U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander thanked Madison County Republicans on Saturday for allowing him to serve in the Senate.

“It’s a great privilege,” he said multiple times throughout his speech at the annual Madison County Republican Party Reagan Day Dinner, which was held Saturday evening at the STAR Center in Jackson.

Alexander is the only Tennessean ever popularly elected in both the governor and U.S. senator elections.

Alexander said there are three issues he’s working on fixing in Washington.

The first thing, and most important, he said is the national debt.

“Our young people will forever be known as the debt-paying generation,” he told the room of more than 100 county Republicans and county representatives.

His hope is that Washington will have the courage to solve the debt problem. He spoke on the entitlement programs’ costs, which he said goes up 55 percent every year.

He said, however, that his plan in reducing these costs will not affect citizens who currently are using entitlement programs, or the ones who are paying into them.

“If you pay $1 in, you get $3 back,” he said. “The program cannot sustain itself that way.”

The second issue Alexander wishes to change is bringing problems from Washington back to the local and state levels, including federal mandates.

“Community college and university tuition is going up because of federal mandates,” he said.

And lastly, he spoke on health care reform, which will be going into effect in 2014. Alexander said that the state budget will have to account for $2 billion more over the next eight years because of the health care reform.

“The money has to come from somewhere,” he said, pointing to tuition costs rising even more.

He said there will be fewer jobs after the health care reform goes into effect because employers can’t afford the new system and will either have to lay off employees or move them to part-time positions.

“We need common sense leadership,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with the country that we can’t fix.”

Alexander also has served as the U.S. Education Secretary and University of Tennessee president.

The Reagan Day Dinner is an annual fundraiser for the Madison County Republican Party, whose mission is to promote and support Republican candidates for office in Madison County.

During the dinner, awards were given to the Republican Man and Woman of the Year. Bernadette Faulker and Mark Johnstone walked away with the awards.