Landing in the belly of the beast, Congressman TJ Cox decided to conduct his first Town Hall in Hanford.
Cox represents the 21st District comprising Kern, Kings, Fresno and a slice of southern Tulare County. Though Cox enjoyed a decisive victory in Kern County, he lost to Hanford’s favorite son, former Representative David Valadao in Kings County, a prevailing reason why he decided to hold this event in the county seat.
Except for a few expected cat calls such as “You will raise taxes because you are a Democrat,” the town hall was a success with a full crowd assembled at Hanford West High School’s cafeteria.
Approximately 150 well informed constituents gathered to ask questions about taxes, Medicare, water, student loan debt, and veterans’ lack of access to health care, among other issues.
Audience members wrote their questions down as they filed into the cafeteria and Cox answered them on stage along with some follow up questions yelled out by the crowd.
Not a word was mentioned about the Muller Report just released the night before; the discussion mostly revolved around water and taxes.
“How are you going to bring more water to Kings County?”
Cox began with a joke saying, “Well, you know it started raining when I was elected.” He followed with a serious tone saying his mission is simple, “My goal is for every constituent to have clean drinkable water come out of their taps.”
Cox said that he intends to invest in Kings County’s surface water, groundwater and above-ground water storage infrastructure. He also said the conveyance system needs money for repairs and improvements.
As a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Cox oversees federal works such as the Central Valley Project and major dams. One of his goals is to get the chair of the committee, Raúl Grijalva, (D-Arizona) to the Central Valley so he can understand the county’s water needs.
He said that the committee found a fund that has been left untapped to fix Bureau of Reclamation facilities, which include Pine Flat and Shasta Dams. That fund has been banked, according to Cox, for the last 47 years and amounts to $10 billion. Right now they are committing $3 million to fix subsidence damage on the Friant-Kern Canal, of which Cox has toured the entire length.
Cox has also been working with San Luis Reservoir and Shasta Dam to ensure that Westside farmers do not have to put their land out of production because of a lack of water.
An audience member shouted out asking why Cox had not signed HR 1600, a bill that would transfer federal funding from the high-speed rail to water infrastructure projects. The bill was introduced by Kevin McCarthy(R –Bakersfield) and signed by all seven of the Republican members of Congress from California.
Cox responded by saying that, once money is allocated to one project, Congress can’t just take it and use the money for something else. He also said he is not a believer in the philosophy of scarcity. The Federal Government can find a way to pay for transportation and the water infrastructure he said.
Are you going to raise our taxes?
In an op-ed written by Cox to the Fresno Bee he states, “Because of the tax bill, where 83% of the benefits went to our nation’s richest one percent, we’ll hit a trillion-dollar deficit this year and every year in our foreseeable future.”
“That’s irresponsible,” Cox said during the town hall.
He said there needs to be more of a balance between what the government brings in and what it spends.
“We need a fair tax system where everyone pays their fair share.”
Cox also said that people who were expecting a tax refund are now going to have to pay taxes because of the new bill. Along with the fact that the government was shut down for a month, Cox has introduced a bill to extend the time to file your taxes from April 15 to May 20.
Because of the new tax bill, President Trump needs to find cuts to reign in the debt. In his proposed budget he cuts social benefits by $2.7 trillion while increasing military spending by $750 million. Of that, Cox said Medicaid is being cut by $1.5 trillion in Trump’s proposed budget, “a program that 50% of the people in the 21st Congressional District rely on for their healthcare.”
Cox is against those budget cuts, saying, “We believe quality healthcare can be delivered to everyone.”
If Cox has been anything, he’s has been accessible–unlike his neighbor, Congress Member Devin Nunes, who has not been heard from since the election except to file a lawsuit against Twitter. In Cox’ first 60 days he has held 100 events, giving his constituents unfettered access.
“I want to be as responsive as possible. And I mean it when I say it: I work for you.”