Chuck Grassley released the following comment after learning of a study that shows Iowa's wind energy production accounts for up to 20 percent of Iowa's electricity.

Grassley is the author of the wind energy production tax credit, and has worked to see that the credit is extended.  He has received numerous awards for his continued leadership in support of the credit.

"Iowa has been a leader in the production of wind energy and is poised for even greater results in the future.  This renewable energy source has not only helped power Iowa, but at the same time has created green jobs for Iowans.  The wind energy tax credit that I authored has been a tremendous impetus for the state to harness the power of wind for both clean energy and good paying jobs."

Study: Wind energy keeps Iowa power costs down

By MIKE GLOVER Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa

Wind energy accounts for up to 20 percent of Iowa's total electricity production, and is helping to keep the state's power costs among the lowest in the nation, a study released Wednesday showed.

Authors of the study said it debunks arguments that alternative energy and other measures to combat climate change are too expensive. The study was conducted by the Iowa Policy Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization based in Iowa City.

"Those people who tell us we can't do anything about global climate change because it will be too expensive are wrong, Iowa is proving it wrong," said David Osterberg, an Iowa Policy Project researcher and one of the authors of the study.

The study found that wind produced 3,670 megawatts of electricity in the state. If that power were used solely within the state it would produce enough electricity to power 940,000 homes _ roughly three-quarters of the state's homes.

The study noted that MidAmerican Energy is one of the most aggressive utility companies in the nation on wind energy, securing approval in December to install another 1,001 megawatts of production.

Iowa continues to rank second to Texas in wind production in the United States, the study found.

The authors pointed to research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showing that roughly three-quarters of Iowa has high enough wind at 80 meters above the ground to produce wind energy.

"Thus, even as Iowa is leading the way in harnessing wind energy, there is significant room to increase our use of the wind's renewable power," the study said.

"America need not fear taking strong steps to address climate change, new estimates of Iowa wind production and production potential show this," said Teresa Galluzzo, another author of the study.

Coal-fired plants produce about 75 percent of the state's electricity, and there is one nuclear plant in the state.

In examining electricity costs, the study found that Iowans paid about 6 cents per kilowatt hour in 1998. That climbed to 7 cents per kilowatt hour by 2008. Over the same time period, national average electricity costs went from 7 cents per kilowatt hour to nearly 10 cents.

"Amidst Iowa's massive expansion of wind power, our average electricity prices have remained below the national average and in fact have not increased as quickly as the national average price in the last four years," the study said.

The study said MidAmerican is the national leader in wind generation by rate-regulated utilities, with 1,393 megawatts either in operation or under construction. That's in addition to the 1,001 megawatts of capacity approved in December. The study said Iowa is the seventh windiest state in the nation.

One shortfall the study found was determining how much of the electricity produced in the state is actually consumed within its borders. When power is shipped into the electrical grid it is pooled together and it's difficult to determine which portion of the power comes from which source.


WASHINGTON - Chuck Grassley today said President Barack Obama declared a major disaster declaration for Iowa, triggering the release of FEMA funds to help Iowa recover from the severe winter storms that occurred on January 19 - 26.  Additional designations may be made at a later date after further evaluation.

"There has been an enormous amount of damage in Iowa caused by winter storms," Grassley said.  "It's good to see this disaster being addressed by President Obama so Iowans can continue cleaning up the damage."

FEMA will provide assistance to Adair, Audubon, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Crawford, Guthrie, Harrison, Madison, Pottawattamie, Sac and Shelby counties through the Public Assistance program.  The Public Assistance program assists state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.

All Iowa counties are also eligible to apply for assistance through the Hazard Mitigation Grant program.  The Hazard Mitigation Grant program assists state and local governments and certain private non-profit organizations for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards.

Grassley sent a letter to Obama asking him to grant Governor Chet Culver's request to declare Iowa a major disaster area as a result of the severe winter storms that occurred on January 19 - 26.

A copy of the text of Grassley's letter can be found below or by clicking here.

January 29, 2010

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I respectfully ask that you grant the request made January 28, 2010 by Iowa Governor Chet Culver for a declaration of a major disaster for the State of Iowa as a result of damages from a severe winter storm that began January 19 and continued through January 26, 2010.  The Governor determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments to handle effectively and federal assistance is needed.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator



Floor Statement of Sen. Chuck Grassley

Delivered Monday, March 1, 2010

Today the Senate starts debate on expiring tax and health provisions. They are known around here as "extenders."  I'd like to make a couple of points on the process before I get into the substance of the substitute.

