e-News 11/3/17

e-News 11/3/17

  • Tax Reform:  Let me Hear from You!
  • ICYMI: My Op Ed piece in the Daily Record
  • Championing Children’s Health
  • Robust Business at the Port of New York and New Jersey
  • Terrorism Again in Lower Manhattan
  • Oversight Visit to Iraq and Lebanon
  • Salute: To Sparta’s Jackie O’Donnell


Tax Reform:  Let me Hear from You!

Yesterday the House Ways and Means Committee released a 400-page draft of its proposed tax reform bill.  As someone once said, “the devil is in the details” and I look forward to evaluating carefully the draft to determine the legislation’s effect on New Jersey.  

Of course, I begin this evaluation fully understanding that certain provisions, like the deduction for State and Local Taxes (SALT) and the mortgage interest deduction, are critically important for New Jersey taxpayers.

As always, I invite residents of my Congressional District to let me know what they think.

Read the text of the tax reform bill here.

Read a Section-by-Section Summary of the bill here.

Email your views on tax reform or any other subject here.

ICYMI: My Op Ed piece in the Monday Morris County Daily Record,

“OPINION: House Appropriations getting the job done”

Published Oct. 30, 2017

The conventional wisdom is that Washington is broken. However, if one were to go looking for what actually works in Congress, one need only look to the House Committee on Appropriations.

This committee, charged with providing the funding for every federal government program, agency and office, passed 28 bills this year alone. This total includes the “regular” FY 2017 and the FY 2018 appropriations bills, several stopgap “Continuing Resolutions” and two emergency disaster assistance bills to aid the victims of hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. These 28 bills were developed, drafted, debated and passed between January and October of 2017, upholding Congress’ authority under the Constitution to fund our obligations at home and abroad. In essence, we completed more than two appropriations cycles in just eight months.

The ultimate achievement was passage in September of all 12 of our FY ’18 appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. This was the first time it had been accomplished since 2004 and it was done through “regular order” with each of the bills fully debated, along with over 400 amendments. Furthermore, the deed was accomplished within just four months of receiving the details of the new President’s first budget proposal — a new congressional record.

Of course, process and speed are important. But so, too, are the actual contents of these bills which contain important funding for projects in New Jersey. A prime example is the more than $900 million the committee included for eligible programs such as the Gateway project in the New Jersey-New York area. Now more than ever, it is imperative to our economic survival.

While important, Gateway is just one example of provisions that will benefit New Jersey.

To protect our state from emerging terrorist threats, the committee continued to fund the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), which assists the New Jersey-New York Metropolitan Region with efforts to build and sustain the capabilities to prevent future 9/11s. We also doubled funding for Nonprofit Security Grants to support security enhancements for synagogues and other faith-based centers which were targeted earlier this year in a series of bomb threats.

The committee also supported New Jersey Task Force 1, which responded to lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and performed critical work during this year’s hurricane season.

In addition to providing funds for New Jersey’s military installations, Picatinny Arsenal, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Naval Weapons Station Earle and the 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic City, the legislation includes funding that will increase New Jersey’s military contributions. For example, the committee provided significant new funding to allow scientists and engineers at Picatinny, the DoD Joint Center of Excellence for Armaments, to accelerate their work to ensure that our weapons systems overmatch those of our adversaries. The bill also includes funding to expand production of the new KC-146 air refueling tankers that will soon be stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, enhancing the future missions, and jobs, at the New Jersey base.

The committee also provided full funding for the Chemical Safety Board, a program slated for elimination by the Trump Administration. We approved a $28 million increase in the Superfund hazardous waste clean-up program and targeted an additional $10 million for open space preservation from willing sellers in the New Jersey Highlands, a major source of drinking water for northern New Jersey.

The committee also continued to fund the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the Green Brook Flood Control Project, and boosted the number of disabled people who will be able to use “Frelinghuysen Rental Vouchers” to pay their rent.

In fact, many programs important to New Jersey, such as Community Health Grants, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), National Institutes of Health (NIH) the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and research and development at colleges and universities, including New Jersey Institute of Technology, Stevens Institute of Technology and others, were funded despite the President’s attempt to slash or eliminate them.

At the same time, the Appropriations Committee recognizes our obligations to the next generation. Clearly, we need to reduce government spending. And we have, with bipartisan support, cut discretionary spending to levels, not seen since Fiscal Year 2008.

We have come very far in just a few months: 28 bills developed, drafted, amended and passed this year alone. But we also have much work to do to complete our work on behalf of the nation and our state.

Championing Children’s Health

With my support, the House this morning H.R. 3922, the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act, legislation that funds important programs like the state Children’s Health Insurance Program, multiple community health centers, and other important public health priorities.

Extends Valuable Health Programs

• Five Year Extension of The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): CHIP is an important safety net program that provides health care to lower-income children. In 2015, more than 8.4 million children received their health insurance through a CHIP program. The bill extends CHIP funding through FY 2022 and ensures children continue to receive coverage through state CHIP programs.

