The Democrats have a better alternative in the House, he said. Under that
proposal, the government would pay 80 percent up to $2,000, and would cover
anything above $2,000. There would be a $100 deductible and consumers would
pay $25 a month for the coverage.

"Now it's pricey. It costs more," Dicks said, but it would be real for the
American people. What the Republicans have offered is a payment to insurance
companies if insurance companies even come up with a program, which they've
never done before, he said.

Health care.

"I'm worried about our rural hospitals," he said. "I'm worried about
Medicare recipients being able to get a doctor. They're being turned down by
doctors because doctors aren't getting enough reimbursement.

"Our state gets one of the lowest rates of reimbursement, about $3,500 per
patient per year. In (Washington) D.C., they get $10,000. In some of the
bigger states they get like $6,000, $7,000. And so they're doin' fine, they
can get doctors to go there."

Doctors don't want to come and practice medicine in Washington State because
they know about the reimbursement issue. "The only thing that's good in this
whole mess is that a lot of these community health-care clinics that have
opened are really the salvation of the rural (areas)," he said.

He saw one such clinic in Aberdeen and said Shelton ought to have one,
adding that he'd work with people who want to set one up. Poor people would
then have an alternative to just going to the emergency room and not being
able to pay. They could go to the health-care clinic that's there for poor
people or those who have no health insurance, Dicks said.

"What we need is national health insurance. And it's gonna be a big-ticket
item, but somehow we've gotta get control over this situation," he said.

Public power.

Dicks says the Northwest needs a unique plan because of the Bonneville Power
Administration and hydroelectric power. The region doesn't need retail
deregulation. "Of course, the fiasco in California, Enron, makes everybody
skeptical," about retail deregulation, he said. "If it ain't broke, don't
fix it, is my view."

He said he met with the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
about the proposed regional transmission organizations. "My position is, if
the proposal that's been submitted by a number of the utilities and
Bonneville is not acceptable to the PUDs in the state, then they must come
up with an alternative," he said.

The head of FERC has said the commission would be able to entertain
something with Bonneville taking the lead, he added.

(c) Shelton-Mason County Journal

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