What I find surprising is that we are taking up a package, that like last week's exercise, absolutely belongs to the Senate Democratic Leadership.  That is to say we are not taking up a bipartisan package that I put together with Finance Committee Chairman Baucus.  To be sure, some of the structure reflects the agreement my friend, the chairman, and I reached.  But this package is almost three times the size of the package we agreed on.  Virtually all of the additional cost is due to proposals that I would not have agreed to in representing the Republican Conference.  I was under the impression that the Senate Democratic Leadership was genuine in its desire to work on a bipartisan basis, but clearly I was mistaken.  Although the Senate Democratic Leadership was highly involved in the development of a bipartisan bill, they arbitrarily decided to replace it with a bill that skews toward their liberal wing.

So, my first comment to my colleagues, the media, and the public is, don't let this package be mislabeled as the Baucus-Grassley package.  It is not the package my friend Chairman Baucus and I negotiated.  Again, the package before the Senate dramatically differs in cost, balance, and intent from the Baucus-Grassley deal, announced on February 11.

My second preliminary comment goes to the way in which these expiring tax provisions have been described by many on the other side, including those in the Democratic Leadership.  If you rolled the videotape back a week or so ago, you'd hear a lot of disparaging comments about these routine, bipartisan extenders.  From my perspective, those comments were made in an effort to sully the bipartisan agreement reached by Chairman Baucus and me.

If you take a look at newspaper accounts of a week or so ago, you'd come away with the impression that the tax extenders are partisan pork for Republicans.  A representative sample comes from one report, which describes the bipartisan bill as "an extension of soon-to-expire tax breaks that are highly beneficial to major corporations, known as tax extenders, as well as other corporate giveaways that had been designed to win GOP support."  The Washington Post included this attribution to the Senate Democratic Leadership in an article last week.  " "We're pretty close," {the majority leader} said Friday during a television appearance in Nevada, adding that he thought "fat cats" would have benefitted too much from the larger Baucus-Grassley bill."

The portrait that was painted by certain members of the majority, echoed without critical examination, in some press reports was inaccurate.  For one thing the tax extenders include provisions such as the deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses and also the deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers.  If you are going to school or if you are a grade school teacher, the Senate Democratic Leadership apparently viewed you as a fat cat.  If your house was destroyed in a recent natural disaster and you still need any of the temporary disaster relief provisions contained in the extenders package, too bad, because helping you would amount to a corporate giveaway in the eyes of some.

The tax extenders have been routinely passed repeatedly because they are bipartisan and very popular.  Democrats have consistently voted in favor of extending these tax provisions.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a very strong statement upon House passage of tax extenders in December of 2009, saying this was "good for businesses, good for homeowners, and good for our communities."  December of 2009 was not very long ago.  In 2006, the then-Democratic Leader released a blistering statement "after Bush Republicans in the Senate blocked passage of critical tax extenders" because "American families and businesses are paying the price because this Do Nothing Republican Congress refuses to extend important tax breaks."

Recent bipartisan votes in the Senate on extending expiring tax provisions have come in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent, and the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004, which originally passed the Senate by voice vote although the conference report only received 92 votes in favor and a whopping 3 against.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, extension of several of these provisions goes back even further, including the Tax Relief Extension Act of 1999, which again passed the Senate by unanimous consent but lost 1 vote on the conference report.

One member on the other side said, "Our side isn't sure that the Republicans are real interested in developing good policy and to move forward together.  Instead, they are more inclined to play rope-a-dope again, my own view is, let's test them."  Another member of this large 59 vote majority exclaimed, "It looks more like a tax bill than a jobs bill to me.  What the Democratic Caucus is going to put on the floor is something that's more focused on job creation than on tax breaks."

Reading those comments I found myself scratching my head.  The only explanation for this behavior is that certain senators decided last week that it serves a deeply partisan goal to slander what have been for several years bipartisan and popular tax provisions benefitting many different people.  The Washington Post article I quoted from earlier includes a statement from a Senate Democratic leadership aide saying that, "No decisions have been made, but anyone expecting us immediately to go back to a bill that includes tax extenders will be sorely disappointed."

You can imagine, that today, a little over a week after these comments, I'm really scratching my head.  We have before us the expiring tax and health provisions that were disparaged just a short time ago.  Have they morphed from corporate tax pork?  Have they suddenly re-acquired their bipartisan character?  Are these time-sensitive items, now expired for more than two months, suddenly jobs-related?

Now, as we begin to debate another, quote, jobs bill, I want to focus on the economy, small businesses, and jobs.

We all agree that our nation is currently facing challenging economic times.  While there have been some signs of improvements such as the recent growth in our gross domestic product, job losses continue to mount and many hardworking Americans are struggling to make ends meet.  According the Bureau of labor Statistics, over 8 million jobs have been lost since our economy officially slipped into a recession in December of 2007.  The unemployment rate is currently at 9.7 percent, which is simply an unacceptable level.

The lack of job creation continues despite aggressive actions taken at the federal level in order to stabilize the economy.  This includes the enactment of TARP and the $800 billion dollar stimulus bill.  However, these bills were all missing a critical ingredient for spurring job creation-substantial tax relief targeted at small business.

