Reception to U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin’s Wednesday speech at the Cleburne Conference Center largely depended upon attendee’s political affiliations.
Williams spoke during the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Membership Luncheon.
On the lighter side, Williams spoke of his excitement over Saturday’s start of TCU’s football season and joked about his baseball playing days.
“In 1971 I got drafted out of TCU to the Atlanta Braves and in ‘72 signed a major league baseball contract for $12,000 a year,” Williams said. “As some of you older guys in the audience might remember, that was a lot of money back then.”
But nowhere near what baseball players pull in today. Williams said he once asked former baseball manager Bobby Bragan what he would make were he still playing today.
“He said, ‘It’s a totally different game from when you played kid,’” Williams said. “He told me I could run, hit and throw in my day. Then he said, ‘Knowing how you played, if you played today I think you would make $12,000.’”
Williams also delivered a shout out to downtown Cleburne’s Apos Western Wear and Boutique.
“Great small business and they have these boots that have the Cleburne insignia on them,” Williams said. “If you have time you need to go buy a pair of these boots. Every time you cross your legs it will say Cleburne.”
Williams joked that while he doesn’t take himself seriously he takes his job very seriously.
“What I thought I would do today is just briefly talk about some of the things happening [in Washington D.C.] and some of the things I think are ahead of us and be more than happy to answer any of your questions.”
Several Democrats in the audience afterward took Williams to task for exiting the stage without fielding questions.
Williams, who owns and operates a car dealership, introduced himself as a business guy.
“I’m one of the few people on either side of the aisle that actually owns a business,” Williams said. “I understand Main Street America and I understand chambers. I’m glad to say that each year I’ve been in Congress I’ve gotten the Spirit of Enterprise Award delivered by the U.S. Chamber.”
Williams said taxes and regulations were choking business when he first ran in 2012.
“We were losing business overseas and so forth,” Williams said. “I started talking about lowering taxes with a program called Jump Start America, a lot of that was incorporated in what we just passed, the largest tax cuts in the history of our country.
“And I’m here to tell you they’re working. People are seeing more money in their pockets. We’re beginning to see more small business start ups than we’ve ever seen in the history of our country.
“We’ve got 3 percent unemployment. Today we’re at 4.2 percent GDP growth heading for 5 percent. Who would have thought that? Previously we were told we’d never get over 2 percent again. Tax cuts are working. The money is getting into the hands of the people instead of the federal government.”
Williams said Tax Cuts II is now his goal. He hopes to make the recent tax cuts permanent, lower the capital gains tax and cut the payroll tax.
Regulation wise, rollback of the Dodd-Frank Bill, financial regulations enacted in response to the 2008 recession, have greatly helped banks and financial institutions, Williams said.
“Couple reducing regulations for the bank and lowering taxes and we’ve got a good thing going now,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of people with a hop in their step right now because of what the economy’s doing.”
Energy independence is key as well, Williams said.
“I dream of a partnership between the U.S., Canada and Mexico from an energy standpoint,” Williams said. “Just alone in West Texas there’s as much oil as in the Middle East I think they tell us. We need to take advantage of that and get our country where we’re independent, not dependent.”
Military cuts to the tune of $1 trillion have seriously impacted America’s defense capabilities, he said.
“The good news is that several weeks ago we got $61 million to fix barracks at Fort Hood and another $142 million on the way to fix potholes and motor pools,” Williams said. “Then, when we get back, we’re going to try to get the largest pay increase for our soldiers and military we’ve ever done.”
Williams spoke of the crisis high school drop out rates and encouraged attendees of Wednesday’s luncheon to do their part as community leaders to stem the tide.
Nationally, Williams called for securing the border and reminding people that America is a nation of laws.
“We must begin to let people understand we’re a compassionate nation,” Williams said. “But if you want to come to America don’t come between the ports, come to the ports.”
To address school security, Williams said he crafted a bill through which schools could assess their individual security needs then apply for grants through the secretary of education. The money is already in the Department of Education’s budget and the bill has bipartisan support, Williams said.
Williams called the deficit his biggest concern.
“Nobody wants to talk about the debt on either side,” Williams said. “I’m one of about 40 out there talking about it. There’s very little appetite on either side of the aisle to talk about cutting the debt.”
Term limits remain problematic as well.
“It’s funny,” Williams said. “I can’t get a Republican. I can’t get a Democrat to talk to me about term limits.”
Challenges aside, America remains strong and the future looks bright, Williams said. Williams, who is up for re-election in November, encouraged people to stay involved and vote.
“If you don’t stand up and let your voice be heard bad things can happen,” Williams said. “And we don’t have enough people voting right now.”
Johnson County Democratic Party Chairman Linda Brown said the school security bill Williams mentioned interests her. Democrats in attendance otherwise gave Williams thumbs down.
“We were just glad to see our congressman in person,” former Johnson County Democratic Party Chairman Bill Conover said, referring to charges that Williams never holds town halls.
Crystal Cotton, president of the Texas Democratic Women of Johnson County, described Williams’ appearance as a political stump speech.
“What I find interesting is that, up to this point, he has not agreed to any kind of meeting or debate with [Democratic congressional candidate Julie Oliver],” Cotton said. “My question is why didn’t the chamber of commerce not invite Julie to be here as well?”
Texas Democratic Women of Johnson County Treasurer Deborah Lightfoot Sizemore said Williams ignored and walked past her when she asked if he would debate Oliver. Others called the security detail on hand excessive.
Ann Deem, membership chairman of the Johnson County Republican Women, expressed a different take away on the day.
“I just love Roger and I think we should support him,” Deem said. “I think he’s doing a great job for Texas and for America. He’s trying to bring back conservative values to the way it used to be when we were all growing up and he’s trying to get the taxes down so we can all make a good living.”
Betsy Ruffin, also a member of JCRW praised Williams’ remarks on education.
“As a retired teacher and special ed teacher I appreciated his comments on kids who need skills classes,” Ruffin said. “I think that’s really important.”
Former JCRW President Brenda Gammon relayed a glowing review as well.
“When he spoke about the Dodd-Frank and Department of Labor bill that’s just destroying banks and businesses like mine of a financial advisor and that they got rid of much of that crazy bill that was trying to destroy us, I really appreciated,” Gammon said. “Because they really were hiring more compliance officers than lenders and it was really hurting business.”