Kansas Common Sense
June 13th, 2011
Jun 13 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 it would interest them.
- Mourning the Loss of Five Ft. Riley Soldiers
- Discussing the National Debt with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business
- Time for Congress to Change Direction and Pursue Pro-Growth Policies
- Seeing the Fairfax Drainage District First Hand
- Determining the IRS’ Role in Health Care Reform
- Senate Recognizes National Hunger Awareness Day
- Participating in 2011 Prairiesta
- Attending Fort Hays State University President’s Dinner
- Visiting Children’s Mercy South
- Regulatory Reform Will Spur Job Creation and Economic Growth
- Listening Tour Continues to Lincoln County
- Upcoming Listening Tour Stops
- In the Office
On Monday, five U.S. soldiers of Ft. Riley’s First Infantry Division were killed when insurgents attacked their base in Baghdad, Iraq: Spc. Emilio J. Campo Jr.; Spc. Michael B. Cook Jr.; Spc. Christopher B. Fishbeck; Spc. Robert P. Hartwick; and Pfc. Michael C. Olivieri. The soldiers, who were all serving on their first deployment, were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
My heart goes out to the families of the Dagger Brigade on the tragic loss of these five heroes. These brave young men answered the call to serve our country, and Americans are forever indebted to them for their service and sacrifice.
This week, as we remembered the 67th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, we honor all those who laid down their lives to defend our country. My thoughts and prayers are with the Ft. Riley community during this difficult time.
At the end of April, Standard and Poor’s, one of the world’s Big Three credit rating agencies, downgraded our nation’s future financial outlook from “stable” to “negative.” S&P said our country has “very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness – and the path to addressing these is not clear.”
Just last week the second of the Big Three credit rating agencies – Moody’s – warned that our failure to reduce our growing deficit could prompt them to downgrade their outlook on our triple A-rating to negative. Without a “credible agreement on substantial deficit reduction,” this could happen as soon as next month. And this Wednesday we hit the Trifecta when Fitch, the last of the Big Three, announced that a short term default on our debt would endanger the U.S. credit rating. This would have a devastating impact on our already struggling economy.
Complacency is no longer an option. Reducing our nation’s debt will require Republicans and Democrats to work together to craft a serious plan that includes significant spending reductions, a balanced budget amendment to restrict Washington’s ability to borrow money, and addresses our long-term unfunded liabilities.
This week I spoke with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network about the failed economy we are experiencing and the financial collapse around the corner if we don’t act. We must pass a responsible budget to reduce our deficit this year, next year and far into the future. Our failure to do so will result in increased inflation, higher interest rates, fewer jobs and a lower standard of living for every American. Click here to watch my interview.
Earlier this week, I spoke to my colleagues in the Senate about my concerns with the direction our country is headed given the recent update on our nation’s economy from by the U.S. Department of Labor. The report stated that in May, the national unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent and that the number of Americans looking for work increased to 14 million. Given these numbers, it is clear the current economic policies are not working and in fact, are working against us – creating an environment of uncertainty and hampering job growth in America. In my view, Congress and the Obama Administration have a responsibility to create an environment where businesses can grow and start hiring again, and that starts by pursuing a number of pro-growth policies.
First, Congress must reign in government regulations, which leave businesses with fewer resources to hire new workers. Second, Congress must replace our convoluted tax code with one that is fair, simple and certain so that employers know what to expect and can plan for the future. Third, the Administration must level the field and open more foreign markets, so we can export American manufactured goods and agricultural products – not jobs. Fourth, Congress must develop a comprehensive energy policy. Finally, Congress must reduce government spending, which left unchecked, will lead to a lower standard of living for every American.
As John Adams once said: “facts are stubborn things.” And the facts tell us that Washington must change direction if we are to grow our economy and put Americans back to work. We know what is going to happen if we don’t act and it would be immoral to look the other way because the politics of this issue are too difficult. When we confront these issues in a responsible way, businesses will succeed, employees will be hired, and Americans will again be able to pursue the American dream. Click here to watch my speech from the Senate floor on this topic.
On Friday I toured potential flood sites in the Fairfax Drainage District (FDD) of Kansas City, Kansas, as local preparations are under way for coming high water. Nearly 150 businesses are protected by the flood wall, and given concerns about the integrity of the wall, I wanted to get a first-hand look at the area. The flood wall has been diagnosed with a minor flaw by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), but at this time officials with the Corps and FDD believe the wall should hold.
It is of the utmost importance that local and federal officials identify how to repair this wall permanently and prevent future flood damage. As Congress works through the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process and identifies how to eliminate excessive spending, it is important that sufficient funding remain available in the budget for important infrastructure projects like the Fairfax flood wall that protect communities from a multi-billion dollar disaster.
