Business & Economy
Grassley: Action Needed to Prevent Navigation Standstill on Mississippi River PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 30 November 2012 16:04

Washington – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators representing states along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers is elevating a request for the Army Corps of Engineers to manage water levels on the Missouri River to avoid a catastrophic economic problem on the Mississippi River.

 

“Drought conditions mean very low water levels on both rivers, and there needs to be a coordinated effort to make sure navigation isn’t brought to a halt all together on the Mississippi River,” Grassley said.  “Such a major interruption in commercial activity would ultimately impact jobs in Iowa and throughout the region, and steps can be taken and need to be taken to prevent it.”

 

To avoid a potentially months-long loss of navigation on the Mississippi, senators today urged President Barack Obama to issue an emergency directive to permit additional water flows from Missouri River reservoirs to maintain navigation on the Mississippi.  They also asked for Federal Acquisition Rules to be waived to allow the Corps to expedite blasting of the rock pinnacles near Grant Tower and Thebes, Illinois.

 

In a letter to the President, the senators said, “Absent emergency action to ensure that water levels do not fall below the level needed to support the navigation channel, commercial navigation on the middle Mississippi River between St. Louis, MO, and Cairo, IL, will be severely impaired as early as mid-December.”

 

Today’s request for presidential action follows a request made by senators earlier this month of the Corps.  Senators also have asked the Corps to provide information to justify its resistance to taking action.  Governors from impacted states, representatives of industry and other stakeholders have sought action from the Corps, as well.

 

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) signed the letter to the President along with Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Al Franken (D-MN), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), David Vitter (R-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

 

Here is the text of the letter.

 

November 28, 2012

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear President Obama:

 

We understand that the governors of impacted states, representatives of industry, and others have written seeking action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prevent an economic calamity in the center of our nation.  We write in strong support of their request.  Absent emergency action to ensure that water levels do not fall below the level needed to support the navigation channel, commercial navigation on the middle Mississippi River between St. Louis, MO, and Cairo, IL, will be severely impaired as early as mid-December.  Substantial curtailment of navigation will effectively sever the country’s inland waterway superhighway, imperil the shipment of critical cargo for domestic consumption and for export, threaten manufacturing industries and power generation, and risk thousands of related jobs in the Midwest.

 

Given the magnitude of the economic impact that would result from a potentially months-long loss of navigation on the Mississippi, we support an emergency directive to permit additional water flows from Missouri River reservoirs to maintain navigation on the Mississippi, and to waive Federal Acquisition Rules (FAR) to allow the Corps of Engineers to expedite blasting of the rock pinnacles near Grand Tower and Thebes, Illinois.  These pinnacles pose a hazard to barge navigation during periods of low water levels and their removal will allow commercial navigation on the Mississippi to continue.  Once the rocks are removed, additional water flows from the Missouri River would be unnecessary or significantly reduced.  Waiving FAR guidelines could allow the Corps to sole source for the work, eliminating the 30-day requirement for bids and allowing the work to proceed in an expedited manner.

 

The Mississippi River is an artery of commerce critical to the movement of hundreds of millions of tons of essential goods and commodities such as corn, grain, coal, petroleum, chemicals, and many other products important to the national economy.  All told, cargo valued at over $7 billion, including 300 million bushels of agricultural products and 3.8 million tons of coal, could experience shipping delays that cause ripple effects and damage local economies up and down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  In addition, if shipping on the river is impeded, about five million barrels of domestically produced crude oil will not be shipped and purchases of imported crude oil will increase by about $550 million as a result.

 

Given the potentially large negative impact of this looming disaster, we hope that you will give due consideration to our request.

 

Sincerely,


 
Grassley, Udall, King, McNerney, Veterans Urge Extension of Wind Energy Incentive PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 10:07

WASHINGTON -- Senator Chuck Grassley today joined Senator Mark Udall of Colorado , Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Rep. Jerry McNerney of California, and 40 veterans – many of whom have found post-military careers in the wind-energy industry – for a news conference to urge that an extension of the production tax credit for wind energy be included in year-end legislation to continue as many as 60 expiring tax provisions.

