Building Our Clean Tech Capital
Monday, 07 May 2012
I am working in Congress to help transform Sacramento into the “Clean Tech Capital” and help America lead in clean energy. My roles on the Energy and Commerce Committee and as co-chair of the High Tech Caucus have provided me a platform to continue to push for our nation’s energy independence. I am pleased to let you know that I was also recently elected a Vice-Chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, and I am excited to continue working with my colleagues on this coalition to fight for legislation that makes a real difference for our clean energy sector and ensures our role as environmental stewards.
I continue to meet with our local clean energy leaders to hear what type of support they could use from the federal government. With this in mind, I have two bills pending in Congress that, if enacted, would help Sacramento’s clean energy companies grow. First, my Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Act (H.R. 502) would provide for a national assistance program to promote American clean energy technology exports in order to support growing clean technology companies and create jobs. This bill was passed by the House with bipartisan support in July 2011, during the 111th Congress, and I am hopeful it will become law during this Congress.
In talking with local businesses, I have also heard how they are struggling in this economy to gain access to capital, and the clean energy sector is having a particularly difficult time. In March, I introduced the Small Business Clean Energy Financing Act (H.R. 4185), legislation that will assist clean energy small businesses with gaining access to financing. My bill will create a set aside specifically for clean energy businesses within the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 7(a) loan program. This is needed because, while the SBA provides roughly $13 billion in 7(a) loans annually, only a small portion goes to clean energy businesses. This is a major discrepancy that my legislation would help fill.
A couple weeks ago I had another good opportunity to hear from local clean energy businesses, as it was the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s annual Cap-to-Cap Program in Washington. For my meeting with the “Clean and Green Team,” I invited Steven Chalk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy, to attend. Steven has spent over two decades at the Department of Energy, and, prior to his current role, served as the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Chief Operating Officer, leading the office’s Recovery Act implementation. As we know, the Recovery Act has been our nation’s largest ever one-time investment in clean energy, and helped spur Sacramento’s clean energy sector.
In Steven’s current role as Deputy Assistant Secretary, he is responsible for directing the Department of Energy’s annual investments of more than $800 million in renewable energy sources. Because of Steven’s extensive knowledge of the Recovery Act and his position directing clean energy funds, it was great to get him in a room with our clean energy leaders. I felt that our meeting was very productive and helped build relationships that will be useful for years to come.
Around the same time that week, Sacramento hosted the Green California Summit. This event, held at the Convention Center, attracted thousands to our region from all over the state, and was a great venue to bring together clean energy innovators to discuss our state’s green future.
Sacramento is making real progress towards becoming a clean energy leader – not just for our state, but for our country. Between the commitment of our local universities, businesses, and utilities, we are positioned to lead in this area, and I look forward to continuing to work to get us there.
Two Years Later
Friday, 23 March 2012
Today marks the second anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, historic legislation that made, and continues to make, great strides in fixing our country’s broken health care system.
Since there have been a lot of myths about what the health care law actually does, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of the many benefits we’re already seeing in Sacramento.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 430 of our local small businesses have received tax credits to help pay for health coverage for their employees. $57.6 million in public health grants have been given to our local community health centers, hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers to improve our community’s health and create new jobs.
No longer are thousands of children in Sacramento denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, and 7,400 young adults in Sacramento now have insurance as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act. 150,000 people in Sacramento have been protected from excessive insurance rate increases because of the law, while 400,000 residents have been protected from their insurers dropping their coverage when they get sick.
Since 2010, 5,000 Sacramento seniors have received drug discounts worth $1.9 million, saving, on average, $390 each. And, 57,000 local seniors on Medicare have received preventative services, without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that Medicare enrollees will save nearly $4,200 each by 2021, and that people with high drug costs could save as much as $16,000 in that time.
The health care law is helping our friends, families, and neighbors get the care they need and deserve.
People like Paula, a 23 year-old cancer survivor, who, when the Affordable Care Act passed, was 21 and in the midst of treatment for a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma. Averaging $60,000 per chemotherapy treatment, along with prescriptions, monthly blood tests, and transfusions, Paula, in her early 20’s, quickly reached her lifetime benefits cap. But, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Paula remained covered, and was able to continue treatment.