Special thanks to John Grothaus, chief of planning in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Kansas City district for giving me an overview of ongoing efforts in the area to prepare for coming high water. Thanks to the owners of KC Abrasive and Go Green Carpet Recycling for giving me the opportunity to tour their facilities and learn more about the businesses. Thanks to several local officials for joining me on the tour, including John Jurcyk and Mike Taylor from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas; President Marty Quinn of the Fairfax Drainage District; FDD General Manager Steve Dailey; and Fairfax Industrial Association Executive Director Chuck Schlitter. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
On Saturday morning, I enjoyed participating in the 2011 Prairiesta in Russell, in celebration of the 140th anniversary of Russell County and the 150th anniversary of Kansas. The community has celebrated this event every 10 years since 1941 to commemorate the founding of Russell County in 1817.
Known as the birthplace of former U.S. Senator Bob Dole and former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter – it was a special honor to join them, as well as Governor Sam Brownback and former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, in celebrating the rich history of Russell County. Thanks to the countless local residents who volunteered their time to put together such an extraordinary celebration. Special thanks to Parade Committee Chairman Troy Waymaster and Prairiesta Steering Committee Co-Chairpersons Jerry and Patty Driscoll for inviting me to partake in the celebration. Also, thanks to Patrick Hilger for driving the vehicle I rode in during the parade. Click here to view a photo of the five former and current U.S. Senators who attended the event.
On Wednesday, I attended a hearing for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. The topic was the FY2012 budget proposal for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the witness was IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
During the hearing, I asked Commissioner Shulman a range of questions about President Obama’s proposed budget increase to fund and expand the IRS’ role in implementing the new health care reform law. I also asked Commissioner Shulman how the IRS would respond if the health care law – which is being reviewed in federal appeals courts – is ruled to be unconstitutional. Lastly, I asked the Commissioner whether the IRS’ budget request would be reduced to reflect the recent repeal of the health law’s onerous 1099 small business paperwork mandate – I supported this repeal. Click here to view my conversation with Commissioner Shulman.
According to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data, one out of every six Americans experienced food insecurity in 2009. These Americans, who live in communities across Kansas, were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet their needs. As a co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I joined fellow co-chairs in introducing a resolution that called on Americans to support local efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity in the United States. The resolution also designated June 7, 2011, as National Hunger Awareness Day and was passed by the Senate.
While the data about hunger in our country is telling, one does not need to look up facts to get a sense of the problem. Just visit a local food pantry, soup kitchen, or emergency shelter and the folks there will tell you about the need in their community. During these tough economic times, all of our efforts are needed to address the needs of those who are hungry in Kansas and across the country, so I would encourage all Kansans to look for ways they can help in their local communities.
Fort Hays State University (FHSU) was founded more than a century ago and offers hundreds of degree programs to thousands of students each year. On Friday, I attended the FHSU annual President’s Dinner, which is held every year to thank those who have contributed to the university’s success throughout the year. It was great to spend the evening with many FHSU alumni and supporters as we celebrated the university’s outstanding achievements. Thanks to Dr. Edward Hammond, president of FHSU, and his wife Mary for the invitation to attend.
On Monday, I toured Children’s Mercy South hospital in Overland Park, which serves 70 percent of the children in the eastern two-thirds of Kansas. Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics recently ranked among the nation’s top pediatric medical centers for the fourth year in a row, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2011 “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.”
Dr. Randall O’Donnell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, led our discussion regarding the pediatric care, research, and training currently taking place at Children’s Mercy South. We also discussed current challenges facing children’s hospitals in providing critical medical services to children in need, regardless of their families’ ability to pay.
Thanks to Dr. O’Donnell for hosting me and to Dr. Charlie Roberts, Executive Vice President and Executive Hospital Director, for leading our tour. Also, thanks to Sandra Lawrence, Executive Vice President and CFO; Genny Nichols, Vice President of Government Relations; Dallas Polen, Chief of Public Policy Strategy; Marshaun Butler, Hospital Administrator; Patty Walsh, Government Relations; Fred Lucky with the Kansas Hospital Association; and anesthesiologist Dr. Barbara Furgason for joining us on the tour. Barbara and I share the same hometown of Plainville and attended high school together so it was great to see her on my visit. Click here to view a photo of from my visit.
As I travel around Kansas, the most common question I get from business owners is, “what is the government going to do to us next that will put us out of business?” Job creators in Kansas are drowning in the wave of regulations coming from Washington. Regulations drive up the cost of doing business, erode global competitiveness, and stifle the ability of businesses to grow and create jobs. While all businesses are impacted by government regulations, small businesses disproportionately suffer from the burden of regulations. Firms with less than 20 employees faced an annual regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee in 2008 – a cost that is 36% higher than that for firms with 500 or more employees.
In an effort to reign in the ever-growing cost to businesses of government regulations, I sponsored and voted for an amendment to the Economic Development Revitalization Act this week offered by Senator Olympia Snowe. The amendment would have required government agencies to consider the indirect economic impacts of proposed rules on small businesses and would have ensured that agencies periodically review existing rules that impact small businesses. While more than 50 senators supported this commonsense effort to curtail excessive government regulations, a parliamentary maneuver requiring 60 votes prevented the measure from passing. As a member of the Small Business Committee, I will continue working to lessen the regulatory burden small businesses face.
