Udall talks wages, health care in town hall

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Minimum wage and health care were the dominant topics Monday during U.S. Rep. Tom Udall’s Town Hall Meeting at Portales City Hall.

The wide-ranging discussion also covered topics from student loans to the Iraq War.

It was Udall’s first meeting in Portales since Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. In opening the meeting, Udall outlined his party’s goals for the first 100 days since the shift in power.

“I think it’s really important that our party try to heal the country and pull everybody together,” Udall said. “It’s important to proceed in a bipartisan manner and we’re doing that.”

Udall said the Democratic agenda for the first 100 days includes addressing the minimum wage, health care, stem cell research, education and energy independence.

Several audience members commented on the need for a universal health care system of some sort and Udall said he agreed.

“Every year I’ve signed onto bills to get us there,” Udall said of health care reform. “I don’t care how we get there as long as we do.”

Petra Davis of Portales shared with the crowd the high cost of medical treatment as a result of a recent accident.

“Where’s this going to stop, we’re not millionaires,” Davis said.

Robert Garcia of Portales told Udall he felt Congress was wasting its time on debate over the minimum wage. He pointed out it wasn’t a living wage anyway, and it only made for a better part-time job for students.

“America has forgotten about the middle class,” Garcia said. “Social Security isn’t going to help you. You’ve got to work the rest of your life to make it.”

Udall said he felt a viable option for some of the problems Garcia described was to allow those aged 55-65 to buy into Medicare.

A 21-year-old man, who didn’t identify himself, asked Udall, “What’s Social Security going to do for me?”

Udall replied he believes Social Security will be solvent for the next 40 years. He said tweaks are needed throughout the program to ensure it remains viable.