Kansas Common Sense
Apr 04 2011
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if you think it would interest them. This week I answered a question from two Kansans posed in the "Ask Jerry" section of my newsletter.
This week's headlines are:
- Our Nation is Not Immune to Laws of Economics
- The Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution
- Google Chooses Kansas City, KS as Partner in Innovation
- Supporting Legislation to Repeal EPA Greenhouse Gases Regulations
- Raising Rural Health Care Concerns with Secretary Sebelius
- Senate Slated to Vote Again on 1099 Mandate
- Visiting St. John Hospital
- Touring Cross-Lines Community Outreach
- This Wednesday in Washington: Coffee with Kansans
- In the Office
I spoke to my colleagues in the U.S. Senate this week about my concerns over the president’s request to raise the debt ceiling. In the coming weeks, our nation will reach its $14.29 trillion borrowing limit and Congress will have to vote on whether to raise the debt limit – for the 11th time in the last decade.
In the next three decades, our debt will grow to more than three times the size of our entire economy. It would be irresponsible to allow this pattern of spending to continue without a serious plan in place to reduce the deficit. This debate has serious consequences today and for future generations. If we fail to restrain our government’s spending and borrowing habits, we will reduce opportunities for the next generation of Kansans to pursue the American dream.
We are not immune to the laws of economics that face every country. If we do not face reality and take steps now to tackle our debt, we will find ourselves in a position similar to Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
I recently informed the president that without any indication of his willingness to lead on this critical issue, I will vote ‘no’ on his request to raise the debt ceiling. Spending beyond our means is no longer an option. In the absence of serious and significant spending reductions, reform of the budget process, and a constitutional amendment that restricts Congress’ ability to spend money we do not have – our country’s future is in grave danger. Click here to view my comments on the floor of the Senate.
The best way to get our spending under control is to pass a budget and stick to it. That is why I joined my fellow Senate Republicans on Thursday in unveiling a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. By forcing Congress to be disciplined and live within a budget, we will turn away from record deficits and back to fiscal responsibility.
The Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution – co-sponsored by every Senate Republican – would require the president to submit and Congress to pass a balanced budget each year, cap federal spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product (below the 25.3 percent proposed in President Obama’s 2012 budget), and require a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to raise taxes.
Click here to view a fact sheet on the Consensus Balanced Budget Amendment.
On Wednesday, I was pleased to learn Google signed a development agreement to build their first ultra high-speed network in Kansas City, Kansas. The announcement of this project came in front of excited local community members and a worldwide audience via webcast. Nearly 1,100 cities applied for Google’s “Fiber for Communities” project, which aims to provide a community with Internet speeds up to 100 times faster than what is available to most Americans now. Google will invest tens of millions of dollars in the fiber network and work with Kansans to explore the advantages of high-speed internet.
This project is the first of many potential projects for Google, and we are excited that they chose Kansas City as the location to roll-out this project. Google reported that they wanted to find locations where they could build efficiently, make an impact on the community, and develop relationships with local government and community organizations. This is great news for Kansas families, schools, hospitals and businesses. The future of Internet-based applications is limitless, and Kansans will play a major role in the future of innovation and the effectiveness of high-speed technology. Pending approval from Kansas City’s Board of Commissioners, Google plans to offer service beginning in 2012.
Congratulations to Kansas City for a successful application and to Google for selecting a worthy partner.
Supporting Legislation to Repeal EPA Greenhouse Gases Regulations
This week I spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate in support of an amendment introduced by U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to S.493, the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act. The amendment is based upon the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which I sponsored earlier this month, and aims to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from killing jobs and economic growth by regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The amendment would also invalidate current greenhouse gas regulations and prohibit similar regulations in the future without specific Congressional authorization.
This effort by the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases does two very negative things to job creation: it increases the cost and uncertainty of doing business. This means once again, American businesses are at a competitive disadvantage and are losing access to world markets because of rising costs of production. Unfortunately, it seems our government is no longer neutral when it comes to the success of a business in the United States, but has become an adversary.
Businesses in Kansas and across the country have to compete in a global economy and the McConnell Amendment eliminates uncertainty, reduces the cost of being in business, and allows us to have optimism about the future of the American economy. Most importantly, it creates optimism for Americans who sit around their dining room table wanting to make certain they can keep or find a job. Click here to watch my remarks on the Senate floor.
On Wednesday, I attended a Senate Appropriations health subcommittee hearing on President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget proposal. Testifying at the hearing was Health and Human Services Secretary – and former Kansas governor – Kathleen Sebelius. During the hearing, I raised several of my concerns about rural health care with Sec. Sebelius that are crucial to Kansans’ ability to receive quality care in their communities. The following describe the two main issues I raised:
- Medicare Physician Payment Rates – The Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which determines the Medicare payment rate for physician services, is unsustainable and deeply flawed. Looming Medicare physician payment cuts under the SGR create a major access to care issue for Kansas and other rural states. The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform called for a fully offset payment rate “Doc Fix” after this issue was left out of the health care law, and the president’s fiscal year 2012 budget request includes $62 billion in mandatory health care savings that would pay for approximately two years of this Doc Fix. However, the budget does not specify how it will be paid for, and the cost is estimated to be more than $315 billion. At the hearing I asked Sec. Sebelius to detail the Obama Administration’s plans for a long-term Doc Fix and the proposal to pay for this fix.
- IPAB’s Potential Effect on Rural Kansas Hospitals – The health care reform law created the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) to develop proposals to reduce the growth of Medicare spending. I am concerned about the broad authority this board of unelected bureaucrats has been given to utilize price controls to determine reimbursements for health care providers. In my experience in Congress, rural areas of the country like Kansas suffer when health care decisions are made by bureaucrats looking at budget numbers on a piece of paper, rather than focusing on what resources rural hospitals and health care providers actually need to provide efficient, quality care to patients across a wide area.
