E-News 4/20/12

The Week Just Past: Helping Small Businesses Grow and Hire

More Trade, More Jobs

Rodney’s Subcommittee Moves First Appropriations Bill of the Year

The President Announces Gas Price Crackdown – Again


The Week Just Past: Helping Small Businesses Grow and Hire

“This week millions of Americans marched to their local Post Offices or logged on to the IRS website to file their 2011 tax return in advance of Tuesday’s ‘Tax Day’ deadline. 

“At the same time, the House and the Senate were also focused on taxes. The Senate failed to muster enough support Monday to consider the so-called ‘Buffett rule,’ a brand new minimum tax rule that seems to be President Obama’s top priority, even though it wouldn’t create a single job or help a single business –large or small.

“I must say, the House was being much more productive. Yesterday, we debated and passed the Small Business Tax Cut Act to give every small business with fewer than 500 employees a 20 percent tax cut. 

“Faced with a gauntlet of red tape and higher taxes coming from Washington, our small businessmen and women are still struggling. Cash-strapped small-business owners are facing a federal tax rate as high as 35 percent, on top of what they already pay in New Jersey state and local taxes, which siphons away income that would otherwise be plowed back into their businesses, invest in new technology, hire additional workers, or provide a raise to a current employee — something so many employers haven't been able to do.

“But while the Small Business Tax Cut Act is a smart step forward, our overarching goal should be comprehensive tax reform that brings down rates, broadens the tax base and makes the tax code more competitive. This will help small businesses get back to work right away.

“Immediately reducing the tax burden on small businessmen and women allows them to keep more of their hard-earned profits and gives them the freedom, the flexibility, the predictability and the confidence to grow and expand their businesses. That translates into more jobs for more Americans!”

                                      Rodney Frelinghuysen

Learn more about the Small Business Tax Cut Act.

More Trade, More Jobs

It was literally years in the making, but it appears that the newest American free trade agreement will soon be taking effect. After failing for years to send the Colombia Free Trade Agreement to Congress for approval, the White House announced this week that the pact will enter into force on May 15.

In America, we do not have to look too far to see many prospective customers, clients and consumers. Beyond our borders are markets that represent 73% of the world’s purchasing power, 87% of its economic growth and 95% of its consumers. 

In New Jersey, we are well positioned to take advantage of this and other free trade agreements. Our Port of New York and New Jersey is a major gateway for the region. Each year, tens of millions of dollars in commerce flows through the port. 130,500 jobs in New Jersey depend on international trade.

Read Laura Meckler’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, “U.S.-Colombia Trade Pact Is Set.”

Rodney’s Subcommittee Moves First Appropriations Bill of the Year

Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, of the House Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, this week became the first of 24 Subcommittee leaders in the House and the Senate to complete preliminary work on his Fiscal Year 2013 appropriation bill.  The Subcommittee approved his draft legislation on Wednesday.

The bill provides the annual funding for the various agencies and programs under the Department of Energy (DoE) and other related agencies, and totals $32.1 billion – a cut of $965 million below the President’s budget request.  And if you set aside the budget rescissions of 2012, the measure is actually $623 million below last year’s level.

Here is Rodney’s opening statement at Wednesday’s Subcommittee “mark-up”:

“I’d like to call the subcommittee to order.

“Before we get started, I would like to thank (Ranking Democrat) Mr. Visclosky and all members for their participation in putting this bill together and their participation in many oversight hearings.

“The bill for fiscal year 2013 totals $32.1 billion, $965 million below the request and $88 million above 2012.

“This last figure – the above 2012 part – is a little misleading. There were many rescissions that we took in 2012 that we can’t take this year. Setting those aside, the bill is actually $623 million below last year.

“Not surprisingly, we had to make some hard choices to reach that level, and I appreciate everyone’s help to get there. The recommendation continues to prioritize investments in our nuclear security enterprise, programs to address gasoline prices, and opportunities to advance American competitiveness, including the Corps of Engineers.

“The only significant account increases over last year’s level are to nuclear security and to rebalance energy investments into a true “all of the above” strategy. We also redirect more appropriate funding to the Corps of Engineers.

“Overall, security funding is increased by $275 million over last year. Weapons Program funding for fiscal year 2013 is at the request, although we do make some changes to increase funding for some priority programs, like the W76 life extension program. Funding for Nonproliferation, although below the request, actually increases for some core programs. $100 million is provided to support new uranium enrichment activities.

