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State

Sen. Kirk: Scott AFB will be protected

(MCT) EDWARDSVILLE — Scott Air Force Base is important to the region and will be protected, according to U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk.

The Republican senator spoke Tuesday with U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Kirk said it was important to address the future of Scott Air Force Base and that he had been briefed on the issue by military leaders, who reassured him about the base's future. "They told me we would not be losing Scott," Kirk said.

Davis agreed that protecting Scott Air Force Base is important to the economy of the metro-east. "It is the largest employer in this region," Davis said. "We have to make sure it remains a viable part of our defense structure."

Davis and Kirk also addressed issues with an upcoming farm bill, as they planned to meet with Kirk's agricultural advisory committee Tuesday.

Both acknowledged the roadblocks for any legislation in Congress. "The reality is the ineffectiveness of both parties ... to get things done," Davis said. "A bill in the Democratic-controlled Senate will always cost more and include more, and it will never pass the House. A bill in the House will cost less and include less, and never pass the Senate."

Among the things Kirk would like to see in a farm bill: public-private partnerships, resource development and strengthening crop insurance as more cost-effective than disaster aid. He also said he would like to see means testing for subsidies, so that the wealthier farms would not qualify.

Other issues included the backlog of cases at the Department of Veterans Affairs and concerns about the ongoing sequester.

"I'm worried about the condition of the Air Force right now; they're not flying as much," Kirk said. "Unless you're training, you're getting weaker ... The pilots are not getting their air time."

Kirk suffered a major stroke more than a year ago. Moving slowly and with a cane, he said his physical therapy was going well at Walter Reed Medical Center, with a therapist who is "like a drill sergeant."

"The progress he's made just since June is inspiring," Davis said. "He's a fighter."

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©2013 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.)

Visit the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.) at www.bnd.com

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