The new health care law excludes most providers from IPAB’s cuts through 2019. However, rural Critical Access Hospitals were not exempted from these cuts. Of all the hospitals in Kansas, 65 percent are Critical Access Hospitals. IPAB cuts will jeopardize the viability of many Critical Access Hospitals in Kansas and I implored Sec. Sebelius to recognize the unique needs of rural health care delivery.
Click here to see video clips of my discussions with Secretary Sebelius.
The Senate is slated to vote next week on the House-passed bill (H.R. 4) to repeal the 1099 tax reporting mandate in the new health care law. The Senate adopted a1099 repeal in February, but H.R. 4 is a different version than the Senate measure. If the Senate passes H.R. 4, the measure would then go to President Obama for signature. If the president signs this bill into law, it would mark the first significant change to the health care law – a change supported by both sides of the aisle.
Passage of the 1099 repeal would be good news for small businesses and agriculture producers, who would be particularly impacted by the burdensome provision. Without repeal, the 1099 provision in the health care law would force all businesses, charities and state and local governments to file separate “1099 forms” with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reporting all goods and services transactions valued at more than $600 in a given year. This new reporting requirement applies to everything from office supplies and shipping costs to phone and internet services.
Before the health care law, businesses were required to file 1099s only in limited situations. The new health care law vastly expands this requirement and will bury businesses in paperwork by increasing 1099 filings by 2,000 percent. This onerous mandate will substantially increase the price of doing business in an already challenging economic environment.
On Monday, I toured St. John Hospital in Leavenworth to learn about the services they provide to the community and discuss the hospital’s concerns about the future of health care. St. John is part of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System; they have a medical staff of more than 215 physicians specializing in a variety of services.
I appreciated the opportunity to learn about the major issues St. John is facing in their community and hear their ideas about what it will take to ensure all Americans have access to affordable, quality health care. Thank you to Cynthia Smith and CAO Daniel Sheehan for visiting with me at the facility. Thank you also to Tom Bell of the Kansas Hospital Association and Tim Holverson with the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce for joining us on the visit. Click here to see photos of my visit.
On Friday I had the opportunity to visit and tour the Cross-Lines Community Outreach center in Kansas City. Started in 1963, Cross-Lines is supported by a network of businesses, churches and individuals, and provides a daily source of assistance for at-risk families, citizens and the elderly. I really enjoyed meeting with Roberta Lindbeck, Executive Director of Cross-Lines Community Outreach, Inc. and the board members including: Board Chair Tom Larsen of Presbyterian Church; Board Vice-Chair Steve Borel, Board Secretary Sandie Messer of Retired Hallmark Systems; Kim Kimminau of University of Kansas Medical Center; Nancy Moylan, formerly of the American Cancer Society; Margaret Steele of Kansas Gas Service; and Brad Culver of Great Plains Trust.
I had the opportunity to learn about the wonderful services Cross-Lines provides to citizens in eastern Wyandotte County.
The outreach center offers clean clothing, rent and utility assistance, and emergency medical assistance. They also distribute approximately one million pounds of food annually, including 4,000 pounds grown in their own garden. The Cross-Lines food kitchen provides meals 6 days a week, including sack lunches for the working poor, a food pantry, and monthly commodities that are distributed to the elderly and single mothers with children. Volunteers from local churches deliver the food to those who are home bound.
Cross-Lines’ annual programs include back-to-school back packs, prom dress and suit drives for high school students, and a Christmas store where those in need can do their own shopping. I was touched by the work the volunteers are doing to change lives one person at a time by treating everyone who comes to Cross-Lines with dignity. Thanks to Lou Wiens for the invitation and Theresa Swartwood for organizing the meeting. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
This week I will host our inaugural “Coffee with Kansans” in Washington, D.C. I hope to make this a weekly tradition on Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. EST when the Senate is in session. If you are planning a trip to Washington in the coming weeks or months, feel free to RSVP for “Coffee with Kansans” here . I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday in Washington.
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office from across the state. Click here to view some photos of these groups.
University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Dentistry
American Urological Association
Joint Surgical Advocacy Conference
American Health Information Management Association
Kansas Home Care Association
National Association for Home Care
National Association for the Education of Young Children
American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Select Specialty Hospital
Communities in Schools of Kansas
Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities
General Board of the United Methodist Church
Garden City Chamber of Commerce
Liberal Chamber of Commerce
Great Bendy City Officials
Kansas Housing Authority
Kansas Securities Commissioner
Kansas State Bank Commissioner
GLSEN Safe Schools
Nick Gallegos of Wichita
Midland Care PACE
Interstitial Cystitis Association
Kansas State Board of Education
Kansas Beer Wholesalers
US Canola Association
American Coalition for Ethanol
National Sorghum Producers
U.S. Premium Beef
CHS Board Members
Crop Science/Soil Society of America
Sunflower Electric Power Corporation
McPherson and Monitor Churches of the Brethren
American Society of Civil Engineers
American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)
National Youth Leadership Conference
Housing Authority of the City of Kansas City
Kansas Association of Professional Insurance Agents
Promotional Products Association International
Many Kansans stopped by this week for a tour of the United States Capitol including Kathy Roberts of Pleasanton; Carla and Van Dettmer of Agra; Khan, Ovan and Hai Huynh; Les and Brenda Herrman of Hays; Ed Splichal and Judy Stork; Ann Palmer and Bannon Beall of Topeka; Richard and Ann McConkey of Salina; and Thomas, Judy and Marci Deuth of Shawnee.
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
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