By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
Debt was on U.S. Rep. John Carter's mind and lips as he addressed community, military and local business leaders Thursday during a Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Shilo Inn.
"We are on a rocket ship going to the moon" in terms of national debt, Carter, R-Round Rock, said during a slideshow presentation on federal spending. "Washington today is about trying to figure out what we'll do about out debt."
The U.S. is now borrowing from foreign nations 42 cents of every dollar spent, Carter said, due in large part to the growing portion of the budget that is non-discretionary "auto-pilot" spending, such Medicare and Social Security.
Carter said he'd support a federal balanced budget amendment, such as that to which states are subject, and opposes the progressive system of taxation.
He also supports the recent budget put forth by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., he said, which was passed by the House of Representatives. The Democratic-led Senate has not voted on the budget.
Chamber president John Crutchfield said members of his organization share Carter's belief in the private sector's ability to fix the nation's problems.
"Government needs to become part of the solution, and not the problem," he said.
Carter speaks about once a year to the chamber, during its quarterly government affairs luncheon, Crutchfield said. It gives members an opportunity to hear how their interests are being represented in Washington.
Harker Heights Mayor Ed Mullen said Carter was no stranger to the greater Fort Hood area and that luncheons "are a great opportunity (for him) to show us what he's doing up there."
Carter, in Congress since 2003, has been supportive of such projects as the expansion of U.S. Highway 190 and State Highway 195, and a second runway at Fort Hood, Crutchfield said.
Killeen Independent School District Superintendent Robert Muller said Carter has been a strong supporter of the area's schools.
When $18 million in federal Impact Aid was several months late this spring, Muller asked Carter for help.
A voucher was on its way within 48 hours, Muller said.
Don Clay, of the chamber's Military Affairs Committee, said "(Carter) gives me hope." He's not worried about how proposed budget cuts would impact soldiers and, in turn, the greater Fort Hood economy, he said. "They'll do right by our soldiers."
Ryan's budget calls for a five-year federal civilian pay freeze that does not apply to service members. It endorses the Defense Department's proposed $178 billion in efficiency cuts over five years.
Carter, a senior member of the House Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, said he didn't believe defense spending would decrease much in the coming years, "with boots on the ground in two wars and planes in the air in a third," and that Ryan likely wouldn't support cuts to soldier compensation.
Although Fort Bliss in El Paso is growing rapidly, he said, Fort Hood is still the country's "flagship" military installation.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.