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Newsletter November 2010


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Local Small Businesses Begin to Feel Effects of Small Business Jobs Act

Just a little more than a week after the President signed the Small Business Jobs Act, close to 2,000 small businesses had been approved for SBA-backed loans. A total of nearly $1 billion went to these small businesses.

I'm glad the administration worked quickly to get money in the hands of the business owners that need it to expand and hire new employees. Locally, at least three business owners have already been approved since the new law went into effect. Apon Industries Corporation of San Diego, Hector Romero and Leonor Rom of Chula Vista and Timothy Lewis and Mary Jane also of Chula Vista will be receiving a combined total of more than $4 million in SBA-backed loans.

In August, I held a banking forum to bring together the big and small banks, small businesses, housing advocates and government agencies for an economic roundtable to address job creation, small business expansion and increased bank lending opportunities. The one thing I heard from every group at the Banking Forum was that small businesses need more access to capital. With this law, we have already begun to meet that demand for capital.

Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 Signed Into Law

As House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman, I announced last month that President Obama signed H.R. 3219 into law. The Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 improves and modernizes certain benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for veterans and their families.

This new law is the result of numerous productive hearings and markups, meaningful oversight and bi-partisan compromise -- all to ensure that those who were willing to lay down their lives for our country and their families and survivors, receive meaningful, world-class, 21st Century benefits. These improvements will make a big difference in the lives of many of America's brave veterans.

Specifically, the new law addresses the needs of veterans by enhancing employment opportunities, preventing and caring for homeless veterans, ensuring the welfare of veterans and their families by increasing insurance limits, protecting service members called to combat, honoring fallen service members and their families, strengthening education benefits, addressing housing needs of disabled veterans, and investing in research for Gulf War veterans.

This Congress has been extraordinarily productive for America's veterans. American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster offered the following assessment of progress made for veterans: "The 111th Congress may be remembered for banner legislation such as health-care reform, financial regulation and the recovery act. But in our view, the real successes were the passage of bills that affected nearly every veteran in America." Reflecting upon his visit to Washington last month, Foster said, "I came to town to deliver my testimony on the needs of our nation's veterans. Before I left, Congress had passed half of our legislative agenda."

Fighting for Family Farms

I took a stand in Washington for family farms and conservation efforts by recently co-sponsoring a bill to protect family-owned ranches and farmland.

Estate taxes should not force families to sell their farms. We must protect family-owned farms and ranches, and provide incentives for lasting rangeland conservation.

The estate tax was implemented to ensure that heirs of the wealthiest estates would not benefit unfairly from accumulated family wealth. Over time, increasing land values have had the unintended consequence of forcing traditional family farms and ranches to pay the estate tax. This has led to many farmers and ranchers having to sell parts of their property to pay the tax, resulting in smaller pieces of property and splitting up land that is important for wildlife habitat and watersheds.

The Family Farm Estate Tax Relief Act, H.R. 5475, would add a provision to the tax code allowing farmers and ranchers to defer payment of the estate tax as long as the land is owned within the family and remains in agricultural production. There is also a provision that would defer the tax for land placed into a conservation easement.

The bill is supported by the California Cattlemen's Association, the Imperial County Farm Bureau, the California Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the California Wildlife Foundation, among others.

Calling On President's Deficit Reduction Commission to Look to Cuts in Pentagon's Budget

Last month, I joined more than 50 other representatives and senators in calling on the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to look at cuts to excessive defense spending to help address America's national debt crisis.

We cannot keep going down the path of out of control defense spending that was set under the Bush administration. Any meaningful reform has to include cuts to the Pentagon's budget.

We came together to call on the Commission to look closely at excessive defense spending in an effort to reduce the Federal deficit and national debt. Specifically, our group of 57 members of Congress urged "in the strongest terms that any final Commission report include among its recommendations substantial reductions in projected levels of future spending by the Department of Defense."

Given the size of the U.S. deficit and rapidly growing debt, cutting the military budget must be a part of any viable proposal. The Department of Defense currently takes up almost 56 percent of all discretionary federal spending, and it accounts for nearly 65 percent of the increase in annual discretionary spending levels since 2001.

Significant cuts to defense spending are necessary and can be made in a way that will not endanger national security.

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