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20140319 RGV-Partnership-chat 1603When U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, went to his first budget meeting at Congress, the certified public accountant brought a calculator with him.

“A lot of people looked at me like, ‘What is that?’ And then I had an idea of what the problem was,” Flores joked about balancing the budget at a conversation over coffee hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

U.S. Reps. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, and Mike Conaway, R-Midland, also sat down with moderator Sergio Sanchez of News Talk 710 KURV.

“I think spending cuts can get us halfway back to a balanced budget,” Brady said. “But we’re going to need a much stronger economy to finish the job and start paying down our debt.”

The Ways and Means Committee recently released a draft version of a new tax code that could make paying taxes simpler and spur economic growth, said Brady, a member of the committee. He encouraged business leaders in the area to take a look at the draft and make suggestions.

All three men spent two days touring the Valley and visiting not only local international bridges, but also Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Conaway, who possibly will be the next chair of the House Agriculture Committee, planned to stay an extra day to talk to local residents involved in produce, and then head north to tour King Ranch.

Flores said he hadn’t been to the Valley in two decades, and he was amazed at the growth he’d seen in an area where trade flow between the U.S. and Mexico is so prevalent.

He later said talking to bridge managers and seeing the ports in person helped him better understand the challenges.

“They also they did more than just tell you what the challenges are, they tell us what the potential solutions are, so it gives a real world perspective to take back to Washington with us so we can use real world solutions to deal with, rather than rely on what I call bureaucratically driven solutions or Washington solutions,” Flores said. “Most of the time Washington doesn’t understand how the real world works.”

Meanwhile, Brady said through the Ways and Means committee he’d look at ways to accelerate the paperwork involved in moving goods. Since 9/11, Brady said, the emphasis has been on security, but the government also needs to “make commerce an equal goal of Customs.” The U.S. isn’t as efficient at moving goods as it once was, he said.

Conaway encouraged local leaders to understand that Texas has the second-largest congressional delegation in the House, and when it comes to issues affecting the state, all 36 tend to work together.

“You guys need to rally,” he said. “It’s not partisan for the most part, and we can get behind it and having 36 of us is much better than having three fighting on your behalf,” Conaway said.

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