Minnesotans believe in hard work, fair play and personal responsibility. We believe that no matter where you come from, if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams, give the gift of education to your children, and have security in your later years.
My grandpa was a miner, working 1,500 feet underground in the iron ore mines in Ely. He didn't graduate from high school, but he and my grandma saved money in a coffee can in the basement to send my dad and his brother to college. My dad went on to be a sportswriter and a newspaper columnist. My mom was a second-grade teacher who was teaching a classroom of thirty second graders at age 70. I grew up in a middle-class suburban neighborhood, and I knew I'd always have to work hard to get where I wanted to go.
In the past few decades, greed on Wall Street and government decisions that favored those at the top have made it harder and harder for families and small businesses to get ahead. As I travel throughout Minnesota, I hear too often about how the American Dream no longer seems to be within reach for many working families.
Learn about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
Too many hard-working Minnesotans now struggle to make ends meet - squeezed by unemployment, rising health care costs, soaring home mortgage payments, escalating gas prices and mounting bills for child care and college tuition - and, increasingly, the care of an aging loved one.
I'm committed to working for economic policies that benefit all Americans. This means having a strong economy and a laser focus on job creation, affordable health care, homegrown energy and a federal budget that pays our way rather than piling up debt for future generations.
As Minnesota's United States Senator, I believe we must strengthen our economy for middle-class families and create jobs.
Promoting long-term economic growth and job creation. We still have critical work to do in promoting long-term economic growth and job creation. As chair of the Commerce Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion, I believe these efforts must first begin with a return to the economic principles that made America great in the first place-fundamentals like science, technology and innovation. Second, we must renew our focus on small businesses by ensuring they have access to the resources they need to create jobs. Third, we must increase our emphasis on exports for small and mid-sized businesses. Fourth, we need incentives to create our own homegrown energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Finally, we need to improve our education system, updating and enhancing it to train the next generation to compete in a global economy.
Promoting Innovation. Innovation has always been a powerful force in the American economy, and this is particularly true in Minnesota, which brought the world everything from the pacemaker to the Post-it Note. But in a recent study of 40 industrialized nations, the U.S. came in last place for its efforts to improve on areas like innovation capacity and internal competitiveness. I have made innovation the centerpiece of my work in Washington, pushing for stronger investments in federal and private sector research and development. Recently, I introduced the bipartisan American Innovation Act of 2010; which will help turn the technologies created at universities into the businesses that will create the jobs of tomorrow. I also introduced the National Competitiveness and Innovation Strategy of 2010 Act, which calls for the creation of a national economic competitive strategy. The economic prosperity of our country depends on our ability to compete in an increasingly global economy - and we need a plan for how to get there.
Providing support for Small Business. Small businesses are America's job creators, generating 65% of new American jobs, and they will be the key to our economic recovery. It is critical that they have the capital they need to start up and grow. That is why I supported the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, which became law in March 2010. This legislation helps small businesses by allowing broader deductions to increase their ability to invest in the future growth of their businesses, and provides tax credits to help them hire workers as they grow. I have also cosponsored legislation to provide small business with much needed access to capital by extending and enhancing proven Small Business Administration lending programs such as the 7(a) and 504 Loan programs.
Exporting and Competing in the World Economy. America can no longer afford to be a country that consumes, imports and spends its way to huge deficits. For far too long, we have imported substantially more than we have exported, and it's time we got back to being a country that creates and exports to the world. Ninety-five percent of the world's potential customers live outside of the U.S, and yet less than one percent of American businesses reach those customers. To address this disconnect, I introduced the Export Promotion Act of 2010. This bill works to expand export opportunities for small and mid-sized businesses, ensuring they have the tools and capital necessary for reaching new markets.
Encouraging Homegrown Energy. Minnesota has demonstrated that we can reduce our reliance on foreign energy while creating jobs and growing our economy. In 2007 Minnesota adopted a renewable electricity standard requiring 25 percent of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025. A recent study showed that while overall jobs in Minnesota grew by 1.9 percent in the last 10 years, jobs related to the new energy economy grew by 11.9 percent. Similarly, recent reports from Minnesota's Department of Agriculture indicate that Minnesota's homegrown biofuels industry contribute $3 billion to our state's economy. To expand the success we've had in Minnesota in developing a new energy economy, I introduced the Securing America's Future with Energy and Sustainable Technologies Act (SAFEST) Act, which calls for national renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards in line with Minnesota's and provides increased incentives for biofuels production.
