SMITH OUTLINES SIX-POINT ECONOMIC AGENDA
Hosts roundtable of Oregon community and business leaders to discuss impact of slowing economy; blasts Merkley for tax-hike addiction
Senator Gordon Smith released a substantial agenda today to strengthen the economy, create jobs, restore confidence in financial markets and create greater economic security for Oregon families in these increasingly uncertain times.
"Oregon's economy is in crisis with jobs, home-values and the stock market all in decline. With the cost of food, fuel and housing going up the need for a strong safety grows," Senator Gordon Smith said today. "I'm running for re-election because to fix the economy, Washington, D.C. needs more leaders with the proven ability to bring moderate bipartisan change. We need more leaders with a track record of independence, willing to buck their own Party to find common ground. "
REFORM WALL STREET TO ENSURE RETIREMENT, HOMEOWNER SECURITY
· Strengthen oversight and accountability of the financial markets on Wall Street, including mortgage-lenders, banks, insurance companies and investment banks. New developments in the financial industry have created new risks on Wall Street.
· Modernize our federal regulatory structure to take a more comprehensive approach that can better detect systemic market risks.
· Improve the regulation of new and specialized financial instruments such as hedge funds, convertible bonds, and derivatives. Although hedge funds are estimated to account for 20-30 percent of U.S. stock trading volume, they are virtually unregulated. These private, high-risk investment pools for wealthy individuals and companies may pose significant risks to the market.
· Help Oregon families struggling through the current turmoil in the housing market to avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. That is why I partnered with Senator John Kerry to provide states with $11 billion in new tax-exempt bond authority to provide refinancing loans to subprime borrowers, new mortgages to first-time homebuyers and invest in multifamily rental housing.
· Bar companies from offering 401(k) debit cards to prevent imprudent access to retirement savings and protect Oregonians' nest eggs.
· Strengthen the government safety-net for those hardest hit by economic downturn, including unemployment benefits, funding for food stamps, and increased funding for low income energy assistance.
· I have joined Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) on a bill providing a seven-week extension of unemployment benefits, plus an additional 13 weeks to unemployed workers in states with unemployment rates above 6 percent, which now includes Oregon.
TAX RELIEF FOR FAMILIES AND BUSINESS
· Make the bipartisan tax cuts of today - set to expire in 2010 -- permanent for 1.3 million Oregon families, businesses and farmers; failure to extend the tax cuts is a tax increase of about $2,000 for an average Oregon family.
· Make permanent the bipartisan Smith-sponsored mortgage insurance tax deduction for 130,000 middle and low-income Oregon home-buyers.
· Approve tax credits for renewable energy, including solar, wind, biomass, wave and geothermal - all energy sources that have huge upsides for Oregon's economy.
· Help Oregon middle class families cover the high cost of child care by enhancing the child care tax credit.
· Assist lower income Oregon families and community college students in paying for college by making education tax credits refundable.
· Help Oregon's high-tech sector remain competitive in the global economy by making permanent the research and development tax credit.
· Provide tax relief to Oregon businesses to help them invest in new equipment which will help them expand and create new jobs.
PROTECT NATURAL RESOURCE COMMUNITIES AND JOBS
· Protect and stabilize access to water for irrigation critical to Oregon agriculture and other natural resource industries.
· Increase sustainable timber production on federal lands and create as many as 3,400 full time jobs through implementation of the BLM's "WOPR."
· Fully fund the Clinton-era Northwest Forest Plan to create jobs and restore lost local tax revenues for communities that need both jobs and revenues the most.
· Approve legislation to speed the harvest of dead trees to turn them into green jobs and green energy through biomass electricity generation.
· Extend federal safety net payments to timber-dependent counties, cut by unfair reductions in federal timber harvests.
· Improve scientific research of and maintain access to our coastal waters that support fishing vessels, processors and local communities.
SECURE AN ENERGY INDEPENDENT FUTURE
· Continue to champion the federal tax incentives that have made Oregon a leader in green energy.
· Provide funds to Oregon colleges for training to meet the labor needs of new sustainable energy industries.
· Work to keep BPA electricity rates low, to ensure that Northwest companies can compete in a global economy.
· Ensure that consumers are not gouged for gasoline, diesel and other energy supplies.
· Provide incentives for the next generation of renewable fuels that can be produced domestically without competing with food supplies.
· Provide funds so that Portland and other metropolitan areas can continue to provide and expand their mass transit systems.
· Defend Snake River dams from removal. Tearing out these dams would eliminate clean sustainable electricity generation, raise electricity rates, and devastate shipping and inland ports.
IMPROVE ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE
· Introducing (Sept. 23) the Affordable Coverage for Small Employers Act with Senator Joe Lieberman, laying the foundation to deliver high quality, affordable health care to all Americans by establishing regional purchasing pools.
· Promote Sen. Ron Wyden's Healthy Americans Act, providing a blueprint to reshape the American health care system and deliver health care for all.
· Leading the effort to renew and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
· Protect and expand funding and access to Community Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics and School Based Health Centers.
FREE TRADE TO CREATE MORE OPEN MARKETS
· Complete funding of the Columbia River Channel deepening project to ensure a 43 foot channel for large cargo vessels.
· Approve pending free trade agreements with U.S. allies including Korea, Oregon's fourth largest export market. The Korea FTA will provide duty-free access for the $800 million in high-tech products Korea buys from Oregon every year, and will increase U.S. agricultural exports to Korea by at least $1.9 billion in just the first year.
· Strengthen and broaden our trade relations with countries around the world.
· Support and strengthen Oregon powerhouse employers like Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Intel, who alone provide 27,000 jobs in the state. We should duplicate these employers, not knock them down, so they can expand and bolster our economy.
What Merkley Wants
The last thing Oregonians need during tough times is higher taxes, and that is exactly what Jeff Merkley wants. In 2003, Oregon was bearing the brunt of a recession and had the highest unemployment rate in the nation (8.2%), due in part due to a decline in business investment and a high tax rate. During those tough years, Jeff Merkley's answer was to vote for the two largest tax increases in Oregon history. [HB 2152/Measure 30 & HB 4079/Measure 28]. Fortunately, Oregon voters rejected those taxes, despite Merkley's best efforts.
· A $1.5 billion tax increase on the backs of working Oregonians, who already paid some of the highest taxes in the nation.
· Seniors Citizens would have had to pay an additional $86 million in taxes as the law would have eliminated medical expense deductions for Oregon seniors.
· Homeowners in Oregon, who were already struggling to pay their bills, would have been hit with an additional $40 million in property taxes per year.