TOP STORY >> Berry kicks off campaign in Cabot
Leader staff writer
IN SHORT: Cong. Marion Berry tells Cabot constituents that more road improvements are on the way along with cheaper gas from bio-fuel but immigration reform won’t happen overnight.
In a bid for his sixth term, Cong. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, stopped by Veterans Memorial Park in Cabot to visit with about 30 local residents concerned with rising energy costs, illegal immigration, health care and more.
Wayne Womack, a Vietnam veteran living in Cabot, said the biggest issue for many residents who commute is roads. “If you go to Little Rock, you might as well get ready to make a day of it because of the slow downs and construction,” Womack said.
Berry said over the past five terms, he’s brought more than half of Ar-kansas’ share of Federal highway dollars being spent in the last few years to the First Congressional District.
“There’s more to do. We need more overpasses in Cabot and in Lonoke County. As the area continues to grow, we’re going to have to have this infrastructure,” Berry said.
He told the group more bio-diesel facilities such as Patriot Bio-fuels in Stuttgart that can make fuel out of soybeans and other plant materials, could mean good news for Arkansas farmers as well as consumers facing higher gas prices at the pump.
“We have the potential to turn a problem into a good thing for the First Congressional District,” Berry said. He said many voters he had spoken with were concerned over Presi-dent George W. Bush’s proposed immigration changes, specifically the number of children born to immigrants.
“The problem just didn’t develop overnight,” Berry said.
“We do not have control of our borders. We cannot do anything about the people who are already here until we get control of our borders.”
Berry said he foresees the political parties working to become united because issues like healthcare, the war in Iraq and education are too large to be tackled by one person or one party.
“I can remember in 1993 working with the Clinton Administra-tion to balance the budget. It was Democrat and Republican working together creating the greatest time of economic prosperity this or any other nation has ever known,” Berry said.
A licensed pharmacist, Berry called the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit a “disaster.”
Although it is not mandatory for individuals to register for the benefit, those that do sign up will receive immediate prescription drug coverage.
The Center for Medicare Services (CMS) has approved 15 companies to provide stand-alone drug coverage in Arkansas and four companies to provide all Medicare-covered services including new benefits.
Medicare beneficiaries have until May 15 to sign-up for the benefit before they will be forced to pay a late enrollment fee.
The report, released by a prominent Washington think-tank, argues that Congress could save taxpayers over $800 billion by requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower prices against pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Berry says Arkansas taxpayers will spend $8.8 billion over the next ten years because of specific provisions inserted in the Republican-passed Medicare Part D Prescription Drug benefit at the request of pharmaceutical and insurance companies.
“It was designed to enhance the profits of the pharmacy companies and that’s just what it’s doing,” Berry said.
In the parking lot, a white Chevrolet van with “Stubby Stum-baugh for Congress” painted across the side irked some of the people in attendance. Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Berry. The van belongs to Stumbaugh’s brother, Lt. Marty Stumbaugh of the Cabot Fire Department.
“That van doesn’t even have a license plate. I wonder how it’s getting around town,” said Odis Waymack, Cabot alderman.
Berry was unfazed by the van or its message.
“That doesn’t bother me, it’s just politics,” Berry said.
First elected in 1996, Berry was elected to his fifth term in 2004 for the First Congressional District which includes the counties of: Arkansas, Baxter, Clay, Cleburne, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Ful-ton, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Lee, Lonoke, Mississippi, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett, Prairie, Randolph, Searcy, Sharp, St. Francis, Stone and Woodruff.