KNAU and Arizona News
9:59 am
Fri April 22, 2011

Gosar faces questions over budget votes

Sedona, AZ – Sedona is not your run of the mill American small town. Its towering red rocks lure 4 million tourists every year. And Robin Kelly is not your typical local Tea Party president.

"I'm a psychic, clairvoyant, an energy healer," she says, "and I take people out on the rocks to help them empower their lives, which is exactly what the Tea Party is about, is empowering each of us as individuals to participate in the government "

Kelly organized a town hall Wednesday at the Sedona Elks Lodge for Congressman Paul Gosar. Sedona has a reputation as a liberal, new-age town. But Kelly is a small business owner concerned about government spending. And she wasn't happy with Gosar's vote in favor of the budget compromise.

"I tell you, I did not like that vote," she says emphatically. "Because we need to cut spending, because we need to cut our deficit. So originally I hated that decision."

Until she heard Gosar explain it. The Congressman says a government shut-down would have left the military without the funding it needs. And he's encouraging his constituents to be patient.

The cut "is paltry," he acknowledges. "Yes, Tea Party folks are upset. But you have to get America back in to understand why you have a fiscal problem. Not all of us are on the same page, and so it's a learning curve."

"He didn't convince me the other way, but he did explain how complicated it is," says
Pat Hicks, who founded the Sedona Tea Party group.

"For a while there I was saying, 'come on guys, knock it off. We've got a $100 billion promise, now it's down to $38 billion No, it doesn't sound right." But "listening to Gosar, [I'm] beginning to understand how difficult it is to take two steps up, one and a half steps backwards. So I'm much more sympathetic to the cause."

People at the town hall were much less sympathetic to Gosar's vote in favor of the House budget bill that would significantly transform Medicare. It's a risky vote in a state like Arizona, where retirees known as "snowbirds" flock to the desert sun, and vote in high numbers.

"I'm horrified by the plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system," says retiree Susan Cosentino. "I think it will just send the seniors into poverty."

Cosentino was one of about a hundred or so people at the town hall in Sedona. Most were seniors. Another, Anne Leap, also works with retirees. She runs a small business connecting them with services they need to live independently.

She says "Seniors at the lower end are so frightened by all this, and seniors at the upper end are just outraged. It's a scary time for us."

Democrats are hoping to take advantage of that fright. Paul Gosar is one of 25 Republican Congressmen they're targeting with radio ads.

"Did you know Congressman Paul Gosar," the ad says, "voted to end Medicare forcing seniors to pay $12,500 for private health insurance, without guaranteed coverage? Tell Gosar to keep his hands off our Medicare."

For his part, Gosar says if we don't fix Medicare now, it will bankrupt the country.

"Kicking the can doesn't work anymore," he says. "There is a way that we should be able to hold our promise to our seniors, and not put it on the back of our future generations. That's where we need to go."

But getting there won't be easy, with 10 thousand baby boomers turning 65 every single day.