Business & Economy
Braley Works to Help Small Businesses PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Alexandra Krasov   
Thursday, 03 March 2011 00:00
Washington, DC – March 3, 2011 - Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) voted to help small businesses by repealing the burdensome “1099” provision of the health care law, which was added by the Senate. The Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act, sponsored by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Braley, passed with a vote of 314 to 112 in the House today. Rep. Braley released the following statement:

“Small business owners need to focus on running their businesses and creating jobs – they don’t need additional burdensome regulations,” said Rep. Braley. “I’ve heard from business owners in my district in Iowa and they’ve told me that the 1099 provision increases the cost of doing business and puts an unfair burden on them. I’m glad the House took action today to repeal this provision and help small businesses in my state and across the country.”

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Federal Budget Challenges Require Big Ideas PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Monday, 28 February 2011 12:35

As the President said during his annual State of the Union address, America is a nation built on big ideas.

There’s no doubt our culture embraces the concept that bigger is better. From portion sizes served at U.S. restaurants to the homes we live in and the cars we drive, Americans like to live large.

Considering America’s expanding waistline and bulging budget deficits, bigger isn’t always better. Washington can’t seem to shake its cultural addiction to living high on the hog.

But more spending and more taxes are adding up to big problems. Consider the national debt. There's legitimate concern that by shouldering a $14 trillion-plus national debt, the federal government is on pace to overwhelm the credit market, squeezing access to affordable credit for the private sector and state/municipal borrowers. Servicing the national debt eats up scarce resources. Reckless federal spending is irresponsible and unsustainable. Washington cannot spend its way back to prosperity.

The voters sent a clear message to political leaders in November: Enough is enough.

But when the President in February unveiled his budget proposal, he squandered a big opportunity to lead. Ignoring a basic law of gravity that says “what goes up, must come down,” the President sided with the gravitational pull of expediency.

Arguing his budget proposal uses a scalpel instead of a machete to address the federal deficit, the President disappointingly didn’t embrace his own State of the Union message.

Instead of using the Presidential bully pulpit to build a national consensus regarding entitlement reform, the President’s budget ignored the fundamental issue that will drive America year after year into ditch after ditch of deficits. If we don’t change course, the whopping $14 trillion national debt will balloon to $26 trillion in the next decade.

Regrettably, the President effectively rejected months of collaboration produced by his own bipartisan deficit commission. It’s little wonder why public cynicism grows when elected leaders punt issues to an appointed commission and then relegate its report to collect dust on the shelf.

In January the President called upon Congress and the American people to think big and make the 21st century America’s best one yet. The American people can “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build” the best of the best, but the federal government needs to get out of the way.

Since the era of Manifest Destiny, when the promise of prosperity and the pursuit of happiness put fire in the bellies of pioneers, homesteaders, miners and missionaries, Americans have tested their mettle, employing brain and brawn, to create their fortunes and control their own destiny.

In the 21st century, technology and innovation have reshaped the economic landscape. Big thinkers in America have helped drive a digital revolution that has changed the way the world goes ’round, from commerce to communication to cultural and even political revolutions. Our entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers, scientists and investors are ready to seize their moment to achieve prosperity and live the American dream.

Washington needs to think big. Baby steps won’t get us there in time. Washington can help “win the future” by taking giant steps that will address entitlements, curb federal spending, cut burdensome regulations and advance opportunity for the next generation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

 
Protecting Health Care Dollars PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Monday, 28 February 2011 12:34

Q.  Why is fighting fraud in Medicare and Medicaid important?

A.  The federal debt has ballooned to a record $14 trillion, and the deficit this year alone will be $1.3 trillion.  Congress is currently debating whether it will make budget cuts in a short-term funding bill needed to continue federal programs for the remainder of the fiscal year.  Tough decisions need to be made, and cuts will impact many Americans.  Medicare and Medicaid spending is one of the largest expenditures in the federal budget.  Every dollar lost to fraud shortchanges taxpayers and the beneficiaries who rely on the health care programs.

Q. What’s the scope of Medicare and Medicaid fraud?

A.  The best estimates are that between five and eight percent of the money spent on Medicare and Medicaid is lost to fraud every year.  The federal government spent $502 billion on Medicare and $379 billion on Medicaid in fiscal 2009.  So, it is estimated between $40 billion and $70 billion was lost to fraud that year.

Q.  What has been done to curb this fraud?

A.  The federal False Claims Act is one of the most effective tools against health care fraud.  I authored a major update of this law, in 1986, with Rep. Howard Berman of California.  Since then, it has recovered more than $28 billion and deterred billions of dollars in additional fraud against the taxpayers.  The qui tam whistleblower provisions that were created by our 1986 update are among the most successful elements of the False Claims Act.  These provisions allow average citizens who learn about fraud to report it and file suit to recover tax dollars that have been lost to fraud.  This year, the False Claims Act brought in $3 billion in recoveries, with $2.5 billion from health care fraud cases, and nearly $2.4 billion of the recoveries thanks to the qui tam whistleblowers provisions.  I’ve worked repeatedly to fortify and protect this statute.  It’s effective and, as a result, there are constant attempts to weaken or even gut the law.

