01/08/06 — Butterfield talks about priorities for coming year

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Butterfield talks about priorities for coming year

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 8, 2006 2:05 AM

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield invited county and city officials throughout District 1 to discuss national issues that affect eastern North Carolina Friday afternoon at Goldsboro City Hall.

"This is not a political meeting, and I didn't come here with a political agenda," Butterfield said. "I came here with a governmental agenda. This is our chance to gather together and have a conversation."

During the event, coined by Butterfield as the State of the District Forum, the Democratic congressman commented on national issues, such as the war on terror, deficit spending and alternative energy sources as they relate to the everyday lives of local residents.

The idea was to look ahead, he said.

"This is about the future. I don't want to dwell on the past. It is not constructive and it is not productive. We do need to learn from our past and look at it from time to time, but this is a chance to look at the future," Butterfield said.

During the next five years, the Congressional Research Service predicted the United States will spend $570 billion on the war in Iraq, Butterfield said.

This does not include, however, the costs that will come after the war is completed. Butterfield said armed forces commanders have told Congress millions of dollars will be needed to replace equipment destroyed in conflicts overseas.

"The global war on terror is separate from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I support the war on terror," he said. "If we don't find the enemy, the terrorists around the world, they will eventually inflict harm again."

There is an 80 percent chance of having another Sept. 11-type attack in America, Butterfield said. However, the next attack might be more focused on rural areas in an attempt to damage the American psyche, he added.

Butterfield said Americans also need to be concerned with government spending at home.

"We will have a $447 billion deficit (in 2006) and that does not take into consideration the costs of the war," he said.

As of Dec. 29, the national debt was more than $8 trillion, Butterfield said. Since his term began 18 months ago, he said the national debt has increased by $1 trillion.

The key to curb this spending is for the country to spend within its means and to begin balancing the national budget, he said.

"If we continue this way, we will be more riddled with debt, and some people believe we could go bankrupt. We need action. The debt hurts my chances to bring financial resources to the district. If there was no debt, we would have billions for projects in rural areas throughout the country," Butterfield said.

One of areas that could use financial assistance from the government is District 1. The district is the 15th poorest nationally, Butterfield said. The rate of poverty in the region, 21 percent, is nearly double North Carolina's poverty rate.

"Twenty-nine percent of kids under 18 in the district live in poverty," he said. "Only 69 percent over 25 (years old) graduated high school. 4.8 percent in Hertford don't have a kitchen -- a kitchen. Five percent in Beaufort do not have a phone. This is unacceptable. We must do better."

Those who do have phones and electricity, however, have become incredibly wasteful, Butterfield said. Energy usage is another area that needs to be on the U.S. agenda in the coming years, he said.

The American people make up only 5 percent of the global population, yet consume 25 percent of the world's oil and use twice as much energy as Europe and Japan, he added.

The solution, he said, is for Congress to agree upon on an energy policy that promotes conservation and alternative energy sources. However, drilling for oil reserves in Alaska is not a solution.

"Even if we could find it, it would not be available for the next 10 years," Butterfield said.