Johnson discusses making legislation at town hall meeting

Benjamin Chase of the Plainsman
Posted 8/22/23

Johnson visits Huron Tuesday

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Johnson discusses making legislation at town hall meeting


HURON — South Dakota’s U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson spoke held a town hall on Tuesday morning at Putters and Scoops, to discuss current policies regarding real estate and building, workforce, carbon pipelines, and the national debt.

He began his discussion by talking about current work on appropriations bills in Washington that require notable compromise to have a chance to pass. He noted that while the Founding Fathers set forth an excellent design for the country, that design was intended to force compromise.

“Getting anything passed in D.C., no matter which party is in charge, is a challenge,” Johnson noted. “The Founders didn’t make it easy for us to pass things.”

Johnson talked about legislation that he has supported and even sponsored regarding work requirements.

“We make it way too hard for those who are on certain benefits and want to work. Right now, if someone on disability works too many hours, they encounter a cliff where they’re really punished for working,” Johnson explained. “Then, on the other side, those who are able-bodied and should be working simply aren’t.”

Johnson estimates that those two items could add as many as two million people into the workforce in the country.

“The issue is that we’re currently about six million workers short,” he said. “That’s why we have to get a better grip on those who want to come to this country to work. Right now it is too difficult for those who want to come to this country legally in order to work and too easy for those who want to enter the country illegally.”

Johnson spoke to the question of his views on carbon pipelines by stating that pipelines are consistently the most efficient and safe way to transport liquids. The issue becomes how carbon is labeled within the state, whether the state views carbon as a commodity or not. Attendees at the forum made arguments both directions to whether it was a commodity or not.

He stated that on the issue of eminent domain with the pipelines that most infrastructure that has been built in the country relied upon eminent domain as part of its construction - electrical high wire, rail, the interstate highway system, etc. He did note that the major issue that he has heard is that some land agents for the pipelines were aggressive and “frankly, rude” with landowners as part of land acquisition discussion. According to Johnson, roughly 50 former land agents have lost their jobs due to this.

Dusty Johnson takes a moment  as he listens to a question to enjoy some ice cream Tuesday during a town hall at Putters and Scoops.

The issue of open primaries was brought up by a constituent frustrated with the lack of ability to vote for those who could end up representing the state without declaring a party. Johnson supported the frustration, noting that there is movement to put the issue on the November ballot for voters in 2024.

Johnson was also asked about the infrastructure bill and the money that was allocated toward “green” infrastructure, while existing providers, such as Western Area Power Administration, received no funds to upgrade the large grids that those providers operate.

The Congressman acknowledged that the spending was not equitable to assist all those that it should have in the infrastructure bill. However, with the current budget, there really isn’t room to do another big spending bill like has been done recently, according to Johnson, though he sees repurposing what has already been approved as a potential avenue.

He explained the nation’s current debt load in the following way:

“If you remove about eight zeros from the numbers, they begin to make more sense,” Johnson began. “The country earns an income of $46,000, but currently the credit card bill is $320,000, and if you were looking at those numbers, you’d be headed toward bankruptcy.”

Johnson acknowledged that a significant amount of the debt was accumulated recently addressing COVID-19, but he had voted against funding beyond the initial funding bills during the pandemic.

A question was raised regarding Head Start funding in the upcoming budget. Johnson expressed to be wary of early reports on spending bills. In general, he stated, the Senate wants to spend more while the House wants to spend less on all issues. He stated that there will be a process for the next few months to work out in order to fund those items that need funding, such as Head Start.

He explained that Sept. 30 is the end of the fiscal year, and right now without major movement in negotiations, the government will likely pursue a continuing resolution that will continue current spending until a budget can be negotiated.

“It’s going to be a mess,” Johnson concluded.

Rep. Johnson also spoke to a group at Top Floor on Tuesday regarding the southern border.