In October of 2008, Congress enacted the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion dollar financial bailout bill that we were told had to be enacted immediately  in order to deal with so-called toxic assets to prevent credit from drying up, which would have choked off the lifeblood of the American economy.   What we actually got was direct infusions of cash into the largest Wall Street banks, which was 180 degrees different than what we were told by Treasury.

And later came the bailout of GM and Chrysler using TARP money after the Senate had just voted not to bail GM and Chrysler out.  This inconsistent policy by Treasury created uncertainty in the financial markets and business community.  Moreover, exorbitant bonuses were paid to executives and managers of firms that would have been out of a job if not for Congress, Treasury, and the Federal Reserve intervening.

And how effective was the bailout at improving credit markets?  In October 2009, the Government Accountability Office released a report reviewing TARPs first year performance. The GAO report found credit had improved based on certain market indicators.  However, they were not able to determine how much, if any, was attributed to TARP, as compared to general market forces or other federal actions.

While it is unclear to the extent credit has been freed up as a result of TARP, it is clear who has reaped the benefits of the program.  This past year, many financial firms, including Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase and others who received TARP funds posted record or near record profits.

While Wall Street executives have clearly benefited from TARP, small businesses and their employees have not been so fortunate.  Small businesses continue to struggle to obtain credit in order to expand their operations, purchase inventory, or even to make payroll.

The so-called stimulus bill enacted almost solely by an overwhelming Democratic majority in Congress last February has not spurred job creation. The massive $800 billion spending bill was hastily rushed to the floor with little time to deliberate its merits.

Lawrence Summers, the Director of President Obama's National Economic Council, said the test for stimulus is whether it is timely, targeted, and temporary.  This stimulus bill hit the tri-fecta; it failed on all three.

Through a report issued in January of 2009 by the current chair of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romer, the administration predicted that the stimulus would save or create 3.7 million jobs.

We were told by the Obama Administration that if the bill was not passed quickly we would experience unemployment of 9 percent.  However, we were also told by the Obama Administration that if the stimulus bill passed, unemployment would not go over 8 percent.

Well, Mr. President, the bill was passed but what did we get for the $800 billion in debt, before interest, that was laid at the feet of our children and grandchildren?  The unemployment rate jumped from 7.7% in January--right before the stimulus was enacted--to a high of 10.1% in October.  While unemployment recently dipped slightly to 9.7%, this was not due to job creation, but because millions of individuals have literally given up looking for work.  The Obama Administration also stated that quote "more than 90 percent of the jobs created are likely to be in the private sector."  In all, 3.3 million jobs have been lost since the stimulus bill was enacted, and 3.2 million of those jobs were private sector jobs.  In summary, the Obama Administration was terribly inaccurate regarding its stimulus jobs projection.

At the time the stimulus bill was passed, I raised concerns that the bill was not targeted enough at small businesses and job creation.  However, my point of view lost out and less than one-half of one percent of the bill included tax relief for small businesses.  The money in the stimulus bill to give tax credits to people who buy electric plug-in golf carts, or to pay for rattlesnake husbandry in Oregon, among numerous other ill-advised provisions, would have been better allocated to small business tax relief.   Since the stimulus, small businesses have been bearing the brunt of job losses in our economy.  However, the words of those on the other side regarding the importance of small business to job creation does not match their actions when looking at the paltry amount of small business tax relief that they have provided.  Again, in the jobs bill or stimulus bill or whatever you want to call it that passed the Senate last week, there was only one provision directed solely to small business tax relief.  That was a provision that I support, increased expensing of equipment purchased by small businesses, but it is a very small provision and it only gave small businesses what they've already been getting for the last couple years.

That provision was only $35 million out of a $62 billion bill?the $15 billion that everyone talks about plus the $47 billion for the highway trust fund that is typically not mentioned.  Last year, I introduced S. 1381, the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2009.  My bill would double the amount of equipment that a small business could expense, and it would make those higher levels permanent, instead of just for one year as the Reid bill did.  In my negotiations on a "jobs bill", I sought to include provisions from my small business tax relief bill, but there was no agreement to put small business tax relief provisions from my bill in the bipartisan compromise we reached.  Instead, we were asked to defer those provisions.

According to ADP National Employment data, from February of 2009 through January of 2010 small businesses with fewer than 500 employees saw employment decline by 2.67 million, while large businesses with 500 or more employees saw employment decline by 694,000.

While I am sure many of us disagree about the effectiveness of the financial bailout and stimulus spending in getting our economy back on track, I know we all agree that there has been a lack of job creation and too many people continue to be unemployed.

Because the stimulus bill has so clearly failed what it was supposed to do, which is to create jobs, the Administration and Congressional Democratic Leadership are running away from the word stimulus faster than the triple-crown winning horse, Secratariat. Everything proposed now is called a jobs bill, even if it includes proposals that were always labeled stimulus in the past.  Only 6 percent of Americans believe the stimulus bill created jobs.  That is less than the 7 percent of Americans who believe that Elvis is still alive.

