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Congressman Capuano's
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
8th Congressional District of Massachusetts

12,456 subscribers

February 17, 2012

Payroll Tax Cut

Today the House passed the Conference Report for H.R. 3630: Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011. Although there are several items in the bill that I support, the main reason I voted against the bill was my concern about its impact on the future of Social Security.

I have always fought for a thoughtful and progressive government Ė one that supports individual initiative, but that also does its very best to make sure no one is left to starve or freeze. I believe firmly in the principles behind Social Security, Medicare, senior housing, fuel assistance, tuition assistance, school lunch programs and so many other programs like the ones listed here. But at all times I have also argued for fiscal responsibility Ė from government and from citizens.

When I was Mayor of Somerville we were required to balance the budget and to live within our means. Those requirements applied during good times and bad and they still apply today.

In my family, we apply the same principles of fiscal responsibility. Pay your bills. If you cannot afford something, donít buy it.

Of course there are exceptions Ö purchasing a home, losing a job, unexpected illness, student loans, and the occasional tough times when you have to max out the credit card. Some debt is normal and expected and even responsible.

Over the last several years America has faced tough economic times. I agreed that we had to invest during these times to fight our way back to fiscal health. Thatís why I voted to save American auto manufacturers and our banking system. I even voted for some targeted tax cuts so that people would have a few more dollars to spend for themselves and our economy.

But I believe the time has come to start our march back to basics Ė it is time to start paying our bills. If we want to keep Social Security Ė we have to pay for it. We need to stop borrowing money from foreign governments to feed our fiscal irresponsibility.

This is why I voted against the extension of the payroll tax cut today.

This bill will put America $100 billion further into debt. Simply put, it will undermine the principle of Social Security, a bedrock program that has been in place for decades.

I understand that everyone could use the $20 - $40 per week this bill provides. And there are other measures in this bill that I could support. But I believe it is time we accept our responsibilities to fund Social Security and time to get serious about our deficit. Borrowing $100 billion to extend another tax cut is not the way to do it.

No amendments were allowed on the Conference Report. Given the choice we had, which was either everyone gets a tax cut or we pay our Social Security bill, I chose the approach that I thought was the most responsible one.

For me, the message of this bill was simple... itís okay to keep adding to the deficit as long as itís for a tax cut. Well, thatís not okay to me. I voted NO. The bill passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















Transportation Reauthorization

The House this week was scheduled to complete consideration of the transportation reauthorization bill, H.R. 7: the American Energy and Infrastructure Act. As I reported to you two weeks ago, this is a terrible bill and I do not support it. There is growing concern about this bill so Republican leadership this week broke the overall package into three parts: the transportation reauthorization bill, an oil drilling bill and a bill to cut federal employee pensions. The last two components are being offered as a way to help fund the transportation reauthorization bill.

The only measure that made it to the floor for a vote this week was H.R. 3408: Protecting Investment in Oil Shale, the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resources Security Act. This bill requires drilling off the U.S. east and west coasts, opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling and calls for priority oil drilling lease sales off of Southern California and Virginia, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. H.R. 3408 also transfers the authority over permitting of the Keystone XL pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and gives that agency 30 days to approve a permit. The Obama Administration has already stated that this just isnít enough time to make a thoughtful decision on the pipeline. The revenue generated from all of this will represent less than 2% of what is needed to pay for the overall transportation bill. I voted NO. H.R. 3408 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















The House did not consider the federal employee pension provision, in part, because a provision requiring federal employees to contribute more to their pensions was also being considered as a partial pay-for for the package extending the payroll tax, unemployment benefits and Medicare payments to doctors.

The House also delayed further consideration of the overall transportation bill, which the President has already said he will veto if it ever gets to his desk. As you know, I am deeply troubled with the approach taken in H.R. 7 to address our nationís significant infrastructure challenges.

H.R. 7 authorizes $260 billion over 5 years for highway, transit and safety programs, which is less than we are currently spending. In addition to the lower funding levels, a number of formula changes were made that will impact Massachusetts. This bill directs 12.3% less transit money to the state than last year. Our highway funding does increase slightly, but not enough to offset what is lost on the transit side. When highway and transit funding are combined, Massachusetts will receive 3.5% less than the last reauthorization. Even though Massachusetts gets less money under this bill, we arenít impacted as much as most other states and the District of Columbia, ranking 17th out of 51 by percentage increase/decrease. We all know that federal budget constraints are real. However, infrastructure spending creates jobs and a comprehensive transportation network is a benefit to a strong economy. A 2007 Federal Highway Administration study concluded that for every $1.25 billion in federal spending on transportation infrastructure, 35,000 jobs are supported.

Historically, federal gas tax revenues have funded the transportation reauthorization bill and some of that revenue has been specifically dedicated to transit programs. H.R. 7 eliminates gas tax funding for transit projects and instead pays for them through the general fund. This is one of my biggest concerns with H.R. 7. I cannot overstate how problematic this change will be to transit programs all over the country, which will now compete with virtually every federal program for funding. Some programs are just eliminated, such as Safe Routes to Schools and Transportation Enhancements, which fund non-motorized initiatives like bike paths and pedestrian improvements.

Instead of investing in our nationís rail system, H.R. 7 reduces Amtrak funding by $308 million. H.R. 7 contains measures that will weaken environmental protections, calling for any required environmental review to be completed within 270 days. If the review is not completed, the project in question will be determined to have no significant environmental impact. It stands to reason that the larger the transportation project the longer it will take to conduct a comprehensive environmental review. Many factors could contribute to the completion of an environmental review and setting arbitrary limits is nothing more than an effort to diminish environmental protections.

There are many more problematic provisions in H.R. 7 and I am pleased that, at least for the short term, action was delayed on this legislation. At this writing, it is not clear how the House will proceed.

What’s Up Next Week

A District Work period is scheduled for next week. The House will return to session on Monday February 27th.

Congressman Mike Capuano
8th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services

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