SEBASTIAN – Economics and politics were among the talking points Sebastian business owners had in mind Tuesday afternoon when they sat down with US Congressman Rep. Bill Posey.
Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the informal town hall-type meeting, a first of what Executive Director Beth Mitchell said hopes will become regular forums with the congressman.
Rep. Posey began the discussion noting the one-year anniversary of the passage of the federal stimulus act and wanted to celebrate and see how it has been helping.
“I tried to say with a straight face,” the congressman said, drawing chuckles from more than a dozen people in attendance. “But I couldn’t.”
Driving along US 1, Rep. Posey said there are more indicators that businesses are hurting.
“It’s becoming obvious,” he said of the number of businesses that have shut down.
Questions regarding how the country’s economy got to be where it is and what government is doing to fix it came up during the discussion.
“It’s not finished getting bad yet, I believe,” Rep. Posey said in response to a question posed by Sebastian City Councilman Don Wright. The congressman explained that part of the country’s economic woes come from the natural economic cycle. The other part comes from systemic problems that led to the failure of the financial market.
He said that what he has heard from fellow business leaders is that business-related tax cuts and a break on employment taxes would go a long way in helping them.
“You won’t get to first base” in Congress with those plans, the representative said.
As for the unemployment tax, Rep. Posey said, “the coffers are upside down.”
He explained that the businesses that are paying the unemployment taxes are already hurting because they had to let go their employees. Those same companies are being further tapped to pay into unemployment due to the increased burden on the system.
While nothing was specifically discussed about Sebastian’s economic state of affairs, those in attendance seemed to appreciate getting a chance to hear directly from the congressman.
Sebastian Councilman Wright said after the meeting that he believes the congressman has an idea of what’s going on in the city from a national perspective.
He commended Rep. Posey for being open to the citizens.
“Politicians need to get out to the people and find out what their concerns are,” the councilman said.
The evening’s discussion also ran the political spectrum – from education and the Florida Lottery to healthcare.
“I think Congress is starting to listen to the people,” Rep. Posey said.
Fellsmere Mayor Susan Adams said after the meeting that she found Rep. Posey’s comments on what is going on at Capitol Hill interesting and that the congressman is good about not “sugar coating” what is happening.
“This is a good start,” Chamber director Mitchell said of the meeting with Rep. Posey, adding she’d like to have these discussions on a quarterly basis.
The congressman said that he was happy with the meeting, noting it was very casual and comfortable and felt no one was shy in speaking up.
“It’s healthy,” he said of having such discussions. “Everyone’s supposed to have their voice heard.”