Last week the Senate passed a bill that included a provision designed to increase hiring. This includes a payroll tax holiday for business that hire unemployed workers and a tax credit for the retention of newly hired individuals in 2010.

The payroll tax holiday part of this proposal is likely to spark some modest hiring at businesses at the margins, among those that have seen some improvements in their business, but are on the fence about whether to hire somebody now or wait until later.  However, many businesses continue to struggle and won't hire new employees just because it is the stated policy goal of Congress.  Before a business can hire a new employee, they need to know that that the new employee will generate additional revenue that exceeds the cost of the employee.

The latest survey of Small Business Economic Trends by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) shows that many small businesses may not be in a place that they could afford to hire new employees, even with the payroll tax holiday.

I have here a chart from NFIB with selected components from their Small Business Optimism Index.  While many components of this index improved slightly from December, it is clear that small businesses continue to struggle.

  • A net negative 1 percent of owners plan to create new jobs in the next three months;

  • A net positive of only 1% of businesses owners expect the economy to improve. Only 4% of  business owners said it was a good time to expand

  • A net NEGATIVE 42 percent of owners reported higher earnings

This last component is especially important for businesses when it comes to hiring new employees.  If earnings are declining there is little a payroll holiday will do to spark hiring since the businesses needs to know that the revenue generated from the additional employee will exceed the cost, not just today but in the future as well.

According to the NFIB survey, when businesses are asked what the single most important problem facing their business is, the answer is lack of sales.  But, this is closely followed by taxes and then government regulations and red tape.

I am glad that my colleagues on the other side have recognized that true job creation comes through the private sector and have thus sought hiring incentives through payroll tax relief.

However, this minor tax relief is a drop in the bucket considering the challenges small businesses are facing due to the economy and proposed increased taxes and red tape included in the President's budget -- whether we are speaking about "cap and trade" that will drastically increase their energy costs, health care reform that would mandate small businesses to offer health benefits that will increase the cost of labor, or the call for tax increases on so-called wealthy taxpayers earning over $200,000 that will largely fall on the backs of small business.

If our intention is to increase long-term employment, the last thing we should be doing in this time of economic uncertainty is increase taxes or place additional burdens on those who are  responsible for creating 70% of the jobs in our economy --  namely small businesses.

Providing small businesses a payroll tax holiday while intending to impose increased taxes, regulations and mandates amounts to throwing them a few peanuts while taking away their supper.

In recent months, I have spoken at length about the impact of the tax increases set to kick in 10 months from today.  I've examined the impact of these tax increases on small businesses.  Let's take a close look at this impact.

The President and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have proposed increasing the top two marginal tax rates from 33 and 35 percent to 36 and 39.6 percent, respectively; increasing the tax rates on capital gains and dividends to 20%; fully reinstating the personal exemption phase-out, known as PEP, for those making over $200,000; and fully reinstating the limitation on itemized deductions, which is known as Pease, for those making over $200,000.  With PEP and Pease fully reinstated, individuals in the top two rates could see their marginal tax rate increased over 15 percent or more.

My colleagues on the other side of the aisle respond that these proposals will only hit "wealthy" individuals and only a small percentage of small businesses fall into this category.  What my colleagues fail to understand is that the small businesses that fit into this group are not static, but consist of different businesses over time that go in and out of the top two tax brackets depending on the market.  Data from the Joint Committee on Taxation, which is the nonpartisan official Congressional scorekeeper on tax issues, shows that 44% of the flow-through business income will be hit with the increase in the top two tax rates proposed by the President and Democratic Congressional Leadership.  This hits small businesses particularly hard, since most small businesses are organized as flow-through entities.  It will increase taxes on single small business owners that make more than $200,000 per year, even if they plow all of their income back into their small business to keep paying their workers or hire additional workers.

Increasing taxes on this group punishes their success. It limits their ability reinvest in their company. It prevents them from putting away funds for tough economic times to keep their business afloat.

Government is currently creating a climate of uncertainty where the private sector does not know what we will do next, what taxes will be raised, or what regulatory barriers will be put in their way.

We can start to put some certainty back into the business world by declaring we will not increase taxes on businesses one dime by making the 2001 and 2003 bipartisan tax measures permanent.  But let me be clear, businesses do not want to be certain that the government is going to raise their taxes and make them go through more red tape.  They want to be certain that's not going to happen.  Until then, many will simply sit on the sidelines and not hire more workers.

Moreover, we can directly provide targeted relief to small businesses.  Last June, I proposed legislation to do just that.  I introduced the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2009 to lower taxes on job-creating small businesses.

