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Warner, at ABB stop, makes pitch for reform

South Boston News
Warner / June 24, 2013
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner stopped off at the ABB plant in South Boston on Friday morning as part of his Southside Virginia Tour, fielding questions from employees and making the case for fiscal restraint, an immigration overhaul and recent reforms to the national health care system.

“I know you are frustrated with Congress,” he told employees at ABB, “but no one is more frustrated with Congress than I am, and I have to work there.

“We have to have members who can work together, forgetting they are Democrats or Republicans, but Americans,” said Warner. He added that he feels Congress’s top priority should be to balance the budget and cut the national debt.

“Every night when you go to sleep the national debt goes up by $4 million,” he said, adding that for 65 of the last 70 years, the United States has run a budget deficit.

Warner made a quick tour of ABB’s newest small transformer plant and credited the combined work of the state, the local Industrial Development Authority and the Virginia Tobacco Commission for making the expansion possible. He pointed to the use of Tobacco Commission funds, combined with state incentives, in making a difference in the area.

But he added, “Virginia does well when competing with other states (for business), but the competition is now with the rest of the world. It’s a global economy.”

Petter Fiskerud, senior vice president and general manager of ABB, said he is seeing more emphasis on buying American products and is starting to see manufacturing jobs coming back to the United States from China.

Fiskerud added that American businesses need to see stability from the nation’s leadership in order to increase productivity.

Warner said he wants to see some innovative programs to save energy akin to the “Race to the Top” initiative in the educational realm. He said he and other members of the Senate are working toward reforms to promote greater energy efficiency and the doubling of domestic energy production by 2030.

Energy efficiency is a critical part of our state and national economy, Warner told listeners. “We need to make it easier to finance retrofits at our businesses and continue to support manufacturing. Jobs are coming back to America,” he said, “because of increased energy production. But we have to focus on having strong business plans, good education, good infrastructure and strong research and development.”

Warner said that as a member of the Senate Group of Eight working toward a balanced budget, the answers seem simple — find more money and cut spending — but enacting the changes is not easy to do.

Responding to questions from ABB employees during a question and answer period, Warner said he had supported President Obama’s health care plan. “It’s not as good or as bad as you may have heard. But we had to shake up the status quo on health care which is currently taking up 18 percent of the nation’s GPA.”

He said he expects changes to be made in the law — the Affordable Care Act — but noted that whenever new programs are put in place, they generally must be adjusted to better serve the original purpose.

He also said he supports immigration reforms which call for secure borders and a 13-year path to citizenship for those who want to remain living and working in the United States.

His stressed his support for enhanced technical and career education, adding, “Not everybody has to be a doctor or a lawyer. We need more electricians and plumbers.”

Ending his talk with a quote from Winston Churchill, Warner said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else,” adding “and I’m going to keep trying to make sure America looks good.”

An ABB spokesperson said the company had invited the senator to visit the South Boston plant after he had shown an interest in its business. Warner told ABB officials that he had toured their company headquarters in Switzerland during the period when he had served as Virginia’s governor in 2002-2006.

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I thought Warner was a great Governor but the worst senator until Kaine.

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