Cut spending, keep tax rates low
Sen. Jon Kyl
Voters across the nation last month expressed their desire for a fundamental change in American governance.
In seeking a new direction for our nation, our people and our policies, congressional Republicans lost the solid majority they held for 12 years and handed the Democratic Party a tremendous opportunity and responsibility.
High expectations for our party have been set. The voters called for a government that would respond to the people’s needs rather than its own. Now we, the Democratic Party, must perform.
With this in mind, I enter the 110th Congress with goals I believe reflect my constituents’ needs and the mood I have sensed throughout my district over the past two years:
● The House must revive integrity in its operations. We are a separate and independent branch of government, and the public expects us to function as such, not as an extension of an administration or on behalf of corporate lobbyists. Positive changes must come about in our voting system and in our adherence to the rules of ethics.
● I intend to promote legislation that improves access to health care, resources for our schools and border infrastructure and development. This investment agenda is particularly needed in my district.
● With colleagues, I have advocated for comprehensive immigration reform. I will again join in promoting legislation patterned after the McCain-Kennedy package. In addition, I will seek and support legislation that provides significant investments in economic and social development in Latin America. We must take a greater and more constructive interest in our neighbors to the South.
● The question is not if we get out of the civil war in Iraq, but rather how and when. I will not support more troop commitments or permanent bases. I will support a phased redeployment of troops, as suggested by congressman John Murtha. The Iraq occupation is one of diminishing returns, and we must change course.
On the whole, the House’s actions will be rooted in the core values of our country. Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi has initiated a “First 100 Hours” agenda, with initiatives to be introduced on the first day:
● Ethics reform: Break the link between lobbyists and legislation and commit to a pay-as-you-go plan, which I have supported since my first term.
● Implement the national security recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
● Raise the minimum wage. Arizona voters approved a similar measure, and it is time for Congress to do the same.
● Make health care more affordable and fix the Medicare prescription drug program.
● Broaden college opportunity and cut interest rates on student loans by one-half.
● Achieve energy independence and eliminate multi-billion dollar subsidies for oil companies.
● Reject any attempt to privatize Social Security.
This new direction represents the priorities of a unified Democratic Party. I cannot predict developments that will happen in the months ahead. However, be certain that the expectations and needs of America will drive this Congress.
On Nov. 7, southern Arizona voters spoke loud and clear: We want change in Washington.
Some changes we want are simple matters of policy, such as raising the minimum wage.
Some are more complicated, such as ending our dependency on foreign oil. And while most folks want Congress to come up with a new energy policy, we also want something a whole lot simpler – new energy.
Did you know the Congress currently wrapping up did not fulfill its most basic job responsibility, passing a budget for next year?
Did you know that most weeks, Congress began voting on Tuesday night and wrapped up on Thursday night, so members could fly home for long weekends? That’s just 2 1/2 days of work each week in the capital.
We’ve already been told we’ll be working a longer week because there is plenty of work to be done.
I plan to roll up my sleeves and get to work on behalf of southern Arizona, our citizens, our veterans and our beautiful land. I will work with Republicans and Democrats alike, because the work we need to do is too important to let it get bogged down in party politics.
Here is what I plan to focus on:
Renewable energy: With critical challenges posed by unstable regimes, high fuel prices and global warming, it is clearer than ever that Congress must get to work on making America energy independent.
We can start by making smart investments in renewable sources such as solar, wind and sugar. We also can raise fuel efficiency standards to reduce the oil we consume.
Honoring commitments to our veterans: As they come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, our veterans need help finding jobs, and they have earned the health care they were promised at enlistment.
Our country has the finest military in the world, and what’s more, it is an all-volunteer force. We should be grateful for sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed services, and that means we should not cut their benefits or use technicalities to deny them the care they need.
Comprehensive immigration reform: When someone as conservative as Sen. John McCain and someone as liberal as Sen. Edward Kennedy can co-sponsor a bill to secure our border and reform our immigration policies, that’s when you know partisanship has been put aside to focus on solutions.
Southern Arizonans know better than most why we need to secure our border, reimburse border communities for the costs of immigration and work out a legal system for guest workers. I will work with the Arizona delegation to craft a comprehensive solution.
I will also vote to raise the minimum wage, ban lobbyists’ gifts to members of Congress and their staffs, and make college education more affordable.
I am honored that the voters are sending me to Washington, and I will approach this new job with a new energy: working across party lines, working hard and working for change.
Congress faces many challenges in the next session – among them taxes, spending and immigration.
Taxes are an issue for two reasons. If we don’t control spending, some argue we should raise taxes. Second, most of the important tax rates expire in 2010. If Congress does nothing, Americans will automatically face a huge tax increase.
In treating patients, doctors have a saying: First, do no harm. Congress should follow that advice regarding the economy. It’s doing well, so whatever we do, we should not cause harm.
If current rates expire, a family of four making $65,000 (the midpoint family income) would see its tax bill increase by more than $2,000 (58 percent) in one year.
A single person making $28,300 (the median national income) would experience a 42 percent increase in income taxes; married couples with average incomes would experience a 12 percent tax penalty just for being married; and seniors, for whom dividends and capital gains account for nearly a quarter of income, would experience an immediate 10 percent, and possibly 20 percent tax, on this income/
Such increases not only would be catastrophic for many Americans and their families, but also for the overall economic health of our nation. So Congress must not increase taxes.
Do we need more tax revenue to avoid increased deficits? No. Our deficit today is below the historic average, and the government is taking in record revenues, further reducing the deficit. For those still concerned that we have a deficit, spending restraint is the better answer.
With more tax revenue, Congress has been spending more money. But your elected officials have the responsibility to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and be accountable for the results. One way is to end “earmarking,” which forces spending on specific projects not approved in the budget. Spending reform must be a top priority of the new Congress, starting with reform that ensures funding bills aren’t loaded with wasteful pork projects.
Finally, we have the unfinished business of immigration reform. Congress recently approved several billion dollars for border security – more agents, fencing, surveillance equipment, roads, vehicle barriers, increased detention spaces, etc. Much work remains to be done. There are still almost four times as many New York City cops as there are Border Patrol agents – so continued resources will be required.
At the same time, we can begin addressing other elements of comprehensive immigration reform, including a temporary worker program, dealing with those already here illegally, and instituting an effective employee-eligibility verification system.
There are many other important issues that face the 110th Congress, and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues – Democrats and Republicans – to find solutions acceptable to the American people.
With a radically different Congress set to take office next month, how will Arizona and our nation fare?
The Tucson Citizen asked the southern Arizona delegation’s victors in the Nov. 7 election to outline their priorities for the pending session of Congress.
Here are their views:
Promote renewable resources
Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat, represents Arizona Congressional District 7
Congresswoman-elect Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat, represents Arizona Congressional District 8.
U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl is an Arizona Republican.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
By Raul Grijalva, Gabrielle Giffords, Jon Kyl