“All of our constituents are wrestling with how to pay for higher gasoline bills on limited budgets. This recommendation does not provide a quick-fix, since there is little these programs can do little to immediately raise the supply of fuel, or dramatically lower demand. However, by refocusing funds, the bill provides $1.01 billion – $36 million above fiscal year 2012 – to strengthen Department of Energy programs addressing the causes and impacts of higher gasoline prices in the future.

“The Fossil Energy program is increased by $20 million over last year, or $207 million including rescissions. Within this level, the recommendation funds a new shale oil program to both increase the efficiency and improve the impacts of shale oil recovery. If we could fully use this resource, our country’s reserves could equal all global conventional reserves. This would make a major dent on oil prices, and reduce our dependency on foreign sources of oil.

“Funding for American innovation and competitiveness also receives priority treatment. Within Science research, funding for the domestic fusion program is restored to last year’s level, and the international fusion program is increased to come closer to our commitments.

“Nuclear energy is funded at last year’s level, an increase of approximately $90 million from the request. Within that level, the Small Modular Reactors program would receive $114 million in order to keep it on its five-year funding profile.

“The bill reduces funding for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to $1.38 billion, $428 million below fiscal year 2012 by reducing applied research and development which is closest to deployment. Some of us believe it is time to pull the government back a step from such strong involvement in the private sector.

“The bill protects public safety and keeps America “open for business” by providing $4.8 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, $83 million above the request and $188 million below fiscal year 2012.

“As in fiscal year 2012, the bill maintains the Constitutional role of Congress in the Appropriations process by ensuring that all worthy Corps of Engineers projects have a chance to compete for funding. The bill provides $324 million in addition to the President’s requested projects, investing in navigation and flood control—the activities most critical to public safety, jobs, and the economy. As in last year, the Corps will have 45 days to deliver and justify its spending plan.

“The bill upholds historic cleanup responsibilities by funding Defense Environmental Cleanup at $4.9 billion, less than 2 percent below last year’s programmatic level.

“I can’t let a markup go by without a word about Yucca Mountain. The policy implemented in the recommendation is that Yucca Mountain is the law of the land, and any efforts to move past Yucca Mountain require Congressional action.

“The recommendation includes $25 million to move the project forward, along with similar language as last year’s prohibiting activities which would keep the facility from being unusable in the future.

“The recommendation denies funding for Blue Ribbon Commission activities which need authorization. Research and development activities which do not need authorization and are to support Yucca Mountain are permitted.

“This policy will ensure that we keep Congress in the driver’s seat for nuclear waste policy, not the Administration.”

The President Announces Gas Price Crackdown – Again

If you thought President Obama’s speech this week on rising gasoline prices had a familiar ring, it was not your imagination.  In announcing another “crackdown” on petroleum “speculators” the President echoed similar “crackdowns” he launched in 2011, 2009 and, yes, in 2008.

2011: "President Barack Obama On Tuesday Blamed Speculators For Driving Gasoline Prices Higher And Straining American Consumers, Saying There Was Enough Oil In World Markets To Meet Demand." (Jeff Mason, "Obama Blames Speculators For Rising Fuel Prices," Reuters, 4/19/11)

2009: "President Barack Obama Remains Concerned About Speculation In The Oil Markets Even Though He Has Not Proposed Concrete Steps To Rein It In, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs Said On Thursday." (Ayesha Rascoe and David Alexander, "Obama Still Concerned About Oil Speculation: White House," Reuters, 6/18/09)

2008: The Wall Street Journal'sWashington Wire: "Obama Takes Aim At Energy Speculators." ("Obama Takes Aim At Energy Speculators," The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire, 6/22/08)

Rodney acknowledges that “many factors impact the price per gallon of gasoline, including global events that are not easily controlled by Congress. But some factors are squarely within our control,” he said. “We owe it to the American people to increase domestic oil production and cut bureaucratic red tape.”

This week, the House voted for a fourth time to proceed with the Keystone XL pipeline and bypass the President’s roadblocks to this project that would provide the U.S. with nearly one million barrels of additional oil per day.

But this is just one aspect of a comprehensive energy security policy.  We should be working to cut home and business energy usage and create incentives to conserve, make greater investments in solar, wind power, and other renewable energy sources, build more nuclear power plants to produce usable electricity and using innovation at the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy to help lead the way on comprehensive, clean, and renewable energy.

Read the Washington Post editorial,Obama’s gas ‘crackdown’ will do little to lower prices” here.

Recommended Reading: Reuters reported this week on Iran’s latest efforts to avoid economic sanctions.  Read “Iran Ships 'off radar' as Tehran conceals oil sales.