Since the Democratic leadership barred any amendments last week, I'm hopeful we'll debate and vote on an amendment offered by Senator Thune.  Many provisions in my bill are contained in the Thune amendment, which I support.

My bill contains a number of provisions that will leave more money in the hands of small businesses so that they can hire more workers, continue to pay the salaries of their current employees, and make additional investments in their business.   This includes allowing flow-through small businesses such as partnerships, S corporations, LLCs, and sole proprietorships to deduct 20% of their income, effectively reducing their taxes by 20%.  My bill also includes relief for small business owners from the unfair alternative minimum tax.  It takes the general business credits, such as the employer-provided child care credit, out of the alternative minimum tax.  This allows a mom and pop retail store that provides child care for their employees to get the same tax relief that a Fortune 500 company gets when it provides child care for its employees.  My bill would also allow more of the nearly two-million small C corporations to benefit from the lower tax rates for the smallest C corporations.  There are so many small C corporations because they were formed as C corporations before other entities such as LLCs become more widely used.  Among other provisions, my bill would also lower the potential tax burden on small C corporations that convert into S corporations.

The NFIB has written a letter supporting my small business tax relief bill, stating, quote, "To get the small business economy moving again, small businesses need the tools and incentives to expand and grow their business.  S. 1381 provides the kinds of tools and incentives that small businesses need."

I'd now like to talk about an opportunity for true bipartisanship that was killed by the Democratic leadership.  The same day that Chairman Baucus and I released a bipartisan bill that contained significant compromises, behind closed doors Democratic leaders cherry-picked just 4 provisions out of the larger bill that Chairman Baucus and I agreed to.  Those provisions had been agreed to in a meeting of senior members of the other side only while Chairman Baucus and I were negotiating.  I was extremely disappointed to see the Democratic leadership blow up the bipartisan deal that Chairman Baucus and I reached.  To pour a little salt into the wound, the Democratic leadership then prohibited any senator on either side of the aisle from even offering an amendment to improve the bill that he hijacked.

One of the four provisions the Democratic leadership cherry-picked is Build America Bonds.  If it had been just me drafting a bill, I wouldn't have included this provision.  However, in the sake of bipartisanship and compromise in the context of a much larger bill, I reluctantly agreed that putting this provision in the bill would not cause the overall bill to lose my support.  Build America Bonds is a very rich spending program disguised as a tax cut.  Bloomberg reported that large Wall Street investment banks have been charging 37% higher underwriting fees on Build America Bonds deals than on other deals.  Therefore, American taxpayers appear to be funding huge underwriting fees for large Wall Street investment banks as part of the Build America Bonds program.

The Democratic leadership has said the Build America Bonds program is about creating jobs, but I want to know whether it's about lining the pockets of Wall Street executives.  Last week, I asked Goldman Sachs CEO a number of questions about these much larger underwriting fees subsidized by American taxpayers.  I expect to have that discussion shortly.

Turning back to the bill being debated this week, the Thune amendment, which incorporates many of the provisions from my small business tax relief bill, provides substantial small business tax relief and should be adopted.

In this bill, I hope that we can all work together toward improving our economy -- not through more government -- but by letting the engine of job creation-small business-keep more of their own money in the form of substantial small business tax relief.

-30-

Impact of National Debt 

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Friday, February 26, 2010

Politicians don't need to be mind readers these days to keep tabs on the public pulse.  While the U.S. economy inches towards recovery, millions of unemployed workers still search for jobs, households cut back on spending, dip into savings or fall deeper into debt and homeowners watch home prices waver. A measurement of consumer confidence sank again in February indicating Americans feel lingering skepticism about the economy.

Washington recently approved raising the debt ceiling to an unprecedented $14.3 trillion. Foreign investors now own nearly half of the publicly held debt. As every small business owner and family farmer knows, financing debt comes with strings attached, including interest and repayment schedules. Under the President's proposed budget, annual interest payments on the national debt will more than double, from $250 to $516 billion, over the next four years.  That will surpass annual spending for non-security, domestic programs such as education, housing, and medical research. The government's borrowing spree also puts upward pressure on interest rates as Uncle Sam competes with the private sector for available credit.

That's especially bad news for the primary job-creation machine of the U.S. economy.  Small businesses depend on affordable credit to expand and hire new workers.  Last year, U.S. banks had the largest lending decline since 1942. The FDIC says 140 banks failed last year with even more projected to be at risk in 2010.  With banks and the federal budget clinging to the edge of a cliff, it's no small wonder consumers have a death grip on their wallets.

America is one generation away from the federal budget being consumed entirely by entitlement programs and interest on the national debt.  If Washington continues to ride the rails of business-as-usual, spending on just three entitlement programs alone - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - will lay claim to every tax dollar collected.

Budget forecasters have long predicted a fiscal apocalypse heading Washington's way.  Historically, our nation's public retirement and health care programs have been financed primarily through payroll taxes, with each generation of workers paying for those who preceded them. But the retirement of the baby boom generation will overwhelm the relatively smaller labor force and their taxable wages.