Educating the Next Generation of American Innovators. In a comparison of 30 industrialized countries, American students rank 25th for math and 21st for science. Our young people are our next generation of innovators, the people we are counting on to lead the way in everything from uncovering cures for chronic diseases to developing new forms of renewable energy. That is why we need to improve our education system, increasing its focus on math, science and engineering so that we can train the scientists and engineers of tomorrow in classrooms today. I supported the reauthorization of the America Competes Act, a bill that was originally enacted in 2007, and will take critical steps to strengthen and improve our educational system, from kindergarten all the way up to Ph.D. programs.
Bring fiscal responsibility back to Washington. Washington has to get its priorities right and start living within its means. We must address our nation's long-term fiscal imbalances so that we can finally get our federal deficit and debt under control. In January, I worked with a group of 14 senators to block a statutory increase of our national debt limit until the Senate agreed to take an up-or-down vote on the recommendations of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. The Commission is tasked with making recommendations to Congress aimed at putting our fiscal house in order and establishing sound financial policy to reduce our long-term debt.
I also voted in favor of pay-as-you go rules that were adopted by the Senate this year. Pay-as-you-go rules helped produce budget surpluses and a prosperous economy in the 1990s and can help bring fiscal discipline back to Washington now. Additionally, I am a cosponsor of the McCaskill-Sessions amendment, which would establish a discretionary spending cap for Fiscal Years 2010 through 2014. I will continue fighting to keep our budget on a responsible course.
Giving a lift to family paychecks. In my first year in Congress, we passed the first minimum-wage increase in a decade. Americans earning the minimum wage saw their hourly wages increase from $5.85 an hour to $7.25 an hour. Since the passage of this historic legislation, I have fought for policies aimed at putting more money in the pockets of working Minnesotans.
Given the difficult economic times, I have continued to support measures to provide unemployment benefits to help Minnesotans who have lost their jobs endure the current economic crisis and make ends meet. As we continue our work to get the economy back on track, I will continue to push for legislation that creates jobs and provides relief to the millions of struggling Americans.
Addressing the Housing Crisis. I am committed to stabilizing the housing market and keeping responsible homeowners in their homes. In my first months in the Senate, I introduced the First Time Homebuyers' Tax Credit to help first-time buyers of moderate income buy their first homes. A few years later, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included a First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit of $8,000, which has helped many families achieve home ownership. This program was so successful that we extended it through the spring of 2010. I recently voted to extend the closing deadline for homebuyers who have already qualified for the first-time homebuyer tax credit and need some extra time to close on their new homes.
Make health care more affordable. Families and businesses are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of health care. Health care premiums have doubled in the last 10 years. In March, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This legislation focuses specifically on strong cost reforms, protections against insurance company abuses, comprehensive Medicare coverage and debt reduction. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicates that the bill will extend the solvency of Medicare by nine years and help make quality health care more affordable for middle-class Americans.
Address the burdens of middle-class families. In my first months as Senator, I sponsored the Middle Class Opportunity Act, which would increase tax credits for child and dependent care, help families pay for higher education and help families provide for aging parents. The Middle Class Opportunity Act remains one of my highest priorities in the Senate. Last year I supported the Making Work Pay Tax Credit in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which cuts federal income taxes for 95% of working families. I will continue to work to enact legislation to improve the lives of middle class families and provide them with greater opportunity to achieve the American dream by providing middle-class tax relief.
Rebuild our nation's infrastructure. The collapse of the I-35W bridge was a tragic reminder that we have failed to invest in the roads, bridges and other public infrastructure that keeps our citizens safe and our economy strong.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, more than 25 percent of the nation's 600,000 bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 22 percent of transit buses and 32 percent of transit rail cars are "over-age."
Traffic congestion alone costs our country billions. Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic at a cost to the economy of $78.2 billion or $710 per motorist.
We need to invest in a comprehensive 21st-century infrastructure network for our 21st-century economy, including safe bridges, modern highways, forward-looking public transportation, expanded use of technology and integrated planning decisions. These investments will not only ease congestion and increase safety but will also create good jobs for the long term.
Assisting families in caring for seniors. Almost 10 million seniors today need some type of long-term care. While nursing homes and paid care providers serve our elderly in some situations, the vast majority of elder care comes from informal caregivers - more than half of whom are adult children taking care of their parents. On the Joint Economic Committee, I have taken the lead on this critical issue. I have introduced the Americans Giving Care to Elders Act, which would establish a federal tax credit to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member and would help expand programs to provide education, guidance and support to people taking care of loved ones with long-term care needs.