Productive August District Work Period
Another summer has drawn to a close, and students throughout Alabama are back in the classroom after a couple months of very hot and humid weather. Congress, too, is back in full throttle as we resume business in Washington after meeting with constituents during the month of August.
As you may know, I made many stops throughout the district over the course of the month. From speaking with the Monroeville Rotary Club, to the Foley Optimist Club, to the senior government class at T.R. Miller High School in Brewton, I received feedback from many of you on the hot-button issues we are debating in Washington.
Many noted that our nation's economy is strong. New jobs are being created, and businesses are growing. While this economic news is encouraging, too many Americans are still struggling to keep up with the growing cost of living. More Americans are working now than ever before; however, our salaries are being stretched even thinner.
Our economy has faced many challenges in recent years but has rebounded nicely. Nationally, our current unemployment rate is 4.8 percent. The GDP grew at 2.9 percent in the second quarter of 2006, marking the 19th consecutive quarter of economic growth. Productivity is increasing, and homeownership is at an all-time high.
In spite of this encouraging news, too many Americans are coping with the high cost of living and are struggling to make ends meet. It is hard to take comfort in our strong economy when we all have to cope with the high cost of energy; however, there were promising reports last week about falling gas prices. One gasoline analyst even predicted that by Thanksgiving, prices will be closer to $2.00 per gallon than $3.00; at a station in Loxley in Baldwin County, I paid $2.60 a gallon just the other day.
This is certainly welcome news as the recent spike in prices has put a pinch on most everyone's pocketbook. This year, Congress enacted legislation to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil and expand the use of alternative forms of energy.
Unfortunately, some in Congress have voted no to these proposals, while putting forth no energy plan of their own.
As Americans cope with the high cost of living, the government has a responsibility to ensure that they do not also have to cope with high taxes, and we are working to keep taxes low.
The House has already reduced marginal income tax rates, eliminated the death tax, and provided marriage penalty relief, alternative minimum tax relief, an increase in the child tax credit, and lower rates on capital gains and dividends.
In July, the Office of Management and Budget reported that this year's budget deficit is expected to be $127 billion less than projected just six months ago, putting us on track to balance the federal budget in five years.
As Congress returns to Washington, one of the first items on our agenda will be passing H.R. 5631, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2007. This annual spending bill funds critical defense needs including troop protection, operation and maintenance, research and development, and emergency wartime appropriation needs.
At a time when the men and women of our armed forces are being called to duty in dangerous areas on a daily basisparticularly Iraq and Afghanistanit is important that Congress demonstrates our strong support for their efforts and provide them with some of the support they need, both at home and abroad.
Hurricane Preparedness Reminder
As you all know, we are in the midst of hurricane season, and I encourage you to develop your own emergency plan if you haven't already done so. Remember you should have enough food and supplies for at least three days after a hurricane hits.
Prepare a Disaster Supplies Kit:
Prescription medications and medical supplies
Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows
Bottled water, battery-operated radio and extra batteries, first aid kit, flashlight
Car keys and maps
Documents, including driver's license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, etc.
Develop an Evacuation Plan:
Identify ahead of time where you could go if you are told to evacuate.
Keep the telephone numbers of these places handy as well as a road map of your locality (alternative routes are often required).
Stay tuned to local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Here are some numbers to keep on hand throughout the rest of the season:
Red Cross: 1-800-435-7669 or 1-800-438-4636