With one party controlling the two elected branches of the federal government, the President and Congress last year tried to redirect one-sixth of the U.S. economy. The proposed reforms would have essentially nationalized health care, creating a massive new taxpayer-subsidized health care entitlement.  Rising public discontent helped put the brakes on the overhaul.

Choosing to re-launch another attempt at wholesale changes to the health insurance system, the President unveiled in February a job-killing, anti-investment tax to help pay for the vast new public subsidy. After lamenting a deficit of trust in the State of the Union address in January that primarily focused on creating jobs and growing the economy, so it's puzzling the White House is leading another charge up the hill to extend the federal government's reach into America's health care system and your pocketbook.

Taxpayers already are on the hook for a staggering climb up a sky-high mountain of debt. The slippery slope of borrow-and-spend has led us to this national cliffhanger.  Voters now are paying close attention to see whether Washington reins in spending or throws taxpayers under the bus.

As the Ranking Member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, I'll continue my work as a watchdog for taxpayers. Funding new health care entitlement programs with tax hikes that get in the way of job creation and economic growth won't help the next generation scale our legacy of debt or achieve the American Dream.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley today said President Barack Obama declared a major disaster declaration for Iowa, triggering the release of FEMA funds to help Iowa recover from the severe winter storm and snowstorm that occurred on December 23 - 27.  Additional designations may be made at a later date after further evaluation.

"Winter weather hit Iowa extremely hard and caused an enormous amount of damage," Grassley said.  "It's good to see this disaster being addressed by President Obama so Iowans can continue cleaning up the damage."

FEMA will provide assistance to Adair, Audubon, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Emmet, Franklin, Fremont, Guthrie, Harrison, Ida, Monona, Page, Pottawattamie, Sac, Shelby, Sioux and Woodbury counties through the Public Assistance program.  The Public Assistance program assists state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.

FEMA will also provide snow assistance for emergency protective measures for a 48-hour period for Cherokee, Clay, Emmet, Fremont, Harrison, Ida, Page, Pottawattamie, Sioux and Woodbury counties.

All Iowa counties are also eligible to apply for assistance through the Hazard Mitigation Grant program.  The Hazard Mitigation Grant program assists state and local governments and certain private non-profit organizations for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards.

Grassley sent a letter to Obama asking him to grant Governor Chet Culver's request to declare Iowa a major disaster area as a result of the severe winter storm and snowstorm that occurred on December 23 - 27.

A copy of the text of Grassley's letter can be found by clicking here.

WASHINGTON (Feb 25, 2010) – Chuck Grassley today encouraged young Iowans interested in government to apply for summer internships in his Washington, D.C. and Iowa district offices.  The two six-week summer sessions are from May 24 to July 2 and from July 6 to August 13.

"Internships offer both real-world work experience and a close-up view of how our federal legislative process works," Grassley said.  "Interns play a vital role in the function of my office. I hope all interested college students or recent graduates apply."

Applications for the summer sessions are due March 15.  Colleges and universities often recognize internships for college credit.

Interns in Grassley's office assist permanent staff members in the administrative, legislative, and press departments as well as Grassley's Finance Committee staff.  A few examples of intern responsibilities include assisting with scheduling, helping constituents with questions, giving Capitol tours and researching topics related to current Senate issues.

Grassley encourages students of all areas of study to consider the value of learning more about the federal government and, in particular, the process of representative government.

"Working in a Senate office can enhance a college education and make students more competitive job applicants when they graduate. Many of my current staff members are former interns," Grassley said.

Application forms for internships in Grassley's office may be attained by visiting http://grassley.senate.gov, click on Internships under the Info for Iowans tab.  Forms are also available in the placement offices of Iowa colleges and universities, as well as in Grassley's offices in Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Sioux City, and Waterloo.

Internships are also available in his Iowa offices.  For more information on all internship opportunities please contact Cory Crowley, Grassley's internship coordinator, at 202/224-3744.

-30-

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $44,834 grant to the Iowa Department of Education through the Test Fees program.

"These funds will help eligible low-income students receive college credits by helping them afford advanced placement test fees," Grassley said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Iowa Department of Education will use the funds to help pay for 679 Advanced Placement tests and 30 International Baccalaureate tests that will be taken by low-income students this spring.

Each year, thousands of local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants and loans from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity.

###

 

WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, said he's stunned that 56 percent of able-bodied adults who receive welfare benefits are receiving zero education, job training, job search, substance abuse counseling or community service activities.

"This is a waste of potential and opportunity," Grassley said.  "Those receiving welfare benefits should be involved in education or job training to improve their economic prospects and income security.  Either states are failing these individuals, or they're failing themselves by not taking advantage of what's available to them."

