Kansas Common Sense
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Last week, the Senate considered two competing tax proposals, and both came to a floor vote on Wednesday. The Democratic proposal offered by Majority Leader Reid, S. 3412, will raise the estate tax on family farms, small businesses and ranches from its current top rate of 35 percent to 55 percent. According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the number of estates hit by this tax will rise from 3,600 to nearly 47,000. This tax increase comes on top of significant small business tax increases also included in the legislation. A study published by Ernst & Young indicates these tax increases will shrink the economy by 1.3 percent and shed 710,000 jobs from the American workforce.
Nothing hinders the transfer of the family farm from one generation to the next more than the estate tax. It is an unfair, unjust burden on our economy and it punishes Kansas who want to continue their family business. I was discouraged to see the bill pass along party lines by a vote of 51-48. The Republican alternative offered by Senators Hatch and McConnell, which would have extended all of the Bush tax cuts for one year, was defeated by a vote of 45-54.
This coming week, the subject of Senate floor debate will be cybersecurity legislation. An agreement to proceed to this bill, S. 3414, passed the Senate by a vote of 84-11 on Thursday.
Defending America’s Cattlemen
Last week, we discovered a USDA employee newsletter titled Greening Headquarters Update that discouraged USDA employees from consuming meat and dairy products on Mondays in USDA cafeterias. The newsletter says that, “According to the U.N., animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change. It also wastes resources.” The newsletter goes on to question beef production and consumption by stating “beef production requires a lot of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides. In addition there are many health concerns related to the excessive consumption of meat.”
I would never have expected USDA to be opposed to farmers and ranchers. American farmers and ranchers deserve a USDA that will pursue supportive policies rather than seek their further harm. I was infuriated by the content of this newsletter and took a copy down to the Senate floor to bring it to attention of my Senate colleagues. You can watch my floor speech here. This newsletter was quickly taken down by the USDA, but you can click here to read it on my website. USDA responded with a written statement saying that the department did not endorse Meatless Mondays and that the newsletter did not go through the proper approval process. However, I am still concerned that bureaucrats in Washington D.C. fail to recognize the contributions that the U.S. meat and dairy producers make to our global food supply.
Thirteen of my Senate colleagues joined me in writing a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack questioning the wisdom of USDA taking such a stance. With extreme drought conditions plaguing much of the United States, the USDA should be more concerned about helping drought-stricken producers rather than demonizing an industry reeling from the lack of rain. I will continue to work to ensure that government policies provide the necessary support for this important sector of our economy.
American Needs Comprehensive Tax Reform
On Tuesday, I spoke on the Senate floor about the need for comprehensive tax reform. I offered my support for a simplified tax code that would reduce the burden on individuals and small businesses, and ultimately boost the economy. By reforming our broken tax system, Kansans will once more be in charge of their lives and their money.
I am a longtime supporter of the Fair Tax, which seeks to eliminate the payroll, estate and many other taxes and replace them with a national sales tax on purchased goods. Placing all Americans on equal footing, the Fair Tax would allow American businesses to thrive while generating needed tax revenue.
This coming January, our nation faces a fiscal cliff. On top of the tax increases included in the President’s health care law, if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, a tax increase of $494 billion will strike the economy. For Kansans, that is an average tax increase of nearly $3,000 per tax return. It is estimated that 70 percent of the looming tax increases will fall directly on low and middle-income families. We simply cannot afford to go another year with replacing our convoluted and freedom-restricting tax code. Click here to watch my remarks on the need for a fairer, simpler and pro-growth tax system.
Defending Americans’ Second Amendment Rights
On Thursday, I led 50 of my Senate colleagues in expressing concern about the dangers posed to Americans’ Second Amendment rights by the United Nation’s Arms Trade Treaty. The 51 Senators who signed onto my letter notified President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton of our intent to oppose ratification of an Arms Trade Treaty that in any way restricts the rights of law-abiding American gun owners.
Late Friday evening, it was announced that the U.N. conference on the Arms Trade Treaty failed to reach a consensus and did not report a draft treaty to member nations. This is a very positive outcome for American gun owners, but is far from the end of the effort to regulate small arms worldwide. The Chairman of the conference has already stated his desire to resume work on the treaty this fall at the U.N. General Assembly, and the Obama Administration has indicated its support for additional negotiations following the presidential election.
I am pleased to see that the efforts of my Senate colleagues and the millions of gun owners across our country who made their voices heard have been rewarded. There is no denying our impact in steering the Administration in a positive direction, encouraging their opposition to any Arms Trade Treaty that infringed upon our constitutional rights. As this process continues, I will continue my efforts to protect our firearms freedoms and make clear that any treaty which violates the Second Amendment rights of Americans is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate. Click here to read more.
Questioning Treasury Department’s Use of Taxpayer Dollars
This week, I requested additional information from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about some promotional materials recently produced by the Treasury Department using taxpayer money. These “advertisements” essentially lobbied for more money for the SEC and CFTC to implement the Dodd-Frank Act and were directly critical of House Republicans for not giving the government every dollar they asked for. Despite the presence of several laws which prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to produce this type of propaganda, the Administration has not sent any signal that they will stop this sort of abuse. I am awaiting a response from Secretary Geithner and hope he takes the necessary steps to put an end to this prohibited usage of taxpayer dollars. Click here to learn more.