Shannon Lehmkuhl of Estherville and Troy Ellis of Newton were among the veterans at the event on Capitol Hill.  They were participating in an Operation Free two-day fly-in to meet with members of Congress.

Click here for video of the news conference. Click here for photos of the news conference.

“The production tax credit for wind is working and should be part of the effort in Washington to help get more Americans – and more veterans – working,” Grassley said. “Certainty about tax policy and affordable energy are factors for economic growth, and as much energy as possible – both traditional and renewable – should be produced at home to create jobs and strengthen economic and national security.  There’s no reason to exacerbate the unemployment problem by letting this successful incentive lapse.”

In August, the Senate Finance Committee, with a bipartisan vote, passed an amendment authored by Grassley to extend the wind energy production tax credit.  Legislation in the House of Representatives to extend the production tax credit for wind has 118 cosponsors, both Democrats and Republicans.

Grassley authored the production tax credit for wind when it was first passed in 1992.  He has worked since then to extend the successful policy.  Udall has been a vocal proponent for the wind production tax credit, speaking nearly every day the Senate has been in session to urge his colleagues to extend the production tax credit and secure made-in-America energy and the jobs it creates.

Grassley said the production tax credit for wind is available only when wind energy is produced.  There’s no benefit for simply placing the turbine in the ground.  “It’s tax relief that rewards results,” Grassley said.  “That’s much different than failed taxpayer-funded grants and loans made since 2009.”  The senator said wind energy detractors have blurred the distinction in efforts to undercut wind as a source of clean electricity.

The wind energy production tax credit was created to try to level the playing field with coal-fired and nuclear electricity generation.  If the wind incentive is allowed to lapse on December 31, wind energy would be the only form of energy generation without any federal incentive.

Nationwide, wind-energy production supports 75,000 jobs.  In Iowa, the wind energy industry employs nearly 5,000 full-time workers, with a number of major wind manufacturing facilities.  Iowa generates 20 percent of its electricity needs from wind, and wind energy powers the equivalent of a million homes.  Almost 3,000 utility-scale turbines in Iowa generate lease payments to landowners worth $12.5 million every year.

 

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Lt. Governor Simon, Sen. Kotowski: Overhaul financial disclosure form PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Kara Beach   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 10:06

SPRINGFIELD – Longtime advocates of ethics and transparency in government, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and State Sen. Dan Kotowski will introduce legislation on Thursday that will overhaul the Statement of Economic Interests filed annually by tens of thousands of local and state government employees and officials.

The bill designs a disclosure form that asks clear questions on sources of income, lobbyist relationships and certain loans. It also closes loopholes that allowed filers to answer “not applicable” to almost all of the questions since the form was introduced 40 years ago.

Simon said the goal of the new form is to provide Illinois residents with information that allows them to determine if elected officials, high-ranking employees and candidates hold any conflicts of interest.

“Current disclosure forms are practically meaningless and haven’t been revised since their inception 40 years ago,” Simon said. “This bill protects the privacy of public servants while allowing taxpayers to better identify where a conflict of interest may exist.”

Simon has released her personal tax return in an effort to demonstrate transparent leadership, and has asked her senior staff to file more detailed disclosure forms that allow citizens to better find any potential conflicts of interest.

 

DATE: Thursday, Nov. 29

TIME: 9:30 a.m.

PLACE: Senate Chamber entrance, Capitol Building, Springfield

 
Loebsack Continues Push for Wind Energy Credit; Highlights Veterans Working in Industry PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Vonnie Hampel   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 10:03

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack today continued his push to extend the Production Tax Credit for wind energy during negotiations surrounding the “fiscal cliff.” Loebsack also highlighted an effort by a group of veterans, known as Operation Free, who are working in the wind energy industry. This group has called for moving forward on alternative energy solutions including wind.

