Federal tax policy and funding for the Department of Homeland Security dominated discussions at Sen. Jerry Moran’s townhall meeting Monday morning in Mission.
Moran opened the “listening tour” stop at the Sylvester Powell Jr. Community Center by telling the crowd of just under 150 that he couldn’t predict how the current battle over President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration and funding for the Department of Homeland Security would play out. Current funding for the department will expire Feb. 27, and the funding bill passed by the House and currently before the Senate reverses the executive order issued by Obama in November that shields millions of immigrants from deportation.
“I do not have a foreseeable path for how this comes to a conclusion,” he said, noting that he supported the House bill’s thrust. “I’m sorry for the angst and…in a sense the black eye, the sense that ‘When can Congress ever get its act together and do the things necessary to govern on a normal basis?'”
A town hall attendee later asked Moran about his views on the growing size of the Department of Homeland Security and whether he believed its practices infringed on the civil liberties of Americans. Moran noted that he was one of six member of Congress to vote against the bill that created the department after the Sept. 11 attacks, but says he supports continuing its funding today as the nation faces new threats.
“The idea of bringing all these people into one department and expecting it not to be a bureaucracy and that we would be safer made no sense to me at the time,” he said, adding that he believes the government should require a warrant for surveillance on American citizens.
Tax policy was also high on the list of concerns among attendees, with several audience members showing support for the “FairTax” bill Moran sponsored last month. The proposal would repeal federal income taxes for individuals and businesses as well as payroll taxes, self-employment taxes, capital gains taxes and estate taxes. Instead, citizens would pay a personal consumption tax on retail sales of goods and services.
“I’m for a flatter, fairer, different tax system than what we have,” he said. “We ought not spend all of our business and personal lives trying to figure out what’s the tax consequence if we do this versus that. For a long time I thought a flat tax is certainly better than what we have. I have come to the conclusion more recently that the FairTax is a better way of doing this in part because it gets rid of the Internal Revenue Service. I no longer trust the Internal Revenue Service to be fair and impartial. They are the largest law enforcement intrusion that we have in our lives.”
Among other issues discussed at the forum was the Affordable Care Act, which Moran says he continues to oppose. While a number of his constituents have said they have benefited from the bill, Moran said on balance it has been a detriment to Kansas business owners, many of whom have altered their employment or hiring practices to avoid its directives. He said he believes opponents of the bill should be prepared to offer alternatives should a legal challenge to the bill prove successful.
Moran also fielded a question about global warming, noting in his response that there was little doubt that the weather has changed.
“The weather is certainly different today than when I was a kid,” he said. “I think science generally thinks man has a role to play, or is playing a role in that change. And we ought to do things that are smart to avoid that. The problem in my view is that you have to analyze these things not just on this issue of the environment or climate change, but all the consequences it has for everything else, including the economy.”
Known for his weekly trips back home during his tenure as the congressman for Kansas’s “Big First” district prior to his election to the Senate in 2010, Moran has continued to make visiting communities across the state a priority, he said. He has held town hall meetings in all 105 Kansas counties since becoming a senator.