Issue Position: The Economy and Retirement Security
"I am leading efforts to spark economic growth and spur small business investment - but there is more work to be done funding key infrastructure projects and creating jobs." - Congressman Mark Kirk
While the U.S. economy has shown robust growth and over a million jobs have been created this year, Congressman Kirk is working hard to ensure the security and stability of investments that serve as the basis of retirement security for millions of Americans. Congressman Kirk's economic development plan includes: expanding O'Hare International Airport - creating 700,000 new jobs; cleaning up Waukegan Harbor - sparking $1 billion in new investment; enacting medical liability reforms - stopping the exodus of Illinois doctors; and expanding Metra rail service - offering cleaner, safer transportation.
The federal Social Security program is one of the towering achievement of the 20 th century. Under its operation, millions of Americans in the Greatest Generation who worked hard and played by the rules found greater peace of mind because the program existed. Given the expected demands on this program, Congressman Kirk believes that every member of Congress should be a fiscal conservative. Before creating new programs, Congress must cut spending and restrain growth of government to ensure Social Security meets the retirement needs of Americans.
Congressman Kirk supported the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (H.R. 2), comprised of several bills he co-sponsored, that reduced the tax burden on all Americans, removed more than 3.9 million low-income Americans from the tax rolls completely, eliminated the death tax, eliminated the marriage penalty, increased family tax credits, and increased the contribution limits for Education Savings Accounts.
He will continue to support legislation that eases intrusive government regulations that unnecessarily increase the cost of doing business. The current regulatory structure impedes small business growth and costs the American economy more than $800 billion annually. Congressman Kirk will also continue to champion policies that enhance job training programs and allow businesses to increase investment in their workforce.
To further stimulate the economy and create jobs:
* Congressman Kirk supported the Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002 to encourage companies to reinvest in their businesses. (H.R. 3090)
* He worked to enact policies designed to lower taxes, reduce wasteful government spending, and maintain low interest rates - all keys to allowing businesses to grow and create new jobs, and individuals to accumulate wealth.
* Kirk supported legislation to grant the President Trade Promotion Authority, preserving the more than 600,000 export-related jobs, $32 billion in annual Illinois exports, and allowing Illinois companies to expand their export markets and create new jobs. ( H.R. 3005)
* Congressman Kirk co-sponsored House legislation to modernize O'Hare International Airport. Once passed, this project will inject $7 billion into our economy and will provide jobs for 200,000 people. ( H.R. 3479)
* He helped eliminate intrusive and burdensome Occupational Safety and Health Administration ergonomics rule that would have cost employers in excess of $100 billion and thousands of American jobs. (S.J.Res. 6)
* Kirk supported the Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002 to encourage capital investment through tax incentives and support displaced workers with enhanced job training and improved benefits. (H.R. 3090)
* Congressman Kirk supported the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act to help airlines retain employees by offering federal loan guarantees to companies with sound business plans. (H.R. 2926)
* He fought to successfully repeal the Death Tax, lifting an unfair burden on family-owned small businesses and preserving jobs.
* Congressman Kirk fought to successfully eliminate the marriage tax penalty. (H.R. 1836)
Social Security is the most important federal senior program providing financial backing to millions of Americans who worked hard for their retirement. Our nation's seniors built their retirement security on a foundation of benefits earned throughout their career. Future retirees deserve the same confidence in a solvent Social Security system.
President Bush has put strengthening Social Security at the top of his second term agenda. In the coming months, I will carefully review the details of his proposals. As I review any proposed Social Security reforms, I will apply three key principles:
1. Current retirees must receive their full entitled benefits,
2. Americans about to retire will also receive full benefits without a change in the retirement age, and
3. Any reforms must strengthen the financial foundation of Social Security.
If a proposal does not fulfill the promise of these principles, I will not support it. Over the coming months, I will work with my colleagues in Congress to develop a sustainable system that keeps Social Security in tact for retirees and assures financial stability for younger workers.
To further protect retirement savings, Congressman Kirk:
* Supported provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act to increase the annual Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and 401 (k) plan contribution limits from $2,000 to $5,000 and $10,500 to $15,000, respectively. (H.R. 1836)
* Supported legislation to permanently raise these contribution limits. (H.R. 4931)
* Supported the Pension Security Act of 2002 to protect pension and 401 (k) plans by giving employees investment advice, the right to sell company stock in their plan, receive periodic benefit statements, and by protecting participants from restrictions, limitations, or suspensions of their right to diversify their investments in the plan. (H.R. 3762)
* Supported the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, requiring that corporations immediately disclose investor information, providing criminal sentences for executives who defraud investors, and allowing the government to seize ill-gotten gains to refund defrauded investors. (H.R. 3763)
Congressman Kirk believes that in a time of war and economic recovery, we must set priorities and cut spending in lower priority accounts. To assure the federal government spends within its means, Congressman Kirk led efforts to enact a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, change federal accounting standards by introducing the Good Government Accounting Act (H.R. 5094), and strengthen budget rules using his "12 Consensus Principles to Limit Federal Spending." Among these principles: automatic spending reductions; accounts for emergency spending; and a line-item veto.
As a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Kirk led efforts to fight government waste by voting against ten amendments to increase government spending by $24.4 billion, voting against the $274 billion Farm Bill (H.R. 2646), and offering legislation to reform the wasteful sugar subsidy program (H.R. 2081) that costs taxpayers over $500 million annually.
Congressman Kirk will continue to support meaningful federal investments in infrastructure, defense, education, and job creation. He will also work to curtail wasteful spending that takes money away from investment in new jobs and economic growth and threatens to increase the federal deficit.
Congressman Kirk believes the values of Main Street must govern the business of Wall Street. That's why he voted for the toughest corporate crime law in a generation to help restore investor confidence and strengthen retirement savings. The congressman:
* Strongly supported the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, to ensure the integrity of external audits, prevent unscrupulous executives from defrauding investors, and provide strict criminal penalties for those who do. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act:
+ requires publicly-traded companies to disclose material information immediately, not quarterly as was the practice under the prior law. (H.R. 3763)
+ dramatically increases fines and jail time for those who defraud investors. Under new sentencing guidelines, corporate criminals will serve up to 20 years in a real jail, not a "Club Fed." Corporate criminals now face losing their freedom for the rest of their natural lives if they lie to investors on their corporate balance sheet.
+ grants broad authorities to the government to seize the ill-gotten gains -- yachts, jets, houses -- to refund defrauded investors. Under the old law, a state's attorney general or a trail lawyer would reap most of the money recovered in a court case. The new law focuses on returning funds to those most directly affected.
Congressman Kirk will continue to support reforms to the criminal code and the regulatory structure that ensure the accuracy of financial statements, protect the interests of investors, preserve the benefits of stock option and 401 (k) plans, and prohibits executives from fraudulently profiting at the expense of rank and file workers.