Grassley highlighted the latest data released last week by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.  The department released the 2008 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participation data, the most recent information available.  The data show that despite minor improvements to encourage states to engage families receiving welfare in meaningful activities included in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, states are failing to engage work-ready adults in education, job training, job search, substance abuse counseling or community service activities.  According to the latest data, states report that 56 percent of able-bodied adults are engaging in zero job- or education-related activity.  The report is available here; the 56 percent figure is in Table 8B:

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/particip/2008/index2008.htm

"This lack of activity is especially troubling during the tough economy," Grassley said.  "Welfare is an integral part of the social safety net.  The benefits are meant to be temporary, and welfare programs are supposed to help adults move away from welfare and onto something permanent.  During the bad economy, we can't afford to let any more people fall behind.  We should be using this time to prepare people for economic recovery."

Grassley said fostering a cycle of dependence where families receive welfare absent any activity or responsibility is not consistent with the landmark 1996 welfare reform bill.  A key principle of the bipartisan welfare bill was replacing an uncapped entitlement to welfare with a temporary program that encouraged work and work-related activities.

"There's obviously a lot more work to be done to ensure that families receiving welfare have the opportunity to make the transition from dependence to self-sufficiency," Grassley said.  "The authorization for TANF and related programs ends at the end of this fiscal year.  I call on the congressional leadership and the Administration to work with me this year to enact a bipartisan reauthorization of these programs that fixes the elements that aren't working for the people they're meant to help."

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WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley is asking Wellmark for information about its plan to increase health insurance rates.

In a letter sent today, Grassley requested an accounting of the factors considered, including any independent actuarial analysis, data about reserves, and documentation of the insurer's effort, announced in 2007, to make itself a true nonprofit.

"I'm asking because Iowa consumers deserve to know, and as the health care debate in Washington continues, insurance rate increases are a major issue. The health reform legislation passed last year would not drive costs down.  In fact, health reform bills passed by the House and Senate would cause premiums to go up even more than they already would have gone up, according to the Congressional Budget Office," Grassley said.

The text of Grassley's letter to Wellmark is here.

 

February 23, 2010

Mr. John Forsyth

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield

636 Grand Ave

Des Moines, IA 50309-2565

Dear Mr. Forsyth:

As the senior senator from Iowa and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, I am writing regarding Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield's plan to increase health insurance premiums by as much as 22 percent on April 1, 2010.  At a time of record unemployment rates and sluggish wage growth, I'm concerned that a rate increase of this magnitude could force some Iowans to drop health insurance entirely.  This would not only have a negative impact on the health of Iowa citizens, but could also place a greater financial burden on providers that will be forced to deliver more uncompensated care.

Recent reports have stated that Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans to raise premiums by an average of 18 percent for approximately 80,000 of its 1.8 million customers.  This is almost twice as much as last year's 9.3 percent increase.  Moreover, some 44,000 Wellmark beneficiaries will see rate increases as high as 22 percent.  I'm particularly concerned about the level of these increases since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Office of the Actuary recently reported that health care spending increased by a much lower rate of 5.7 percent in 2009.  I understand that the individual and small group health insurance markets face unique challenges regarding adverse selection and that the recent economic downturn has likely exacerbated these challenges.  However, I also believe Iowans deserve a clear explanation for why premiums are increasing at a much faster rate than national health care spending.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, I take my oversight responsibilities very seriously and I have always believed that greater transparency allows consumers to make better choices.  Accordingly, in an effort to obtain more information about Wellmark's plan to increase health insurance rates on April 1, 2010, I ask that you respond to the following questions and requests by no later than March 8, 2010.  In responding, please repeat the question followed by the appropriate response.

1.   What factors were taken into consideration when coming up with the health insurance rates for 2010?

2.   Were the 2010 rates reviewed by any independent actuarial firms before being presented to the Iowa Insurance Division? If so, please provide a copy of this independent analysis and any supporting documentation.

3.   Please provide a report on Wellmark's average Medical Loss Ratio in its individual and small group products for each of the last five years along with a description and explanation of the factors involved.

4.   Please provide a report on the amount held in reserves for each year for the past five years along with an explanation of how Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield's reserves compare to any minimum levels required by the Iowa Insurance Division, and whether Wellmark utilized any reserves to mitigate rate increases for 2010 or for any year within the five year period.

