Committee Passes Pryor Initiative to Boost Rural Development in Energy Tax Package
The Senate Finance Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Senator Mark Pryor that will jumpstart infrastructure and economic develop projects in rural America. Pryor's rural renaissance initiative was folded into the energy tax package, which is expected to be debated before the full Senate in the next few days.
"Farmers and rural communities have an opportunity to help grow our nation's energy independence. My rural renaissance proposal frees up capital to jumpstart this process and it allows for sound investments for additional infrastructure and economic development projects," Pryor said. "Today's thumbs-up by the Senate Finance Committee is a critical step forward in turning this initiative into law."
Pryor introduced the Rural Renaissance Act in May, along with Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), to provide $400 million in federal bonds to finance rural development for communities of 50,000 or fewer individuals. Proceeds from the bonds would be available for water and waste water projects; housing; farmer-owned renewable energy projects; distance learning; telemedicine and community facilities, such as hospitals and fire stations. The Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture will coordinate the selection process. To encourage not for profits to invest in the low interest bonds, a tax credit equal to 25% of the bond purchase would be available.
Pryor added funding would be available only to rural communities because their urban counterparts traditionally receive more federal dollars for infrastructure projects. According to the 2000 census, only 6 cities in Arkansas had populations greater than 50,000 people. Thirty-two percent of Arkansans live in rural areas and more than 50 percent live outside what are considered metropolitan areas.
"My measure helps keep America competitive by opening new doors for rural towns to participate in our economy. Right now, too many communities are being left behind. New financial tools will help them rebuild, innovate and compete," Pryor said.