The hard work of the American people, combined with lower taxes, have helped our nation's economy grow at a record pace. Since August 2003, more than 8.3 million jobs have been created, with more than 1.8 million jobs created over the twelve months ending in July. Our economy has now added jobs for 47 straight months, and the unemployment rate remains low at 4.6 percent.
The national unemployment rate declined to 4.7% in March, lower than the average of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. In addition, over the past six years 369 firms have opened or expanded facilities in the First District creating over 12,000 new jobs. While we have more work left to do, we are moving in the right direction.
We need to continue the economic development throughout our region. Some of my efforts include helping to secure $500,000 from the federal Delta Regional Authority for the West Kentucky Regional Industrial Development Authority to further develop the Four Star Regional Industrial Park. This federal money enabled the Authority to get access to $322,250 in local and State matching funds. This money helped secure a 428,000-sq.-ft. Columbia Sportswear Distribution center that was built in Webster County. The distribution center is now open and when fully staffed, will employ almost 400 people. I've also helped secure $2.4 million over the past two years to further develop the eight county industrial park project to be located in Graves County.
The coal industry is an important component of economic development in the First District. Today, Kentucky's coal industry has an economic impact of $3.25 billion and employs approximately 17,000 miners, along with tens of thousands of additional workers.
Economic development councils across the District are continuously working to attract new industries. One of the biggest attractions for businesses to locate in a particular area is the tax benefit the company can receive. These tax benefits can only be given by local and state governments. The First District will benefit from these new employment opportunities, and I will continue to work with local and state officials to help attract even more new businesses.
Since coming to Congress in 1995, I have been committed to reducing the heavy burden of taxation on our nation's families and businesses. For this reason, I supported the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Act of 2001, which reduced federal income tax rates for all Americans. In addition, I supported the Jobs and Growth Tax Act of 2003 which lowered the taxes individuals pay on stock dividends and capital gains. Many seniors rely on the income from stock dividends in order to supplement their retirement income and these tax reductions have helped bolster that income. I also supported these tax reductions because they were needed to help stimulate the economy. In fact, college graduates are now entering the strongest job market in five years, and more and more Americans are able to save their hard earned salaries.
Last year, I supported the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act that prevents several current-law tax provisions from expiring this year. These provisions affected a large portion of taxpayers, including small businesses and middle-income families. The focus of this legislation is the extension of relief from the alternative minimum tax (AMT) ensuring 15 million taxpayers will now be protected from paying the AMT. It also provides a two-year extension of reduced capital gains and dividend rates through 2010.
Recently I cosponsored the Fair Tax Act. This legislation will provide permanent estate tax and gift tax relief for farmers and small business owners in the First District. The estate tax, also known as the death tax, is a tax on the value of a deceased individual's assets before they are passed to their heirs. Many economists have noted that the death tax penalizes savings and makes it more difficult for farmers and small business owners to pass on their life's work to their families. Double taxation on an individual's earnings is unfair. This measure eIssue Position: Economy
liminates this inherently unjust tax, allowing Americans who have worked hard their whole lives to pass down the fruits of their labor. In addition, this measure repeals the income tax and employment tax. I will certainly do what I can to ensure this important legislation is enacted during 110th Congress.
In addition, I continue to support legislation that eliminates the marriage penalty and the phone excise tax enacted over a hundred years ago to pay for the Spanish-American War. I also support expanding educational and child tax credits, contributions to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), and deductions for health insurance and long-term care.
We also need to reform the overly complex tax code. The IRS estimated that in the year 2000, Americans spent 3.2 billion hours and up to $99 billion dollars organizing and paying their taxes. With over 150 tax reductions, exemptions, and rebates in the tax code, it is no wonder why so many Americans struggle with the complexity of taxes.
American families work too hard not to keep more of their money. I will continue to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to reduce the overall tax burden and to simplify the tax code.