ROARING SPRING - U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster said he feels "cautiously optimistic" about Tuesday's primary election after spending much of the past week visiting businesses and people in his constituency.
Shuster met Friday with a group of about 50 employees at the New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. Inc. quarry. He gave an overview of some of his major initiatives - especially the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which is scheduled for a vote next week - before opening the floor to questions from the group.
The water reform bill will be on the House floor on Tuesday, so Shuster will have to split his day between championing the legislation and promoting his campaign. The bill is Shuster's first landmark legislation and would authorize key Army Corps of Engineers projects but also allow Congress to make policy reforms related to water infrastructure.
The goal, Shuster said, is to limit bureaucracy and the "red tape" involved with making decisions related to the nation's water resources. The Obama administration and Environmental Protection Agency have sought to increase regulations.
He said he is confident the water bill will pass the House next week. It also will need to pass the Senate before coming across the president's desk.
"I think it's going to be a big number we pass it by," Shuster said.
Art Halvorson, one of Shuster's two Republican opponents in the primary, said in a post on his website that Shuster "missed a golden opportunity" with WRRDA, and said he "perpetuated a liberal economic policy" in its crafting.
Shuster also will face Travis Schooley in Tuesday's election.
Questions from New Enterprise employees centered on the future of the economy and energy industry. Shuster said coal production is an important industry moving forward, as much of the country's electricity is generated from coal.
President Barack Obama is also not a proponent of the energy industry in the United States, Shuster told the group. Eliminating coal burning altogether, he said, would not affect the environment, as other large countries like China and India burn coal in large quantities.
"I'm fearful," he said. "This president hates coal, hates oil and only tolerates gas."
When asked about creating jobs and improving the economy, Shuster said two changes are necessary: privatization of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and driving down the national debt.
Lowering taxes also will create an incentive for companies to keep jobs in the United States instead of shipping them overseas, he said. He said many businesses are finding that employees in the U.S. do better work, as they're better trained and often work in better facilities.
"We've got more and more companies coming back to the country," Shuster said.
Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.