“The [Production Tax Credit] has helped the still-growing domestic wind energy industry employ thousands of Americans, and many veterans,” wrote Loebsack to Speaker Boehner.  “I hope you give weight to this support and due diligence to Operation Free and their call to renew the PTC, particularly given these individuals’ sacrifices for our country. They should be respected and applauded for again taking a stand for the betterment of our nation. I again respectfully urge your support for extending the PTC during “fiscal cliff” negotiations and thank you for your time and consideration.”

Loebsack has taken a lead in Congress to demand that Speaker Boehner act to ensure the jobs associated with wind energy, including 6,000 in Iowa, are not lost because of the inaction by the Leadership in the House.  Since the beginning of the year, Loebsack has met personally with the President to encourage his leadership on this issue and stressed the importance of passing this legislation on multiple occasions with Speaker Boehner.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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Governor Quinn’s Public Awareness Drive Unveils Salman Khan Video on Illinois Pension Problem PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 09:44

Legendary “explainer” helps enlighten Illinoisans about pension squeeze

 

CHICAGO – November 27, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn’s new web campaign to educate Illinoisans about the pension squeeze was bolstered today by legendary “explainer” Salman Khan, who unveiled two videos to explain pensions in general and specifically lay out the Illinois pension crisis. Earlier this month, Governor Quinn met with Salman Khan in the governor’s Chicago office, and Khan agreed to create an explainer video on Illinois’ pension problem.

 

Khan’s video on Illinois’ pension problem and general video on pensions can be viewed at ThisIsMyIllinois.com and the “Thanks in Advance” Facebook page.

Founder of the trailblazing Khan Academy, Khan’s 3,600 teaching videos have been viewed 204 million times. Khan - named by Time Magazine as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People - has appeared on “60 Minutes,” “Colbert Report” and NPR to share his vision of offering a “world class education for everyone everywhere.”

“The power of Salman Khan’s videos comes from his ability to make a complex subject easy to grasp, and he does so in an informative and engaging style,” Governor Quinn said. “We’re delighted to have his help in enlightening Illinois citizens about how the pension problem came to be.”

Employing his trademark “ black blackboard” style, Khan focuses on Illinois’ pension obligations in a seven-minute video in which he explains how spending on pensions will surpass spending for education by 2016. In his more general 10-minute video, he explains the concept of pensions - particularly the distinctions between “defined benefit” and “defined contribution” plans.

“Khan Academy is about life-long learning and we strive to help clarify topics that are important for understanding our society,” Khan said. “When I learned about the underfunded pension situation in many states, especially in Illinois, I felt it was important that voters understand the issue themselves.”

Governor Quinn recently launched an Internet campaign to educate everyday people on the 70-year old Illinois pension problem, deemed worst in the nation by the Pew Center on the States. Since launching, more than 28,000 unique visitors have gone to ThisisMyIllinois.com and a video featuring “Squeezy the Pension Python” has been viewed 20,000 times. The “Thanks in Advance” campaign is designed to boost public awareness about the “squeeze” caused by soaring pension costs and the need for pension reform.

In April, Governor Quinn proposed a plan to the General Assembly that would rescue Illinois’ public pension systems, ensure employees have access to benefits and prevent skyrocketing pension costs from squeezing out core services such as education, health care and public safety. Quinn’s plan would fully fund the pension system by 2042.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Khan is a former hedge fund manager who founded the nonprofit Khan Academy after discovering a knack for tutoring. What began as a favor to his niece and nephews in 2006 - sharing his mathematics explainer videos - has grown into one of the world’s fastest-growing, widely-used education tools. Last month, www.khanacademy.org had 6,000,000 unique visitors from nearly every nation on earth. Available in 16 languages, Khan’s explainer videos cover topics ranging from math and science to history and finance. He is author of “The One World School House: Education Reimagined”.

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