IRON MOUNTAIN - U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, addressed concerns from constituents on a number of items at an open meeting Tuesday morning at the Dickinson County Library.
About 35 Michigan residents attended.
One of the main concerns was the possible closure of the mail processing center in Kingsford.
A rally was held Tuesday afternoon to urge Benishek to co-sponsor House Resolution 1351, which would allow the United States Postal Service (USPS) to use pre-funding health payments to meet current financial needs.
The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act requires the USPS to pre-fund 75 years of future health care benefits over a 10-year period, through a $5.5 billion annual payment.
This year's payment is due by the end of September, an obligation the USPS will struggle to meet without HR 1351, which would end that pre-funding requirement.
U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, fields questions from constituents at the Dickinson County Library in Iron Mountain on Tuesday. Benishek said he needs more time to study proposed legislation that would allow the U.S. Post Service to use pre-funding health payments to meet current financial needs.
Lisa M. Hoffmann/Daily News Photo
"I don't want to bail out the post office with taxpayer's money, and I don't want to get into a situation where we are not funding retiree benefits," Benishek said.
Benishek would like to see local postal service maintained, and says he will fight to keep Kingsford's mail processing center open.
Benishek said he has not committed to co-sponsoring the measure, but he also said he supports maintaining the postal service. The postal service has also called for ending Saturday mail delivery.
"We have to do it on our own. I want to maintain jobs here," he said.
Benishek said his staff have been working on this issue and have been trying to determine the numbers. He added he is not going to make a decision until they've studied the matter.
If the Kingsford center were to close, Upper Peninsula mail would be processed through Green Bay, Wis., possibly preventing next-day delivery of first-class mail in the U.P.
More than 100 jobs would be affected.
Other topics discussed at the open meeting included infrastructure and roads, school funding, Social Security, health care reform, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed budget, funding for cancer research, and Obama's birth certificate.
"My personal belief is federal government should not be involved in education," Benishek said. This should be handled at the state level, he said.
Benishek noted that Social Security needs to be maintained.
When asked whether it is true illegal aliens are receiving Social Security benefits, Benishek said he'd "be against that." Illegal immigrants cannot lawfully receive such benefits.
Benishek said Ryan's plan is a sensible way to balance the budget.
In short, Ryan has proposed creating an alternative income tax system that has two marginal tax rates, eliminates most deductions and credits, and exempts all interest, dividends, and capital gains from the individual income tax. Filers would get to choose between the existing income tax and the new system.
Ryan's plan also calls for replacing Medicare for future retirees with a voucher-like payment. People now 54 and younger would go into a new program when they become eligible for Medicare. In analyzing the Ryan plan, the Congressional Budget Office found that within 20 years, 65-year-olds would on average be paying for more than two-thirds of their own health care costs.
As for whether or not Obama's birth certificate is legal, Benishek said he is more interested in the president's policies than his birth certificate.
"I have enough work and am not going after that," he said.
Benishek concluded the meeting by saying he is not interested in a government shut-down.
"To shut down government is not going to get my agenda moving forward. It is going to get my critics to say 'you are not responsible,'" he said.
He added that there have been actual cuts in spending, just not as much as he would like, but "the Republicans are not going to spend more money."
"We need to change administration," he said.
Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.