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Economy, debt, health care top concerns Noem hears during Mitchell visit

Chris Huber/Republic U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and District 20 state Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, talk with Tom Clemens, of Mitchell, on Thursday afternoon at The Depot Pub and Grill in Mitchell.

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., heard concerns about the economy, the national debt and health care as she toured restaurants and coffee shops Thursday in Mitchell.

"Reduce the debt. Nothing else matters," said Chuck Dove, of Star Prairie, Wis., as he spoke to Noem at The Depot Pub and Grill.

Dove, who was in Mitchell on business, said it was nice to get the opportunity to speak to a member of Congress about his concerns.

"It's nice to see she is concerned about the same stuff," he said.

Dove also asked Noem about the extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut, which will prevent a 2 percent increase in the payroll tax for 160 million Americans.

Noem and other House Republicans initially rejected a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut last month, but after suffering criticism, she and others reversed their position and accepted the extension.

Noem said there was confusion about why she did not initially support the extension.

"I had always supported the payroll tax cuts," she said. "What I didn't support was extending them for only two months."

She still has concerns about the short length of the extension, how the cut will be paid for and how it will affect Social Security, she said.

Owen Reitzel, of Mitchell, met Noem at Café Teresa and told her he does not understand why she opposes universal health care.

He said his wife had breast cancer, and without her insurance, they would be struggling financially.

In an interview with The Daily Republic, Noem said the current health care system is broken.

"A lot of people have concerns over the (health care reform) bill that was passed two years ago," she said. "I would like to see a lot more competition in the insurance industry."

She added that malpractice reform and access to health care in rural areas should be addressed.

"My concerns with the health care bill are what I'm hearing from businesses all over South Dakota," Noem said.

Noem said her time in Mitchell was a good opportunity to see what her constituents are thinking about before she returns to Washington D.C. She's also up for re-election this year, with at least two Democrats vying for the opportunity to challenge her.

"I've always been very focused on what the people want to do, and I can't know what that is until I go and visit with them," she said.

After visiting Mitchell's restaurants and coffee shops, Noem toured the Boyds' Gunstock plant near Mitchell. Plant officials declined to allow the media on the tour.

Noem traveled Thursday evening to Watertown to attend a Lake Area Technical Institute award presentation at the Watertown Event Center.