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Jobs are job 1 for Rep. Larsen

Second District Congressman Rick Larsen reacts to questions in an interview Thursday at the Whidbey News-Times office. He will run for a sixth term this year, but said he’s not ready to formally declare his candidacy. His top priority this year is jobs. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Second District Congressman Rick Larsen reacts to questions in an interview Thursday at the Whidbey News-Times office. He will run for a sixth term this year, but said he’s not ready to formally declare his candidacy. His top priority this year is jobs.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

With the start of 2010, people are beginning to act on their New Year’s resolutions. And U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen has resolutions of his own.

Congress is set to reconvene next week for the second half of its session, and Larsen said his priority this year will be jobs.

“Ten percent unemployment is still way too high,” Larsen said in an interview Thursday at the Whidbey News-Times.

To put people back to work, Larsen said he will promote legislation to help small business owners and vote on measures to create employment.

Last month, the House passed a jobs package which would bring $500 million to Washington state. The money will filter down to the county and city level to help fund education jobs and additional law enforcement officers.

For small business owners in his district, Larsen is working on an initiative to make loans more accessible.

Larsen’s district includes Boeing’s 787 plant in Everett which employs hundreds of Whidbey Islanders, and he expressed disappointment that part of the manufacturing is being moved to South Carolina. He sees the testy relationship between the company and unions in this state as a serious problem. “I’ve asked, ‘Are there things we can do?,’” he said. “But you can’t force people to take your help. There’s animosity, not just differences.” Still, he says he’s “not a doomsayer” about Boeing’s long-term future in this region.

Last year, the fifth-term congressman made significant and controversial votes favoring health care reform and economic stimulus. He described the 2009 political scene as “fiery and partisan.”

Locally, Larsen helped secure $17 million for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. It funded a 25,565-square-foot indoor wash rack and fire instruction building.

“I would say the base is extremely stable well beyond the next few years,” Larsen said.

On foreign policy, the Second District Democrat supports President Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, along with a deadline for American support of the Afghan government.

“That lit a fire under the government’s rear end,” he said. The mission should be limited to keeping the country from being a terrorist base, rather than spreading democracy, he said.

As far as decreasing the national deficit, now at $1.4 trillion, Larsen said lowering unemployment comes first. But he supports regulations for financial markets, to reduce the likelihood of another financial crisis.

“If given a choice to reduce unemployment or the deficit, I think most people would say unemployment,” Larsen said. “But I think we’re in a position where we can do both.”

He would also like to see a spending reform commission to review the imbalance between long-term federal spending commitments on the likes of Medicare and Social Security, and projected revenues. Congress could vote up or down on the recommendations, but not change them.

A member of the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee, Larsen will focus on reauthorizing a bill that could bring an additional $4 billion to the state. The transportation projects in the bill relieve congestion and improve safety.

It is also an election year, and Larsen said he will seek a sixth term in office.

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