Manchester Times editor Josh Peterson sat down with U.S. 6th District Rep. Diane Black at the Times office Thursday afternoon for a question-and-answer session about local and national issues. The following is the first of two installments to publish in the Times.
Peterson: Coffee County is new to you. What’s it like getting involved in this area and what is different about it than your district before?
Black: Of course one new thing I have is Arnold Air Force Base, which brings some different issues than I have throughout the rest of my district because I don’t have other military installations. That is new for me, hearing their concerns and making sure I’m taking their thoughts back to Washington. Every community has its own little flare to it. It’s great to meet all the new people and hear what their concerns are.
Peterson: When you talk about Arnold, that’s key when it comes to jobs in Coffee County. That’s a big employer and a big thing [in Congress] now is spending cuts in defense. So how do you balance trying to get a budget and at the same time a lot of jobs in your district could be at risk?
Black: Well I think it’s two things. One is national security because they do have a part in making sure that we keep a good strong national security with what they do with the testing of our engines and building of our aircraft so that’s important when it comes to our national security. And the other is certainly jobs. We want to keep a good strong base and with 23 million Americans right now out of work we don’t need more people out of work. In the House we have found a way to replace the sequester. So we are doing what we promised we would do and that’s getting our spending under control. We replaced the sequester that would really hit the military heavily with some common-sense cuts. So I think I want the folks at Arnold Air Force Base to know I am looking out for both them and jobs and national security because both of those are very important to our country.
Peterson: When you say common-sense cuts, where are those located?
Black: Well there are things that generally would seem on the mandatory side. Let me give you an example … job-training programs. When we look at job-training programs they are throughout nine different agencies. So how can you take these job-training programs and make sure you aren’t duplicating? We had some research done to show you can take those and you could actually reduce them to … I don’t remember how many we reduced them to, like four different agencies, but find a way to take what is a duplication and a waste, being duplicated, and cut dollars in those areas where it really does make sense. We can sit here and say, “well don’t you think we could probably do something to make sure we are not duplicating.” All of us are common sense enough to say, “yeah that’s a good thing without taking away the service because obviously job training is very important.” So that’s just one example of a common-sense cut that can happen to replace the sequester so that we are not taking so much from the military. Because the military got cut in our continuing resolution and now we are coming back again and cutting them and it’s a pretty big cut for them…
Read the complete interview in this week’s (Feb. 6) print edition of the Manchester Times. Click here to subscribe to the print and/or online edition of the paper.