Eyes on the Horizon
Moving our Economy Forward Through Turbulent Air
Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM-01)
State of the District
It is my honor to have represented all of you in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly a decade.
We are an enterprising nation.
Americans love the freedom to figure things out, to make things better and face our challenges directly.
We gather here each year to review the State of our District.
And today, while there are stiff winds and rough air in other parts of the nation, New Mexico's economy is pretty solid.
New Mexico Holding Strong
Five years ago, in 2003, at the State of the District, we talked about our economy.
Then, as now, we faced challenges and we met them.
When we spoke about our economy in 2003, New Mexico's jobless rate was 6.1 percent.
Today it's 3.1 per cent, the 6th lowest in the nation and the best in the Southwest region.
We created more than 8.3 million jobs since August 2003 with 52 consecutive months of job growth.
After enjoying the longest continuous stretch of job growth on record, our national economy is experiencing a slowdown.
On the Horizon
And it will take a steady hand to navigate this turbulence.
I come from a family of aviators.
My grandfather Scotty Wilson was a barnstormer.
My father, Doug Wilson, started flying when he was 13 and celebrated his 16th birthday by getting his pilot's license.
My brothers and I lived our early years in a 2 bedroom house with a den that was full of airplane.
Dad and his best buddy were building their own experimental open-cockpit biplane.
This was no kit plane. They built the jigs to build the ribs to build the wings.
Pilots understand the weather they're flying in so they can plan accordingly.
There are companies here in New Mexico that have made it through rough weather.
ACME Worldwide and Flight Simulators
Acme Worldwide builds sophisticated flight simulators.
I've flown them, and they are much more fun than an X-Box.
Their clients include the Navy, the Air Force, and NASA.
Acme recently had a rough patch and didn't know if they would make it for awhile.
But they did and they are a successful company today.
We're proud that Acme Worldwide is a New Mexico, home-grown operation with 35 employees.
Their Vice President, Joe Crawford, is with us today. Joe, can you please stand?
We're glad you made it through the rough patch.
Pockets of Trouble
The important question for all of us is what should we do -- for the short term and the long haul -- to make a slow down in our economy short and shallow.
I supported the Economic Stimulus Package (HR 5140) that will send millions in tax rebates to consumers this spring.
The bill also contained important reforms for the Housing market.
Congress will consider further action in the coming weeks.
There's a saying in Washington. Congress does two things very well: nothing . . . and overreact.
When it comes to our economy and housing, we must be careful not to over-react in ways that burden the economy rather than stimulate it.
Addressing the House Slump
Economists of all political stripes agree that the current slow-down in our economy is in part because of a bursting housing bubble, driven in part by speculators.
We didn't see some of the speculation in New Mexico that has caused a collapse in values in other markets.
In fact, delinquencies on sub-prime loans are lower today in New Mexico than they were in 2000.
As we address the housing issue in Congress, I will work from some principles that will guide my thinking.
First, homeownership is part of the American dream and a key part of our free economy. We need to keep the dream of homeownership within reach of American families.
We all remember the first home we bought. The deep breath we took before signing that paperwork. How grown up it felt.
Being able to mark the door jam in the kitchen as the kids grow, and put in that new patio or xeriscape the front yard gives families a sense of a stake in the future, and a stake in our community.
Second, I believe the best way out of the housing crisis is to get Americans purchasing homes again. The housing market needs a jump-start, not a bail-out. That means credit must be available for buyers.
Third, lower taxes on middle-class families will help increase homeownership. We cannot tax our way to a housing recovery, and higher taxes on American families will only add to the middle-class squeeze.
Fourth, sunlight works. We must bring reform and transparency to the housing and credit market so that risks are known. Uncertain risk can paralyze the market.
In addition to taking action to address home ownership problems, we need to avoid doing harm.
Era of Low Taxes is at Risk
Unfortunately, there are those in Congress who believe we can tax our way to prosperity.
Government cannot create wealth. It can create the conditions for small businesses and entrepreneurs to invest and create jobs.
That means low taxes and fair regulations.
The era of low taxes is at risk.
The Democrat budget, passed three weeks ago, paves the way for the largest tax increase in American history.
* The marriage penalty will come back.
* Income taxes will go up.
* The child tax credit will be cut in half.
* Taxes will be increased on capital gains and dividends,
* and the death tax will come back to life.
The Democrat budget that I opposed assumes $638 billion in tax increases over the next five years.
Twenty-seven million small business owners would see taxes increase by nearly 20 percent - or about $4,000 on average.
I believe we should make the tax relief we passed in 2001 and 2003 permanent.
Team Technologies and Section 179
Tax relief and its effect on our economy is not just a theory.
Bob and Danny Sachs own Team Technologies Inc.
They do prototyping and production work for Sandia and other companies that use X-Rays, controllers and fire sets.
Bob and Danny are here today.
Danny and his brother say they almost cheered when they heard about the small business expensing provisions in the 2003 tax relief bill.
That caused them to invest thousands of dollars in machinery to grow their business.
They employ 60 people in good paying jobs, and continue to grow.
Bob says the new provisions in this year's stimulus bill might prompt Team Technologies to purchase more machinery to make their company even more productive.
