Shelby discusses Iraq, Social Security, road conditions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2007

In a county visit that lasted well over an hour, Sen. Richard Shelby complimented the &#8220noticeable improvements” in downtown Luverne and commented on the fact that there were &#8220a lot of smiles here today,” during his Saturday morning stop at the Harrison Cultural Center.

&#8220There was a time when we would meet, and there were a lot of long faces,” he said, referring to a time period of three to five years ago when unemployment in Crenshaw County was in the double digits. Today, the county is considered to be basically &#8220fully employed.”

&#8220It definitely pays off to work hard and to bring in industry,” Shelby said.

During last year's visit, Shelby held the meeting at S.M.A.R.T. and then toured the plant.

Several representatives from S.M.A.R.T. Alabama LLC were present for Saturday's visit with the senator and told him that the company currently employed approximately 700 people.

&#8220I tell people all over the world that America and Alabama are open for business,” Shelby said. &#8220We've got to attract people from all over the world.”

When it came to the war in Iraq, Shelby said that, overall,

people do not like long wars.

&#8220We'll be debating Iraq,” he said. &#8220Four years ago, we had great military success there, but we've made a lot of mistakes since then. The question is what happens now if the Democratic Congress cuts off funds for our troops? I'll never vote to cut off funding for our troopsŠI'm going to support the troops on every vote anytimeŠWe don't want to send the wrong message to our troops.”

Another major topic of discussion was illegal immigration.

Shelby said that it, too, would continue to be a big debate.

&#8220I believe that if you come into this country illegally, you should not be given amnesty,” he said. &#8220It all comes down to this - if we're going to have illegal immigration laws, we ought to enforce them; if not, they should be repealed.”

William Petrey, president of First Citizens Bank, and Probate Judge Jim Perdue both brought up the fact that making Highway 331 a four-lane road would bring a big boost in industry and economic development to the county.

&#8220You need this four-lane highway,” Shelby agreed.

Luverne Mayor Joe Rex Sport told the senator that one of the things on the city's agenda was a new well to improve the water system.

&#8220And, we're working to improve and restore some historical sites here, too,” Sport said.

Shelby said that it was important to &#8220spruce up” the town so people would spend their money at home.

Crenshaw County Commission Chairman Ronnie Hudson said that the county's rural roads were in need of repair and that the county needed financial help with that.

&#8220Federal money is getting less and less to repair the roads, and Crenshaw County needs it,” Hudson said.

Shelby said that the federal government should take ten percent of highway monies and block grant it to rural cities in America.

&#8220Your tax base is not large enough to repair these roads and bridges, and you need help,” Shelby said. &#8220I know that you are the ones who hear it from the people over and over.”

He added that the state's allocation of federal money goes to the Highway Transportation Department and then trickles down to the counties from there.

Commissioner Charlie Sankey told the senator that he had heard several complaints from war veterans who could not get medical or health benefits, adding that area churches were trying to help.

&#8220We need to take care of our veterans, especially if they are wounded or sick,” Shelby said. &#8220If it is a genuine case, please notify my office in Montgomery.”

Another topic of discussion was Social Security reform and the future of it.

Shelby said that neither political party wanted to touch Social Security since both parties were fully aware that those age 55 and older voted regularly, while younger citizens might not get out and vote.

&#8220Today's young people had better think of other ways to save money,” the senator said. &#8220Right now, Social Security takes up 21 percent of our government's total budgetŠ.When you add Medicare and Medicaid, you're talking about 41 percent of our nation's Gross National ProductŠ.That's a lot.”

&#8220I don't see Social Security changing until it's broken, and it's not broken yet,” Shelby said.

He added that Medicare and Medicaid were growing now at such a rate that they have become &#8220the dangerous thing” to the government's budget.