This civil recovery of public dollars that otherwise would be lost to fraud is a great victory in the fight against fraud.  It ought to be buttressed by a robust criminal prosecution.  That effort is falling short.  At the end of last year, I asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to account for the falling number of criminal prosecutions.  Administration leaders promote the value of a special fraud prevention and enforcement task force known as HEAT.  That stands for the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team.  The new health care law dedicates additional federal dollars to HEAT and related efforts.  In fiscal 2009, there were a record number of criminal health care fraud defendants, but the conviction rate for health care violations is flat, resulting in a falling conviction rate.  Of the 803 criminal defendants charged that year, only 583 were convicted or plea bargained.  That’s a 72 percent conviction rate compared to past rates that topped 90 percent.  It looks like things are improving since fiscal 2009, but continued oversight of the Justice Department is needed.  To strengthen the ability of government watchdogs to see what’s actually happening with tax dollars directed to anti-fraud efforts, more information should be included in publicly available Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Account reports each year.  For example, 75 percent of the discretionary dollars that Congress has directed to HEAT, goes to the Department of Health and Human Services for vague initiatives labeled oversight.  There should be accountability as to how exactly this money is used to achieve criminal prosecutions.

I also want to make certain that qui tam settlements do justice to taxpayers.  They never should be just a cost of doing business for corporations and contractors who were engaged in fraud.  The Justice Department is reluctant to share details of settlements reached under the False Claims Act, despite the taxpayer interest in making this information transparent.  So, I will introduce legislation this year to require the Attorney General to report each year details about the settlements to Congress.  Again, it’s a matter of accountability.

Q.  What can be done to prevent fraud in the first place?

A.  I also plan to re-introduce my comprehensive bill to protect health care dollars.  The bill is a package of common sense initiatives to fight fraud, waste and abuse in taxpayer-sponsored health care programs.  As spending on these programs continues to grow, Congress should act quickly to pass these reforms.  A major component of this reform effort of mine would give the government more time to evaluate the legitimacy of Medicare providers before payment is required when there’s suspicion of foul play.  Without this change, we’re left with a pay-and-chase situation that only enables fraud against the taxpayers.  My legislation would help program officials better detect fraud with new disclosure requirements.  It would enhance coordination among federal agencies responsible for fighting fraud.  And it would make penalties tougher and apply them more broadly than they are today.

 
Disproportionate and Unwise Budget Cuts in House of Representatives PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Monday, 28 February 2011 12:26

Budget Would Damage Food, Agriculture, and Farm Conservation Initiatives Critical to Iowa

Date:     February 25, 2011

Late last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed budget legislation covering the remainder of fiscal year 2011 and making severe cuts in funding to address a broad range of our nation’s critically important priorities and needs in the areas of food, agriculture, and farm conservation.  If enacted, this budgetary onslaught would seriously impair efforts to improve the quality of life in rural communities; to ensure safe food for American consumers; to conserve soil, enhance water quality, restore wildlife habitat; and to spur economic growth and create jobs.  The budget proposal passed by the House is thus especially detrimental to Iowa.

“Without a doubt, the time has come for making and enacting tough budget decisions through a balanced, careful, and thoughtful approach encompassing both spending and revenue levels while not shortchanging the essential needs of Americans or our nation’s future,” said Harkin.  “But those decisions must not at the expense of Iowa’s farmers and rural communities.”

Some of the more significant and damaging consequences facing Iowa if the House-passed budget bill were to become law include:

Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Councils:  The House bill would eliminate funding for the RC&D program, which assists rural communities in boosting economic opportunity and creating and retaining jobs while protecting and conserving natural resources and improving the quality of life in rural communities.  Zeroing out $50.3 million in RC&D funding, as the House proposes, would withdraw support for 375 local RC&D councils across the nation.  In Iowa, the 17 RC&D councils spanning the state would lose their entire $1.9 million in federal assistance, as compared to fiscal 2010.  For a map of those locations, please click here.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP):  EQIP provides assistance, in the form of cost-share and incentive payments, to help producers of crops, livestock, dairy, and poultry meet their environmental challenges and requirements.  The House bill would reduce fiscal 2011 funding for EQIP by $350 million (22 percent) below the amount dedicated to EQIP in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 farm bill).  Based on Iowa’s share of national EQIP funding in fiscal 2010, the cut proposed by the House would deprive Iowa farmers some $7.3 million in EQIP funding that had been committed in the 2008 farm bill.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP):  This voluntary program compensates landowners for protecting, restoring, and enhancing wetlands.  Under the House budget bill, WRP funding would be cut by $119 million in fiscal 2011, a reduction of 22 percent from the funds dedicated to WRP in the 2008 farm bill and otherwise available this year.  According to Iowa’s typical share of total WRP funds, the House action would deny $3.1 million to Iowa landowners for wetlands conservation.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP):  The House bill, by reducing CSP funds by some $39 million below the farm bill’s level for fiscal 2011, would cut CSP assistance to Iowa farmers by $2.7 million.

Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations:  Funding through this program for preventing flooding, conserving soil, and managing natural resources in watersheds would be eliminated in the House budget bill.  In fiscal 2010, Iowa received over $2 million in such watershed and flood prevention funding, but would receive none if the House bill were enacted.

Food and Agriculture Research:  Such research carried out at federal facilities of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would be cut in the House bill by nearly 10 percent ($114 million) compared to fiscal 2010, thereby reducing by some $5.0 million the amount of ARS funding in Iowa for research covering topics such as crop and animal production, food safety, and natural resources and sustainable agriculture systems.  The legislation would also cut by about 16 percent ($217 million), as compared to fiscal 2010, the funding for grants by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supporting food and agriculture research, education, and extension at land grant institutions, such as Iowa State University, and similar entities.  Iowa would thus receive some $5.3 million less through NIFA this year as compared to fiscal 2010 if the House budget proposal were enacted.

Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Inspection:  Despite repeated incidents showing the need to strengthen federal food safety protections, the House bill would carve some 10 percent off the level of funding Congress adopted for last year and had tentatively approved for fiscal 2011.  Reducing food safety funding would risk the safety of American consumers as well as the ability of Iowa’s meat processing plants to operate at full capacity.

Harkin’s full statement on the budget proposals before Congress can be found here.

 
Analysis of House Budget Cuts on Working Families in Iowa PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Monday, 28 February 2011 12:06
DATE:                  February 24, 2011

Last week the U.S House of Representatives approved a budget for the rest of Fiscal Year 2011 that would drastically cut funding for programs that help working families, such as child care subsidies for low-income families and a wide range of education programs.  

“Working families in Iowa and around the country are sitting around their kitchen tables and wondering how to balance the struggles of child care and access to a quality education with busy schedules and a tough economy,” said Harkin.  “For low-income Iowans, those struggles are multiplied.  There is no question that the time has come for tough budget decisions, but the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases, while continuing to invest in the programs that grow our future, while creating and maintaining jobs.”

Cuts to specific programs that would affect Iowans include:

Head Start: The House plan would cut over $1 billion from the Head Start program, which provides comprehensive early childhood services—education, nutrition, health, social, and emotional development—to nearly one million low-income children and their families.  This would eliminate those services for about 218,000 children and their families next year (an almost 25 percent reduction), close 16,000 Head Start classrooms, and lay off 55,000 teachers, teacher assistants and related staff. 
  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: There are 18 Head Start grantees in Iowa providing early childhood services to over 7,000 low-income children and their families.  The House plan would eliminate those services for about 1,800 children next year, close 100 classrooms, and lay off 400 teachers and related staff. A map of the Iowa Head Start centers can be found here.

Child Care: The House plan would cut $39 million nationally from the Child Care and Development Block Grant, just as child care funding provided in the 2009 Recovery Act is coming to an end.  The grant program provides subsidies to low-income working families to help pay for the cost of child care, as well as funds to improve the quality of care.  The House plan would eliminate subsidies for about 165,000 low-income children, significantly reducing the availability and affordability of quality child care for low-income families.  These are families that are working, or in some cases looking for work, and that depend on those subsidies to do so.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: The House plan would eliminate child care subsidies for over 1,500 low-income Iowa families next year.

Afterschool Programs: The House plan would cut funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program by $100 million, which would eliminate before- and after-school services, summer enrichment programs, and similar services for an estimated 100,000 students across the country.  Such programs provide a safe environment and extended learning opportunities for students, and make it easier for parents to work.  Funding is targeted to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: Iowa would lose more than $500,000 in funding, denying more than 500 students an opportunity to benefit from safe and productive learning environments after school and other extended learning opportunities.

Title I Grants: The House plan cuts Title I education funding by nearly $700 million, meaning 2,400 schools serving one million disadvantaged students could lose funding, and approximately 10,000 teachers and aides could lose their jobs.  Title I funding is the foundation of federal support for elementary and secondary education and provides a flexible source of funding that can be used to support extended learning opportunities for students.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: Iowa would lose more than $4.5 million in grants to local educational agencies under the House plan.

School Improvement Grants: The House plan cuts school improvement grant funding by nearly $337 million.  These funds are targeted by states to their lowest performing schools.  These funds may be used by schools to provide extended learning time for students.

  • Estimated Impact on Iowa: Iowa would lose more than $1.7 million in grants to local educational agencies under the House plan.

Harkin’s full statement on the budget proposals before Congress can be found here.

For a compilation of all outreach pieces on this issue, please click here

 
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