Economic Mobility Caucus Launched in Senate
Our country has historically been a place where regardless of one’s background, anyone can achieve success through hard work. That opportunity to move up the ladder is the foundation of the American Dream. This week, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and I created the first-ever Economic Mobility Caucus to provide a forum to discuss the policies Washington needs to pursue to make certain our children and grandchildren can live in an America that allows them to dream big and pursue those dreams.
The optimism an economically-mobile society fosters is critical if we are to remain a country characterized by entrepreneurship. Since the founding of the United States, many Americans have started with little more than a good idea, and in pursuit of that idea have gone on to achieve much success. Yet, data about entrepreneurship indicate that fewer Americans are starting businesses than in the past and the United States has dropped in the World Bank’s rankings of startup friendliness from 4th in 2007 to 13th last year. The Economic Mobility Caucus will facilitate discussion of ideas and information that will help Members of Congress pursue policies that keep America the land of opportunity. Click here to read more.
Raising Awareness of Water Availability
Along with Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, I co-founded the bipartisan U.S. Senate Water Caucus this week to study policies that will ensure the future availability of fresh water. Because water is one of our most precious natural resources, the Water Caucus’ mission will be to explore options that will preserve and expand water availability through technology, conservation, and best management practices.
Access to a plentiful supply of water is essential and efforts to preserve it will require leaders at every level of government to work together. The Senate Water Caucus will serve as a forum for these leaders so we may better understand the steps necessary to ensure a reliable, abundant supply of water remains available. Much of the country is currently is currently experiencing extreme drought conditions. The drought remains one of the top concerns I hear from Kansans and my work on the Senate Water Caucus will be to reflect those concerns.
Senate Passes Bill to Recognize 100 Years of Lions Service
On Thursday, the Senate passed legislation I authored to recognize the volunteer contributions of Lions club members in Kansas and around the world. The Lions Clubs International Century of Service Commemorative Coin Act, S.1299, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first Lions Club in 1917 by authorizing the U.S. Treasury to mint $1 silver coins in 2017. Proceeds from the sale of coins will go toward Lions’ efforts to assist the blind, visually impaired, and disabled; to invest in youth; and to help those affected by major disasters. Importantly, the bill will not cost taxpayers a dime as the sale price of the coins will cover the cost of minting.
Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with 1.35 million members in more than 45,000 clubs in 206 countries and geographic areas, including more than 270 clubs in Kansas. Lions Clubs have empowered generations of Americans to serve their communities and meet humanitarian needs. The Lions Clubs International Century of Service Commemorative Coin Act is a fitting way to honor the great charitable work of millions of volunteers since the organization’s inception.
Wabaunsee County Fair Parade
On Sunday evening, I participated in the 2012 Wabaunsee County Fair Parade in Alma. It was another warm Kansas summer evening, but as always, many local residents participated in or attended the parade. The parade kicks off a multi-day celebration, including timed horse events, a rodeo, and many social events. It was good to be back in Alma and to visit with Wabaunsee county residents to get a dose of common sense before returning back to Washington. Special thanks to Alan Hess for driving the vehicle I rode in during the parade. Click here to view photos from the parade.
Wilson After Harvest Czech Festival Parade
Beginning in the 1870’s, Czech immigrants from Bohemia migrated to Wilson, Kansas to work on the railroad, establishing the community’s culture and eventual designation as the “Czech Capital of Kansas.” On Saturday, I was pleased to join Wilson residents in celebration of their heritage at the community’s 52nd Annual After Harvest Czech Festival.
I was particularly honored to present a plaque recognizing parade grand marshal, Christy Dowling. A senior at Kansas State University from Hays, Christy is the first Kansan to be crowned Miss Czech Slovak USA. Parents, Bill and Lynn, and grandparents, longtime Wilson residents Bob and Joan Malir, can take great pride in Christy and her accomplishments.
A special thanks to Dr. Dennis and Jennifer Kepka for driving me in their 1965 Mustang Convertible. Thank you also to Brian Boisvert, general manager of Wilson Communications; Kate Schiermeyer, parade coordinator and Kayla Cullens, festival chairwoman, for arranging my participation. Click here to view photos from the parade.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
Dale Jones of Council Grove
Kansas Kids @ GEAR UP
Corinne Nilsen of Wichita
Victor Chavez of Wichita
Kelley Graham of Wichita
Riccardo Harris of Wichita
Barbara Koch of Pittsburg
Todd Biggs of Pittsburg
Antoyia Fortune of Kansas City
Mario Porras of Topeka
Sherlice Spicer of Kansas City
Dakota Taylor of Pittsburg
Susan Dunham of Kansas City
Deltha Colvin of Wichita
Emily Beneda of Wilson
Glendolyn Neely of Chanute
KSU Milling Science students
Brad Hermreck of Wichita
Becky Benoit of Damar
Alexish Essary of De Soto
Jackson Langcuster of Overland Park
American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation & American Legion Boys Nation
Leah Albee of Leavenworth
Naomi McClendon of Manhattan
Cain Mathis of Topeka
Robert Egan of Wichita
Thane Chastain of Wichita
Kurt Waldhauer of McPherson
Grant Flaharty of McPherson
University of Kansas
Jack Cline of Lawrence
Employee-Owned S Corporations of America
Greg Klein of Overland Park
Bill McDermott of Lenexa
Paul Faletti of Overland Park
Scott Beckley of Lenexa
Geoff Garapola of Overland Park
Tony Kempf of De Soto
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including:
Dr. Mary Katherine Gooch
Elliot Jane Holcomb
Dr. Chris Crawford
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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