Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update - May 2007
In this Issue:
*Voting for a Fiscally Responsible Budget, With the Right Priorities for the Families of California
*Progress for America's Veterans
*Unveiling an Innovative Agenda to Spur U.S. Competitiveness and Make America #1
*Announcing the Winner of the 15th Annual Congressional Arts Contest
*Citizens of the Month
*Constituent Mail Bag
* Useful Website: Track Your Tax Return
Voting for a Fiscally Responsible Budget, With the Right Priorities for the Families of California
After six years of the House passing budgets with deficits for as far as the eye can see, I am proud that my colleagues and I have passed a fiscally responsible budget with the right priorities for America's families. This budget restores fiscal responsibility and accountability, strengthens our national defense, and invests in the next generation and America's prosperity.
I applaud the House today for having passed a budget that finally restores fiscal discipline and reaches balance in five years; unlike the President's budget, which is always in deficit. Such nonpartisan groups as the Concord Coalition and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities have endorsed this budget's approach to restoring fiscal accountability - with the reinstatement of tough pay-as-you-go rule budget to ensure that budget discipline is permanent."
In order to institute fiscal discipline, this budget also includes provisions to invest in efforts to identify and eliminate wasteful spending and improve government efficiency. For example, it contains provisions calling for rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in federal contracting - such as occurred in Halliburton contracts in Iraq and in Katrina-related contracts.
This budget strengthens our national defense and honors our promises to California's brave troops and veterans. The budget provides the largest increase for veterans' health care in the history of our country - providing $3.5 billion more than the President's budget. This will help to ensure that the 2,310,967 veterans in California receive care worthy of their sacrifice.
This budget also puts children and families first. For example, in California, 1,380,800 children do not have health insurance. This budget helps these children by increasing funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) - reducing the number of uninsured children across the county. This budget also provides substantially more funding for California's 6,518,000 children enrolled in public elementary, middle and high schools - providing nearly $8 billion more for education and training than the President's budget.
In addition, this budget helps our economy grow, funding the House Democratic innovation agenda - such as putting us on the path to double funding for the National Science Foundation. In addition, this budget recognizes that the 3,575,200 small businesses in California are the engine of the economy. To spur economic growth and support small businesses, the budget rejects the President's proposal to cut the Small Business Administration by 26 percent from last year's budget.
This budget also provides for initiatives to protect our environment and preserve our planet. For example, it invests in renewable energy and energy efficiency to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce global warming, and promote new technologies that can create American jobs. This budget also restores funding for environmental programs cut by the President's budget - including restoring $28,270,000 in Clean Water revolving loan funds in California that help improve wastewater treatment.
Finally, this budget supports middle-class tax cuts and protects middle-income families from a tax increase by setting up a reserve fund for a long-term fix for the alternative minimum tax (AMT). In 2004, 606,000 California families were subject to the AMT - and if nothing is done to fix the system, an estimated 4,434,000 families here in California will be subject to the AMT in 2007.
The AMT was originally enacted to be sure that the richest Americans did not escape paying taxes because of the loopholes. But inflation is causing more and more middle-class families to have to pay the AMT.
In conclusion, after years of rising deficits and national debt, this budget finally puts us on the right course. By instituting pay-as-you-go budgeting, launching initiatives to root out wasteful spending, and making key investments in America's top priorities, this budget is a step in the right direction for all of America's families.
Progress for America's Veterans
As Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, I am proud to announce an ambitious agenda focused on providing funds for the warrior, reaching out to American's veterans, and providing Congressional oversight with results. In the first 100 days of the 110th Congress, the Committee worked with individuals and organizations to take the first steps to honor our commitment to our veterans.
This Congress has demonstrated that Democrats recognize veteran's health care as a cost of war. In February, we passed a Continuing Resolution that included $3.6 billion above the 2006 baseline. Then the House passed a Supplemental Appropriations Act for 2007 that included $3.4 billion for key veterans programs. On March 29, the House passed a budget for 2008 that would increase funding for VA health care by $6.6 billion of 2007 figures - the largest annual increase in VA health care in 77 years. This action means that $13.6 billion more will be available to treat our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to provide care elderly veterans, and to reduce the claims backlog. The Committee is committed to addressing the serious shortfalls that exist in a VA budget that has suffered years of funding neglect.
I fully intend to continue to reach out to America's veterans. A health care symposium has been planned for May to discuss the health care issues of the newest generation of veterans. The symposium will center its discussion on health issues such as traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder. As Chairman, I will also continue my participation in veterans service organizations (VSOs) breakfast meetings sponsored by Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson. The breakfast will augment existing working relations between the Administration, House leadership, and VSOs to ensure that issues important to our veterans are heard at the highest level of government.
We have made promises to our veterans, and we intend to honor our commitments. Oversight is useful to better understand and work to improve the systems and processes that our veterans face. The Committee will hold oversight hearings to ensure accountability and improve a seamless transition for the troops transferring from the Department of Defense to the VA for their care. The Committee has already begun a series of investigations into information security, procurement problems, and medical records sharing of medical records between the Department of Defense and the VA.
The House Veterans Affairs' Committee will work to provide necessary funding for our nation's veterans, restore accountability and reach out to the veteran community. This Committee will continue to work with veterans, members of Congress and the VA to deliver on the promises to America's veterans.
To see the House Veterans' Affairs Committee Report Card for the First Quarter, go to: http://veterans.house.gov/spotlight/HVACReportCard.pdf
Unveiling an Innovative Agenda to Spur U.S. Competitiveness and Make America #1
The House Democrats have taken the first of many steps during the 110th Congress to implement our Innovation Agenda that will spur economic growth and unleash the next generation of discovery.
To meet the challenges of today and to create the jobs and economic security of tomorrow, we must act now. With our Innovation Agenda, we will assert our global economic leadership, create new business ventures and jobs, and give future generations their own opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
This effort began nearly two years ago outside Washington in meetings with leaders and CEOs from many fields: academia, venture capital, and entrepreneurs from the high-tech, biotech, and telecommunications sectors who are creating the jobs of tomorrow. This agenda involves partnerships with the private sector to invest in a workforce ready for global competition. It will create a new generation of innovators, invest in federal research and development, spur affordable access to broadband, achieve energy independence, and provide small business with tools to encourage entrepreneurial innovation.
In April, the House passed legislation that addresses crucial innovation and competitiveness issues for our country. Those measures will increase the number of highly qualified math and science teachers in K-12 (H.R. 362) , support young researchers to foster the most innovative scientific research (H.R. 363) , and make capital more accessible for small businesses, which are catalysts for technological innovation (H.R. 1332).
With the Senate also moving forward on these issues, and President Bush having indicated his support for innovation and competitiveness issues, we hope to make real and long overdue progress on this critical Innovation Agenda.
Already this year, House Democrats have led the way in promoting innovation through smart investments in education, science, and research and development in 2 budget bills, the Continuing Resolution, and the fiscal 2008 Budget Resolution.
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