Paula is one of the lucky ones. She was able to benefit from this law, before it was too late. And the health care law will continue to help Paula, because, beginning in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny her care based on this pre-existing condition.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Affordable Care Act next week. It is my hope that the law is upheld, so that all of the benefits we are already seeing can continue, and we can see even more as the law is fully enacted. The Affordable Care Act is helping us out of a broken health care system, and we should not go back there again.
I hope that if you or someone you know is benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, you will let my office know so that we can continue to show why this law is so important for so many Americans.
Working for Women
Thursday, 08 March 2012
Each year, Women’s History Month lends us the opportunity to honor all of the amazing women in our lives, and to reflect on how far women in our country have come. The work towards full equality is not yet done, and this month also allows us the chance to recommit to working for women everywhere.
This year’s theme of Women’s History Month, “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment,” is an incredibly important message that promotes the strength and intelligence of all women. Every day, I work to see that women have access to advanced education and career opportunities.
Women continue to remain underrepresented in the sciences; the Association for Women in Science has estimated that women account for only 24 percent of the workforce in science related fields. In order to improve this number, I am dedicated to advancing and expanding Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education for all students, particularly young women. I have hosted, and will continue to host, women in engineering panels in order to promote female role models in STEM fields to students.
Women bring a different and important perspective to the table, and for our country to remain a leader in innovation, I believe it is critical that women are represented in the STEM fields. As a member of the Congressional STEM Education Caucus, I will keep working to see that we make progress in bringing more women into STEM fields, and in bridging the gender gap in the sciences.
Additionally, I believe that in order to truly empower women, we must ensure that they have access to important health services. In recent weeks, we have seen a number of attacks on women’s health. Many of the things we have seen and heard are unbelievable and unacceptable in the year 2012.
Fortunately, despite the political attacks, the truth is that the Affordable Care Act continues to make great advances for women’s health. I recently heard a story from one of Sacramento’s local small business owners, a woman named Jenneane, on why the law is so important.
Because Jenneane is self-employed, she pays for all of her health care costs out of pocket. She said that requiring insurance plans to cover the costs of contraceptives and preventative services will mean that she can use the money she saves to invest in her business, and her future. I will continue fighting to see that the health care law and its preventative care services are protected, so that every woman has access to the care they need and deserve.
As a mother and a grandmother, I know firsthand the obstacles that women face juggling all of life’s responsibilities. I will keep working to see that women’s rights, education, and health care are strengthened, so that women can keep doing it all.
Help With Your Tax Returns
Tuesday, 31 January 2012
As tax season begins to get underway, I wanted to share some information and resources that may be of assistance to you.
To begin, you should be aware that, if your family earned $49,078 or less last year in wages, you may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This credit can be as much as $5,751; however, you must claim credit in order to receive it. To check if you qualify, visit IRS.gov/eitc. The EITC is widely regarded as the most effective anti-poverty tax credit offered by the federal government.
As you go to file your taxes, if you have an adjusted gross income of $57,000 or lower – which 70 percent of all taxpayers do – IRS.gov has free tax software that you can download to assist with your filing. Additionally, anyone may file for free online using the electronic version of IRS paper forms, called Free File forms. These forms can assist you with preparing your taxes and helping to make calculations, and they are available online right now.
The Sacramento Coalition for Working Families has a series of events where a team of tax preparers will be available to assist tax filers in completing and submitting their tax returns. Assistance will be available by appointment only. You can click here to see a list of locations and times, and dial 211 to make an appointment.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program also offers free tax preparation and electronic filing to individuals making $50,000 or less, or senior citizens over age 60. To locate a tax counseling site near you, click here or call 1-800-906-9887. The AARP Foundation also offers similar services. You can visit their website or call them at 1-888-227-7669 for more information.
As always, paper forms and instructions are available at many public offices, including local libraries and post offices. You can also request a free form to be mailed to you by calling 1-800-829-3676.
Please also note that this year, taxes will be due on Tuesday, April 17th, as April 15th will fall on a Sunday. After you file, you can track the status of your pending refund on the IRS’ Track My Refund website. You should be able to see the status of your refund 72 hours after the IRS has acknowledged receipt of your e-filed return, or three to four weeks after your have mailed it.
