Legislators and municipal employees by the hundreds from across Arizona roamed the halls and filled the meeting rooms of the Hilton El Conquistador last week for the Arizona League of Cities and Towns annual conference.

One of the biggest names on the national political scene also made an appearance. Sen. John McCain addressed a packed ballroom last Friday to close out the weeklong event.

"I regret to tell you that still Arizona is the only state where mothers don't tell their children that they can grow up and become President of the United States," McCain said in reference to his two unsuccessful bids for the presidency.

Arizona's senior senator spoke on numerous issues that impact the state and the country, including the economy, healthcare reform and the war in Afghanistan.

"These are some of the most difficult times in history," McCain said.

The senator noted the recent statistics showing the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, and told audience members that his main priority is jobs and economic growth.

"Americans and Arizonans are angry that that Wall Street seems to be doing pretty well," McCain said. "They're too big to fail, yet the people we know are too small to save."

McCain also spoke about the raft of national spending bills over the past year, including the $787 billion financial bailout of 2008, $700 billion for the stimulus plan and the $83 billion rescue of the auto industry.

Taken with other measures, the spending would saddle the country with as much as $9 trillion of debt future generations would have to pay, the senator said.

"What I'm wary about is that we're committing an act of generational theft," McCain said.

On the debate over healthcare reform, McCain told the crowd that the ever-increasing costs of healthcare coverage and medical-related expenses was unsustainable.

"The problem is not the quality of healthcare, it's the rising inflation of healthcare costs," McCain said.

He suggested that reforms to the system of medical insurance coverage should emphasize fitness by rewarding people for maintaining healthy lifestyles.

McCain referenced the swelling ranks of obese people in the country as a way to illustrate the problems of unhealthy living.

"Why can't we do more in wellness and fitness in America?" McCain asked.

He advocated for reforms of Medicare, saying the system likely would go broke within seven years if Congress and the president don't act to bring about reforms.

"Of course we're not going to let Medicare go broke," McCain said.

The senator called for a bipartisan effort to reform the system, recalling the 1983 reforms to Social Security. Those reforms, McCain said, were made possible by Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil, who crossed party lines to keep Social Security from insolvency.

"I believe Americans want us to act in a bipartisan effort," McCain said. "That's what I think we need to do."

But the senator also panned the proposals under consideration now in Congress to reform medical insurance, in particular the so-called public option that would provide insurance for those who don't have it or can't afford it.

"It should really be called the government option," McCain said.

He said the plan as now written would ultimately cost Americans more in the long run and affect the funding for the state-run Medicaid programs.

"I'm sorry to tell you that according to the proposal, there will be a dramatic increase in Medicaid costs," McCain said.

Regarding Afghanistan, McCain made a call for more troops to keep the country from falling back into the hands of the Taliban and the terrorist organizations the former government harbored before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

"In Afghanistan, we're not winning — and in an insurgency, if you're not wining, you're losing," he said.

The senator ended his informal speech with a question and answer session, at the end of which he invited audience members to visit him in the nation's capital.

"Please come to see me," McCain said, "when you come to Washington to visit your money."

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