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Austin American-Statesman: Rep. Flores talks budget, immigration in Pflugerville visit

By Kolbe Ricks

Making an annual trip through the 17th Congressional District, Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, stopped by the Pflugerville Justice Center for a town hall meeting in this newly acquired area of the district to give constituents updates from Washington, D.C., and answer the public’s questions.

“I am honored to represent this new part of District 17,” Flores said as he welcomed those in attendance on April 3.

Before taking written questions, Flores began with a presentation of projects he currently is involved in as a member of the U.S. Congress.

Flores said he wants to see Congress “restore the promise of America, to restore prosperity and restore our security. People in Washington lose track of what’s happening in the real world.”

A main concern expressed by Flores was the problem of balancing the federal budget and paying off the country’s debt. Under the proposed budget suggested by Flores and other members of Congress, the representatives plan to balance the federal budget within 10 years and pay off the debt within 30 years.

“If you took a home in Pflugerville that you paid $200,000 for, you’d essentially have $300,000 of debt against it,” Flores said while making a comparison of the country’s $16.7 trillion debt. “A family income of $100,000: it’s the same as having an $800,000 MasterCard bill.”

Some of the proposed changes that Flores supports include simplifying the tax code, reducing individual tax brackets to two, eliminating tax loopholes to make the tax system fair for everyone and reducing the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, he said at the town hall meeting.

“If we can put up a plan that can balance the budget in 10 years, we’ll get an impact that can create 500,000 jobs in 2014,” Flores said. “Over 10 years we’d have about a 10 percent, $4,000 per family, increase in GDP.”

Although his first goal is solving the budget issues facing the United States, Flores also showed that he also is concerned with immigration issues and answered several questions on that subject.

As the question-and-answer session of the meeting opened, Flores first responded to the issues of delays in the green card process and immigration reform.

“I would propose to break it into parts. When you look at visas, why don’t we have a labor market driven solution?” Flores said. “So if you have companies like Dell and HP and Samsung trying to hire people that have graduate degrees, let’s have a visa for that. Why not have a hospitality visa that’s fairly simple to get?”

Along with implementing some sort of specialty visa system, Flores also proposed giving permanent visas to immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally after those persons have “squared themselves up with law” by paying a fine or doing deferred adjudication.

“We don’t want to do anything to discount or demean the effort they’ve put in,” he said. “I’ve talked to these folks and found out what doesn’t work about the naturalization process. They say it takes too long, it’s too difficult, it doesn’t need to be so bureaucratical. There’s no reason you can’t learn the Constitution and get your background check and the other things done in two to four years.”

While many in attendance agreed with parts of Flores’ immigration reform plan, members of the Workers Defense Project were unhappy with what they found to be vague answers from the Congressman.

“I thought he was trying to be as much in the middle as he is allowed to be. The problem with his answers are that they’re not specific enough,” Daniel Machado, a volunteer with Workers Defense Project from north Travis County, said. “Making the visa process quicker is part of the solution.”

Before any real immigration reform changes can be embraced, Flores said that jobs and the economy must be addressed.

“The No. 1 issues right behind those [jobs and the economy] has been immigration …. That has been a hot topic,” he said. “Our priorities this year are slightly different than before because immigration has moved up, but still the two key priorities are jobs and the economy and deficit spending. If we don’t fix those it doesn’t matter about immigration.”

In January, Flores was sworn in for his second term in office. His 17th Congressional District includes all of McLennan, Limestone, Freestone, Brazos, Robertson, Falls, Milam and Burleson counties and portions of Travis, Bastrop, Lee and Leon counties.

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