• Two Year Extension of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), community health centers that are community-based, patient-centered organizations that provide comprehensive health services to medically-underserved populations, regardless of their ability to pay. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, in 2015, community health centers employed nearly 190,000 people and served over 24 million patients. One in 13 people nationwide rely on a health center for their health care needs.

• Two Year Extension of the National Health Service Corps, Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education, Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, the Youth Empowerment Program, and the Personal Responsibility Education Program are included in this bill

H.R. 3922 also provides additional Medicaid assistance

• The bill includes over $1 billion for the Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to help shore up those programs so hurricane victims can receive access to care.

• Averts FY2018 and FY2019 Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital Reductions: The bill eliminates the $5 billion reductions included in the Affordable Care Act that are scheduled under current law.

Robust Business at the Port of New York and New Jersey

A recently released study by the New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and the New York Shipping Association indicates that container traffic at the Port of New York and New Jersey has jumped 24 percent, bringing with it a corresponding increase in jobs, individual and business revenue and local, state and federal tax revenues. Other cargo sectors increased during the study period of 2014 – 2016.

One of the primary enablers of this surge in commercial activity undoubtedly is the now-completed 20-year Harbor Deepening Project, funded by my Appropriations Committee.

Our Port is the economic engine for northern New Jersey. Ninety percent of global trade moves by ship, so I made it one of my highest priorities in Congress to ensure the Port of New York and New Jersey, the largest on the East Coast, remains the most attractive destination for international trading partners.  This study shows that our efforts are paying off for our state!

Through my work as the only New Jersey member of the Appropriations Committee and past Chairman of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, I fought to secure hundreds of millions of federal dollars for the Harbor Deepening Project since its authorization in 1997. 

By dredging the main channel to a depth of 50 feet and raising the deck on the Bayonne Bridge, the Port can accommodate the newest container ships, which will be sailing along the U.S. East Coast, now that the upgraded Panama Canal has opened to the world’s largest ships. 

According to the report, compiled jointly by the New York Shipping Association and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, the Port accounted for nearly $8.5 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue last year and supported more than 400,000 jobs, up 20 percent over the two-year study period.  Port businesses and agencies employ 229,000 workers and support another 171,000 indirect jobs. The jobs include longshoremen, truckers, shipping clerks, mechanics, warehouse workers, tug boat operators, police and inspectors, and others.

In addition, the port industry was responsible for $25.7 billion in personal income and $64.8 billion in business income, up 21 percent for the period.

According to the report, New Jersey accounted for the greatest number of Port jobs with 200,350 and total jobs with 344,470. The state also was responsible for the bulk of the taxes generated by the port industry with nearly $7 billion in federal, state and local revenue, which included more than $2.2 billion in local and state taxes and $4.8 billion in federal taxes.

The Harbor Deepening project was a great example of how creative forward thinking and public-private partnerships can provide benefits for our region for years to come. We’re beginning to reap real rewards and keeping our Port open for business!

Read a summary of the report here

Terrorism Again in Lower Manhattan

This week’s terror attack in Lower Manhattan was a cowardly act designed to instill fear upon all of us.  That horrific act is another reminder that we cannot ever be complacent because the forces of international terrorism are constantly plotting and planning to do harm to us and our allies across the globe. As we defeat ISIS and affiliated groups overseas, we must be vigilant here in our country as they seek other ways to attack. 

As evidence, I invite you to examine the House Homeland Security Committee’s latest Terror Threat Snapshot.

Oversight Visit to Iraq and Lebanon

Our first responsibility in Congress is to protect our nation and the American people. To that end, I joined Congressman Mac Thornberry (TX), the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on an official oversight trip to the Central Command area of operations.  We met with key military leaders and troops. 

The purpose of the trip was to conduct oversight and explore policy, strategy, and funding issues associated with the deployment of U.S. and Coalition forces in the Middle East.  Oversight included examination of regional dynamics, threat trends, military-to-military cooperation with coalition partners, counterterrorism efforts, U.S. force posture in the region, and resource requirements.

Thornberry and I are charged with Congressional oversight of the United States’ efforts to defeat the terrorist threat and support countries in the region that share our values and goals. His panel sets policy for the Department of Defense and mine funds operations of the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community.

We also visited with U.S. Marines in Beirut, Lebanon and soldiers in Baghdad, Iraq among other locations.

Salute: To Sparta attorney Jackie O’Donnell who is establishing a scholarship program in honor of Ralph Rojas, a Sussex County resident and Korean War veteran. The mission of the scholarship is to help military veterans and their families defray some of the costs associated with continuing education when they return home from military service. Details of the scholarship will be announced this Sunday at the celebration in honor of Rojas at Sparta VFW Post 7248.  

Read more about the program in Lori Comstock’s story in the New Jersey Herald here.

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