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.

"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.

He said Spearfish and other South Dakota communities set a budget each year to stay within their incomes.

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.

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Black Hills Political Economist

Senator Thune is the only member of West River demographics who could be called upon to represent the people of Western South Dakota in Washington. It is a shame he makes the trip from the Beltway so seldomly and calls Sioux Falls his home away from Washington. The Black Hills continue to be one of the most underrepresented portions of America as Rep. Noem certainly does not enjoy enough quality West River time. People, be highly cognizant of this fact in 2 years.

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