SPEARFISH | Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said President Barack Obama's speech on the sequester was to raise fear about federal spending cuts and to pressure Republicans into caving in for tax hikes.
Thune spoke to about 200 people at a town meeting at the Spearfish Holiday Inn Convention Center Tuesday after the president's speech.
Belle Fourche and area people like Ted Danielson were at the meeting, "to see what he's got to say."
St. Onge rancher Russell Millar talked with Thune about new federal regulations that will increase farm and ranch costs.
Millar said the newly-required containment systems around today's farm and ranch fuel tanks are an added cost that doesn't recognize today's agricultural needs.
Thune told him, "The only think we can do is try to rein these guys in - but we don't have the votes in the Senate."
That tied into the Senator's discussion of the administration adding costly regulations and taxes for farms and business, but not cuts in spending.
"What I see out of the White House," he said, "is a whole lot of rhetoric."
The Senator said the President signed the sequester bill, and if he wants it changed before the March 1 deadline, he needs to work with Congress. That includes Republicans who want the government to quit borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends.
He said Republicans have a proposal to keep the sequester from cutting defense, but Democrats only want another tax hike without real spending cuts.
Republicans are willing to see the sequester come into force, he said, "if that's the only way we are going to get cuts in spending."
Spending and the national debt are the real issues, he said. He emphasized that Democrats have not proposed a new budget in more than three years, but spending keeps rising.
Before Thune began his speech, Spearfish economic development executive Bryan Walker said that a local business survey showed 82 percent believe the nation's deficit spending is their major concern.
Thune's West River office director Qusi Al-Haj said calls to the Senator are nine to one about national issues rather than local problems.
"We are not more than a few years away from a major catastrophe," Thune said. "The stakes are really high, folks."
Hiking taxes, executive actions and new regulations only slow the economy while government spending heads into a train wreck.
Thune said he does not plan to run for the White House, "But I think we need to get this country turned around."
After his program in Spearfish, Thune headed to Sturgis to talk with business and manufacturing leaders.
At Spearfish, Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Bob Turner said he hoped to hear more on veterans' issues.
Turner added, "I've just been hit real hard because Black Hills Power closed down the plant where I work."
The Ben French coal-fired plant is being replaced because of new EPA regulations, he said. Consumers will have higher bills to pay for a new one at Cheyenne.