If you have any questions regarding federal tax preparations, IRS help lines are available to individuals at 1-800-829-1040, or business at 1-800-829-4933. As always, you should also feel free to contact my office at (916) 498-5600.
What Are Your Priorities?
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
Last week, Congress convened the second session of the 112th Congress.
You may recall that a year ago this time, I asked you to tell me your priorities for the new Congress. An overwhelming majority of you let me know that you wanted our focus to be on creating jobs and reducing unemployment. And, this has remained my top priority.
Now, a year later, our national economy is showing signs of recovery, with unemployment at its lowest rate in three years – 8.5 percent – and 1.6 million jobs created in the past year alone. However, more must be done as unemployment is still unacceptably high in the Sacramento region. We have been hard-hit by the recession, and I will continue working tirelessly to get Sacramentans back to work.
I believe that we have an opportunity to diversify our economy, and develop our growing clean energy and health care industries. That’s why I am advocating that my Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Act, which would help clean tech businesses expand and find new markets at home and abroad, be passed into law this session. And I continue working with health care providers to pursue grant opportunities and successfully implement the Affordable Care Act to ensure access to high quality care, and help our health care industry grow and create jobs. With both public and private sector support, I believe that Sacramento is positioned to become a leader in many growing sectors. But, we must act now.
I also believe that the Federal government must continue to invest in our infrastructure needs, and, particularly in Sacramento, in our flood protection. We must finish the levee improvements in Natomas and South Sacramento, and the new spillway at Folsom Dam. Not only do these projects ensure public safety, but they create much-needed jobs.
I will keep working to advocate legislation that creates jobs, improves health care, promotes clean energy, and invests in infrastructure. But, once again, I want to check on where your priorities are. Please take this quick survey and let me know what issues you want me, and my colleagues in Congress, to focus on during this next session of Congress.
As always, I appreciate your feedback and look forward to hearing from you.
Fighting for the Middle Class
Tuesday, 06 December 2011
Unless Congress acts, beginning in January the average American family earning $50,000 a year will face a $1,000 tax increase. I am fighting to ensure that this does not happen to 160 million Americans next year.
The payroll tax holiday that was enacted in early 2011 reduced the Social Security payroll tax to 4.2 percent of wages from 6.2 percent. This tax cut has benefited 16.7 million Californians and made a significant difference to middle class families struggling to make ends meet in this economy. However, this tax provision is set to expire at the end of this year.
In his American Jobs Act, President Obama proposed extending and expanding the payroll tax cut by reducing it to 3.1 percent of wages. Under this plan, the average California family would save $1,740 in a year. Additionally, the proposed measure would also reduce the payroll tax paid by employers on the first $5 million of taxable payroll to 3.1 percent from 6.2 percent. Right now, employers are exempt from the payroll tax holiday. But this proposal would cut the payroll tax in half for more than 98 percent of businesses and put $85 billion back in their hands to help them expand and hire.
The President’s plan, which I support, will not add to our deficit because it is paid for by raising taxes on millionaires. The millionaire surcharge would raise $250 billion in new tax revenue, more than enough to offset the cost of both the extension and expansion of the tax cut, and will affect less than .1% of Sacramentans or only 200 families. And Social Security will be protected because the increased revenue from our nation’s wealthiest will go towards replenishing its funds. This is a win-win for the middle class, for seniors and for our economic recovery.
Not only is an extension of the payroll tax holiday critical for America’s middle class and its expansion important to America’s small businesses, this is also extremely important for the health of our economy. Moody’s Analytics estimates that if the payroll tax is not extended, the economy could lose 1 million jobs next year. With 14 million Americans still unemployed, we cannot allow this to happen.
Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues are fighting against the provision that would raise taxes on millionaires, even though it would pay for the tax cut and ensure we do not run up a higher deficit while trying to give our middle class families some relief.
Please know that I will continue working to see that America’s middle class, small businesses, and seniors are all protected as we work to extend and expand the payroll tax cut. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me at 916-498-5600.
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