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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • 'There's political slogans and reality'

  • Alan Jilka, the lone Democrat running to represent the Big First Congressional District in Washington D.C., stopped into the Globe Wednesday for a Q & A session.


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  • Alan Jilka, the lone Democrat running to represent the Big First Congressional District in Washington D.C., stopped into the Globe Wednesday for a Q & A session.
        His family moved to Kansas in the 1870s to farm. Then in 1923, his grandfather opened Jilka's Furniture in Salina.
        Jilka interned for U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., during college. Later, after receiving his degree in history and studying Spanish and Portuguese in Brazil and Mexico, he worked for Congressman Dan Glickman, D-Kan.
        Eventually he earned a master's degree in comparative literature and served three terms as mayor of Salina.
        Jilka is running against state Sen. Tim Huelskamp, a Fowler Republican who captured the GOP nod in August.
        What follows is a question-and-answer session, edited for clarity and length.
        Daily Globe: Congress will write a agricultural bill in 2012. If elected, you will be part of that. What does a farm bill need, and what doesn't it need?
        Alan Jilka: I think the most important thing is probably the crop insurance element and the countercyclical payments, which are a bottom line Kansas farmers are paid, regardless if market prices fall below that.
        DG: Do you support reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, or do you see areas where it needs to be tweaked?
        AJ: I talked to a lot of school superintendents and teachers in the district, and there is unanimity that there needs to be some tweaks to it.
        Probably the best suggestion that I've heard is that if you're going to grade schools, you ought to take into account their percentage of improvement. It's not really fair to teachers and administrators and kids to just have a cookie-cutter approach.
        DG: Is Obamacare a good idea, and did health care need reform?
        AJ: I haven't met anybody who likes everything in it. I've said on numerous occasions that I would have voted for it because of two reasons.
        Number one: The advocacy of Bob Dole, and secondly, the fact the Congressional Budget Office thinks it's going to cut the deficit by $140 billion in the next decade.
        Some people scoff at that, even though they're a nonpartisan organization. But they've been remarkably accurate, particularly on the effect of the tax cuts toward the last decade.
        Also, I don't support spending any money on abortions as part of the bill and have some questions about how the mandate is going to work.
        DG: Are you concerned about the federal deficit?
        AJ: I'm very concerned about the federal deficit. Former President George W. Bush's tax cuts are clearly one of the main structural reasons for it. We've got to get rid of this credit card mentality. We were running surpluses 10 years ago in this country, and a series of mistakes were made to reverse that.
    Page 2 of 2 -     The tax breaks plunged us into huge deficits. There has been a compromise proposed. And if I understand it right, there are five different levels, and there's been a proposal to retain the cuts for the three lower levels, but to let them expire for the top two.
        There are people claiming quick fixes to the deficits around election time. There are people claiming it's a spending matter or strictly a taxing matter. Well, there's political slogans and there's reality. The two don't always mesh.
        DG: What needs to be done to address immigration issues, particularly on the southern border?
        AJ: It's a very multi-layered issue that you can't do justice to with sound bites.
        The biggest problem area is referred to as the Tucson section of the border, which, as explained to me, is from the eastern border of Yuma County, Ariz., to the New Mexico border. And that has become the preferred drug running route because it's remote, rugged and mountainous territory.
        A rancher will see some drug runners coming in and can't get a cell phone call to the border patrol because there's no cell phone coverage.
        Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat, has been pushing for more border security measures including money for cell phone towers, Border Patrol on horseback and two unarmed drones to patrol the border.
        I think these would be more effective than a fence. People will crawl or get over a fence somehow. And something else: Walls just aren't who we are as a country.
        DG: Was pulling out combat troops from Iraq the right decision?
        AJ: Yes. That war did some lasting damage to America's image abroad. And it's like Mr. Huelskamp's go-it-alone approach in the Legislature that has resulted in nothing being accomplished.
        We can't advance our interests without having some friends in the world. There is some lasting damage that's going to take a long time to repair. I salute President Obama for carrying through on that commitment.
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