When I was in Kansas on Saturday I also had the opportunity to visit with Kansans living in the community of Sylvan Grove in Lincoln County. While I was there, I visited with local residents at the local café about a range of topics, including: gas prices, deficit spending, Medicare, Social Security, and the American military presence around the world.
Spending time in rural towns across Kansas reminds me of what I loved about growing up in a rural town – the sense of community. I appreciated the chance to visit with local residents so I could gain a better understanding of their views and the ways I can serve them better in Washington, D.C.
This month, I am continuing my statewide listening tour. Please find more information about my upcoming town hall meetings below. If you’re nearby, I encourage you to stop by to share your thoughts.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Riley County, Manhattan
Location: Historic Union Pacific Depot
Address: 120 Fort Riley Blvd.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Republic County, Belleville
Location: Bel-Villa Restaurant
Address: 213 US Highway 36
Jewell County, Mankato
Location: Mankato Community Center
Address: 214 North High Street
Smith County, Smith Center
Location: Smith County Courthouse, basement meeting room
Address: 218 South Grant
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Pratt County, Pratt – Hosted by the Rotary Club
Location: Park Hills Country Club
Address: 337 Lake Road
Friday, July 8, 2011
Reno County, Hutchinson – Hosted by the Kiwanis Club
Location: Hutchinson Community College
Address: 1300 North Plum
Stafford County, Stafford
Location: Stafford Community Senior Center
Address: 130 South Main Street
Edwards County, Kinsley
Location: County Commissioner Office, Edwards County Courthouse (1st Floor)
Address: 312 Massachusetts Avenue
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C. office from across the state, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits.
National Milk Producers’ Young Cooperator Fly-in
David Foster of Fort Scott
Kansas Livestock Association
Brett Gardner of Garden City
Jamie Kratzer of Ulysses
Lance Zimmerman of Schoenchen
Meals on Wheels
Erika Kelly of Paola
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Kortney Hamm of Overland Park
Council for Opportunity In Education
Marcus Sheppard of Lawrence
Ivory Boyce of Wichita
Ernesto Cisneros of Wichita
Ramiro De la Rosa of Wichita
Ke'Juan Moses of Wichita
Casey Crawford of Manhattan
Raven Davis of Manhattan
Katroya Jones of Manhattan
Lysandra Martinez of Manhattan
Gabriel Ryan of Manhattan
Devin James Stamm of Manhattan
National Psoriasis Foundation
Steven, Carrie, and Hannah Falkner of Gardner
Kansas Public Health Association, Inc.
Elaine Schwartz of Topeka
Shirley Orr of Wichita
Kansas Physical Therapy Association
Susan Harms of Manhattan
David Sanderson of Salina
Carla Sabus of Shawnee
Carolyn Bloom of Topeka
Diana Sherrard of Winfield
Angie Hoerner of Abilene
Stacia Troshynski Brown of Shawnee Mission
Pittsburg State University
Steve Robb of Pittsburg
Recreational Vehicle Industry Association
Mel Adams of Wichita
Kansas Credit Unions
Haley DaVee of Topeka
National Children’s Alliance
Stephanie Fuhrmann of Dodge City
Michelle Herman of Shawnee
Vicki Hubin of Scott City
Debbie Jensen of Salina
Carol Miller of Concordia
Aurora Meyers of El Dorado
Melissa Newman of Salina
Kelly Stephens of Topeka
Bob Ihcle of Scott City
Amy Boydston of Lenexa
Warren and Carol Weibert
Warren Weibert of Manhattan
Carol Weibert of Manhattan
CEO Dan Hesse of Overland Park
Grundfos Pumps Corp
Greg Towsley of Lenexa
Many Kansans were in the office this week to tour the United States Capitol including Marissa Stewart of Sterling; David Coltrain of Palmer; Arrop and Julie Pal of Lenexa; Bryan and Holly Elsey of Manhattan; Debie, Sierra and Bryce Marklevits of Andover; Jeffery, Mary, Lauren and Joshua Dietz of Derby; Dallas and Sharon Richards, and Keyshawn Bannister of Hays; Ronald, Shelley, Bryce and Kinley Prichard of Olathe; Paul and Linda Chaffin, and Johnny and Marilyn Collett of Goodland; Todd, Kelli, Caitlin, Trace and Caroline McKnight of Pittsburg; Kelli Turner of South Hutchinson; Mark Farr, Dawn Sarah and Brandon Slifer, and Candance Wiens of Nickerson; and Derrek, Stephanie, Tyler, Bethany, Samantha, Stormy and Dakota Marteney of Riley. Kansans in from Hutchinson included Emily Brawner, Sundown Pence, Kalicia Dawson, and Brieonna Phillips.
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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