Sen. Mike Rounds talks Charlottesville, tax reform and health care

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DEADWOOD, S.D. -

U.S. Senator Mike Rounds hosted a Coffee and Conversation event on Aug. 17 in Deadwood.

The audience raised a number of questions on tax reform, Environmental Protection Agency regulations, health care and the senator’s views on the National Endowment for the Arts.

One issue that also got a lot of attention was President Donald Trump’s comments following the Charlottesville attack. Rounds was asked if he agreed with the way the president responded and if he would continue to support him.

“What I will say is - is the statements that he made were appropriate when he was condemning the KKK and the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists,” Rounds explained. “They are hatemongers. There is no place in America for them. So, that message had to be sent by the president as strongly as possible. I think he moved too quickly and ahead of when people were ready to start talking about coming together.”

One audience member stated that when Senator Rounds was the governor of South Dakota, he tried to shut down the Black Hills Playhouse. The audience member then asked what Rounds’ views were on lessening funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Senator Rounds said that he had no interest in cutting budgets for the arts. However, he also said the Black Hills Playhouse raised health concerns and was not monitored appropriately during his time as governor. He doesn’t support the idea that government should monitor organizations without local participation.

Health care reform was another topic of much discussion, with members of the audience sharing personal stories. The senator said that both democrats and republicans are recognizing that the existing system is not sustainable in its current form.

“We think if we get the states more actively involved in delivering health care once again and making more of the rules based upon what their needs are in a state by state basis,” Rounds said. “We can actually do a lot more good than what you find under the affordable care act - which has gone up 124 percent in South Dakota since 2014, and we expect increases as much as 20 percent next year.”

Senator Rounds also stated that the Congressional Budget Office had said the plan that was being worked on, would’ve amounted to a 30 percent reduction in average health care costs in the year 2020, when compared to the current health care act.

Another audience member raised concerns of the Environmental Protection Agency and the reduction of federal regulations. Rounds explained that the administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, could continue to make recommendations about making changes, but they’d have to go through the same “rule-making process” that the current rules previously went through. To change a regulation, the idea must go through due process of law at the federal level, which would involve public input.

Tax reform was also brought up. Senator Rounds believes that a tax cut would be a good path to follow.

“I think that the American people would really like to see a down payment with a tax cut,” Rounds said.

He proposed an alternative plan and put together a repatriation bill to bring in profits that are currently overseas and then invest them back into the economy at a discounted rate. He stated the average American should be given a 16 percent reduction on their personal income tax. To do this, interest rates would be reduced by two points.

Senator Rounds will continue to travel the state and answer questions that the public asks.

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