Congresswoman Foxx speaks to Rowan Chamber
By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — U.S. House Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-5) talked education, Medicaid and the national budget during a brief meeting with the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning.
Foxx took questions from the group of about 25, comprised of business leaders, hospital officials, community college administrators and several Rowan County commissioners.
The fifth-term Republican congresswoman began with a question about the budget crisis and where she sees opportunities to cut spending.
“I would suggest that you look at the budget that we passed this year,” Foxx replied. “It’s often called the Paul Ryan budget, if Paul were here, he’d say, ‘It’s not my budget, it’s the House Republican budget,’ but it’s called the ‘path to prosperity.’ ”
Foxx, a former teacher, said she’s seen the numbers and budget reform needs immediate action.
“It balances in 10 years. We would be out of debt and have no deficit. It saves Medicare, it saves Medicaid and it’s reasonable,” she said. “It’s absolutely reasonable. If we don’t do that or something very similar to that we will no longer be the nation that we want to be. We are in deep trouble in this country.”
Foxx spoke for about 45 minutes Friday. The meeting, held in a second-floor room at the Gateway Building on East Innes Street, began about 8:15 a.m.
But the former educator spent most of the meeting discussing the issues around education, primarily community colleges.
“What I would like to see is the federal government get out of education, but that’s not going to happen yet because I’m not in charge and we have a system set up that’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to change,” Foxx said. “So the main goal that I have is making education dollars as efficient and effective as possible. We’re not going to get out of it, so let’s be realistic and see what we can do.”
Part of that plan, she says, includes consolidating under-used programs and giving states the authority to select programs based on a block-grant system.
“We have effectively a 12 percent unemployment rate in this country, I know the numbers say we have around a 7 percent, but we have the fewest people working that we’ve had since 1969. That many people have left the workforce,” she said.
Some business owners agreed, citing hiring experiences that have ended with applicants opting to stay on unemployment benefits.
But East Spencer Alderwoman Tammy Corpening tore into the stereotype that those down on their luck want to stay out of work.
“I’m sorry. I’m not being disrespectful in any way, but I’m currently one of those people that you’re speaking of. I’m currently unemployed. I did not qualify for unemployment,” Corpening said. “There are no jobs. I’ve been seeking — I feel I’m very confident, very qualified.”
Hasan Naima, dean of engineering and business technologies, agreed at least in one respect with Corpening.
Naima said jobs are often said to be out there in bulk, but companies aren’t working with community colleges to build training programs for potential workers.
“We hear talk, we don’t hear reality,” Naima said. “We are ready and willing to train people, but no one will tell us what kind of job this is. It’s like a secret.”
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.