Rocky Mountain Stone Company and Sec. 179
Vince and Lois Lardner started a small gravel and building stone operation and named it Rocky Mountain Stone Company.
It's on the frontage road on I-25 just north of the Big I, and they have a sister company in Belen, called Travertine.
Two of the Lardner brothers, who run both companies, are with us today. Tim and Scott, can you please stand?
Combined, their companies have 75 employees and more than $8 million in sales each year.
John Lardner, another brother who helps run the company today, says that Section 179 has allowed them to purchase equipment like loaders, forklifts, and a dump truck.
Recently, they purchased a John Deere loader for their flagstone quarry near Milagro, New Mexico.
The company hired two new people to keep up with increased production, two new people in rural New Mexico who have a pretty good-paying job to pay the mortgage and the bills.
When you buy a new loader, or new computers for the office, there was a job for somebody who made that equipment, somebody who sold it, and somebody who services it.
That's why we need to make tax relief permanent.
Fighting for New Mexico
We also need to recognize the importance of federal employment in New Mexico.
New Mexico is home to three Air Force Bases, two national laboratories, White Sands Missile Range, and a huge research and development complex.
New Mexico makes a disproportionate contribution to our nation's defense.
These federal jobs are also an important part of our economy and are a large part of the reason that New Mexico is less affected by economic rough air in other parts of the country.
Federal employment adds a measure of stability to our economy.
To put this in context, when Congress passes the defense and energy spending bills each year, the amount spent in New Mexico is more than twice the size of the entire budget of the state government of New Mexico.
We need our delegation to be strong, effective fighters for the needs of New Mexico's military bases, and our labs -- just as Pete Domenici has been.
In my ten years in the House of Representatives, the biggest threat to our bases has been BRAC -- the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
I believe that BRAC is a terrible way to make important national security decisions and I have opposed it at every turn.
Last year, there were those in the House of Representatives - Democrats and Republicans -- who wanted to slash the DOE budget, costing thousands of jobs at Sandia and Los Alamos.
That would have been devastating to our economy at a time when we can least afford it.
As a community, we need to be able to stand and fight for New Mexico's important contributions to our national defense.
In addition to our defense industry, New Mexico is an energy producing state.
One in ten people who had a hot shower in America this morning got it courtesy of natural gas from New Mexico
Powering our Economy
No economy can run smoothly without reliable and affordable energy.
After all, it does the Lardner brothers no good to buy a loader for their rock company if they can't afford the diesel to make it run.
Anybody who has gassed up lately and paid about 3 bucks and a quarter knows that.
And it's not just at the pump that we feel the pinch. The price of everything goes up with energy costs - from milk and eggs, to swamp cooler pads and fertilizer for the tomato plants in the garden.
We need a balanced long-term energy plan to make America more energy independent.
A balanced policy includes production, conservation, and research on new technologies.
I support aggressive, environmentally responsible development of U.S. oil and gas resources on shore and on the outer continental shelf.
Every dollar of domestic production is one less dollar exported to OPEC.
Cuba and China are now drilling in waters off the northwest coast of Cuba, in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. territorial waters in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico are off limits to American companies because of laws passed by the United States Congress.
That makes no sense. And we need to change it so that American companies can explore for energy here at home.
I am cosponsoring legislation by Rep. John Peterson of Pennsylvania - The National Environment and Energy Development Act - which would open additional areas off the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and on the East and West coasts for natural gas development.
I will also continue to support domestic energy production here at home.
I have always been a strong supporter of renewable sources of energy, including solar, biomass, and wind projects.
The 2007 energy bill (EPACT) included a goal that we produce 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022.
But a balanced energy policy must include not just production, but conservation.
We are making progress on being more efficient. I supported the 2007 Domenici energy bill that increased mileage standards for cars by 40% by 2020 and increased building and appliance efficiency standards.
Think about that. If your average car gets 100 miles on a tank of gas today, by 2020 you will get 140 miles on a tank of gas.
That's a big difference on your wallet and a big reduction in imported oil.
In addition to production and conservation, we need to invest in research.
We must look for and support development of game-changing technologies. These potentially include:
* Plug in electric cars (PHEV).
* Bio fuels such as cellulostic ethanol which do not compete with food supply.
* Next generation nuclear power.
* Hydrogen as a transportation fuel.
* Energy storage systems to capture the intermittent power generated from wind and solar sources. Hydrogen is one way.
Scientists in our national laboratories, both Sandia and Los Alamos, and at our universities are working on research applications that will help develop future renewable energy.
We need to keep our eyes on the horizon when it comes to fueling our economy.
There are some leaders who only support domestic production and not conservation or new fuels.
There are other leaders who support only conservation and new fuels while blocking domestic production.
We need some common sense. That means balanced long-term energy policies that include production at home, conservation, and research into game changing technologies.
I want to thank you all for listening today, and I look forward to addressing you again this time next year.
And we'll continue to work on important things like making tax relief permanent, passing a housing bill that preserves the American dream of home ownership, and balanced energy policies.
The future of New Mexico is bright because we will build it together.
Together, we will keep our eyes on the horizon and navigate our way to success even if along the way we find a little turbulence.
God bless you all and God bless the great state of New Mexico