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Unfinished Business

As we finish Thanksgiving and head into the Christmas holidays, the Congress is more interested in lame ducks than it is in roast turkey.

Lame ducks are those members who are still serving but lost their elections.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the existing Members of the 111th Congress, including lame ducks, must finally craft a spending bill for the fiscal year that began in October. Regardless of party affiliation, those in power should at least do the job they were elected to do by passing 12 appropriations measures. The Democrats failed to do that in the past year and now must either pass a continuing resolution that keeps existing levels of spending from 2010, or put together an omnibus appropriations measure that rolls all 12 spending bills into one.

Among the other measures the so-called “lame ducks” will consider are the continuation of the Bush-era tax cuts and possible reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.

I favor extension of all of the Bush-era tax cuts. With our economy still struggling and unemployment still at 9.6 percent, this is not the time to impose taxes on anyone. Democrats are in disarray over this issue with most of them favoring extending the tax cuts for the middle class but many opposing that extension for those with incomes more than $250,000.

If this impasse is not settled and the tax cuts expire on December 31, 2010, the Treasury Department will begin taking more money from individuals’ paychecks.

While it sounds good to say we should charge the rich more taxes, those rich are often small businessmen incorporated as a limited liability corporation (LLC) or an S corporation, and they sometimes make a payroll out of their $250,000 income. Punishing small businesses, the economic engine of this nation, makes no sense.

There are various proposals for compromise and I hope that working toward a compromise becomes more important than political gain.

The reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act affects every public school in America. It includes the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program as well as the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) programs. As a member of the Education and Labor Committee, I am committed to supporting bipartisan legislation to strengthen these child nutrition programs, while taking into account our staggering national debt.

While debating this measure in Committee, I expressed my concerns with the new costs associated with expanded programs. Current costs for child nutrition programs are $17 billion and $7.2 billion for WIC programs. The new measure adds $4.5 billion to those programs.

I offered an amendment that would have required the bill to be fully paid for before becoming law. In addition, I supported an alternative measure, which would have reauthorized the programs in their current form. Both failed along party lines.

While many organizations support this measure whether it is paid for or not, the American Association of School Administrators objects for this reason: “The bill does not provide sufficient resources to cover the local cost of providing the federal free and reduced-price lunches and breakfasts. Moreover, the bill adds multiple new requirements, while failing to reimburse these additional costs as well.”

A U.S. Department of Agriculture study shows that local school districts lose more than 30 cents per meal under the current program. School districts want the bill to pay for the local costs of the program and not impose new federal requirements that micromanage school food programs.

There is also a stealth tax on the middle class. For the first time, the bill requires a federal minimum price for paid school meals, which will force many schools to charge working families higher prices for their school lunches.

Other organizations opposing the measure are the Council of the Great City Schools and the National School Boards Association, primarily because of the unfunded mandates.

Marcellus: Energy Blueprint for the World

The U. S. Department of State recently delivered a good message on Marcellus Shale development. State recommended it to 12 foreign nations as “a terrific boon” for the United States and global energy security. The countries are interested in learning the process to develop shale in their home lands and the Department of State chose the Marcellus to showcase the process.

Following a two-day Global Shale Gas Initiative Conference held in Washington, D.C. in August, the State Department invited representatives from the following countries to tour Marcellus facilities near Williamsport, PA: Armenia, Bulgaria, China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania, South Africa and Ukraine. They were accompanied by David Goldwyn, coordinator for the State Department’s office on International Energy Affairs under Secretary Hillary Clinton. Goldwyn made a special trip to my office to elaborate on their support for showcasing Marcellus Shale to other parts of the world.

While in the Williamsport area, they toured facilities owned by Texas-based Chief Oil and Gas in the eastern part of Lycoming County.

The representatives commented on the small size of the footprint for developing the shale and one said, “I think shale gas will be the future of energy in the world.”

Thompson Speaks to Penn State Energy Day

Thompson speaks to Penn State Energy Day at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The energy day was put together by Penn State and the U.S. Energy Association. As a Penn State alumnus and the congressman representing Penn State in the House, Thompson was a luncheon speaker for the all-day conference.

He told the group that the Penn State University does a great job advancing research and development into energy issues. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because the oil industry was born 151 years ago in its back yard and more than 300,000 oil and gas wells have been produced since then. Penn State also built the first non-military nuclear reactor 60 years ago.

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