5.   In 2007, Wellmark announced its goal to be a pure non-profit and reduce profits to 0 percent. Please provide copies of Wellmark's Form 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, for the past five years. Please also provide copies of all studies and reports used to determine compensation for the officers listed on Schedule E of Form 1120.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  While there are strong differences of opinion on how to improve the U.S. health care system, there is widespread agreement that health care spending levels are unsustainable.  Your answers to the questions listed above will not only be informative for Iowa consumers, but will also be helpful as Congress considers potential policy solutions.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member

 

Senator Chuck Grassley Statement Submitted to the Record

Partisan and Incomplete Processing of Bipartisan Economic Incentives Package

Monday, Feb. 22, 2010

The Senate is about to engage in a cloture vote on the Senate Democratic Leadership's third stimulus bill.  What I find surprising is that what we are about to vote on indisputably and absolutely belongs to the majority leader.  That is to say we are not going to vote on a bipartisan package that I put together with Finance Committee Chairman Baucus.  I was under the impression that the Senate Democratic Leadership was genuine in its desire to work on a bipartisan basis, but clearly I was mistaken.  Although the Senate Democratic Leader was highly involved in the development of a bipartisan bill, he arbitrarily decided to replace it with a bill he hopes to jam through the Senate.

As much as I was surprised by the Senate Democratic Leader's disregard for bipartisanship, I am even more surprised by the explanations given by him and his cohorts.

Perhaps the most significant change between the bipartisan package Chairman Baucus and I helped put together and the package we will be voting to move to is that a package of expired tax provisions has been removed.  Normally referred to as extenders, these generally very popular and certainly bipartisan provisions have been extended several times over the past few years.

What is surprising is that hyper-partisan members of the majority have suddenly decided that the tax extenders are partisan pork for Republicans.

A representative sample comes from one report, which describes the bipartisan bill as "an extension of soon-to-expire tax breaks that are highly beneficial to major corporations, known as tax extenders, as well as other corporate giveaways that had been designed to win GOP support."  Just today the Washington Post includes this attribution to the Senate Democratic Leadership.  From the Post:

" "We're pretty close," {the majority leader} said Friday during a television appearance in Nevada, adding that he thought quote, "fat cats", unquote, would have benefitted too much from the larger Baucus-Grassley bill."

The portrait being painted by certain members of the majority, echoed without critical examination in some press reports, is wildly inaccurate.

For one thing, the tax extenders include provisions such as the deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses and also the deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers.  If you are going to school or if you are a grade school teacher, the Senate Democratic Leadership thinks you are a fat cat so you are on your own.  If your house was destroyed in a recent natural disaster and you still need any of the temporary disaster relief provisions contained in the extenders package, too bad, because helping you would amount to a corporate giveaway in the eyes of some.

The tax extenders have been routinely passed repeatedly because they are bipartisan and very popular.  Democrats have consistently voted in favor of extending these tax provisions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a very strong statement upon House passage of tax extenders in December of 2009, saying this was, quote, "good for businesses, good for homeowners, and good for our communities," end quote.  December of 2009 was not very long ago.  In 2006, the then-Democratic Leader released a blistering statement, quote, "after Bush Republicans in the Senate blocked passage of critical tax extenders," end quote, because, quote, "American families and businesses are paying the price because this Do Nothing Republican Congress refuses to extend important tax breaks," end quote.  I ask unanimous consent that both of these statements be printed in the record in their entirety.

Recent bipartisan votes in the Senate on extending expiring tax provisions have come in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008; the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent; and the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004, which originally passed the Senate by voice vote although the conference report received 92 votes in favor and a whopping 3 against.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, extension of several of these provisions go back even further, including the Tax Relief Extension Act of 1999, which again passed the Senate by unanimous consent  but lost 1 vote on the conference report.

Blinded and dazed by the power of their now not-so-super majority, certain Democrats have in the last few weeks turned against the extenders.  One Democrat said, quote, "Our side isn't sure that the Republicans are real interested in developing good policy and to move forward together.  Instead, they are more inclined to play rope-a-dope again.  My own view is, let's test them," end quote.  Another member of this large 59-vote majority exclaimed, quote, "It looks more like a tax bill than a jobs bill to me.  What the Democratic Caucus is going to put on the floor is something that's more focused on job creation than on tax breaks," end quote.

The only explanation for this behavior is that certain senators have decided that it serves a deeply partisan goal to slander what have been for several years bipartisan and popular tax provisions benefitting many different people.

Today's Washington Post article I quoted from earlier includes a statement from a Senate Democratic leadership aide saying that, quote, "No decisions have been made, but anyone expecting us immediately to go back to a bill that includes tax extenders will be sorely disappointed," end quote.

Having put their heads into the sand, this chamber's Democratic leaders seem intent on keeping them there. I appeal to all of you to vote against the Democratic Leadership's effort today to jam the Senate.  A vote for the Senate Democratic Leadership's cloture motion is a vote to foreclose an opportunity to improve the bill.  It also is a vote to forbid any corrections to mistakes in the bill.  And there is a significant mistake in the Senate Democratic Leadership's bill.  The bill as currently written would allow employers of illegal workers to benefit from the payroll tax holiday.  We should correct that mistake with an amendment.  The Senate Democratic Leadership's posture prohibits this correction.

Either the Democratic leaders are playing partisan politics with tax extenders, or they don't understand the worth of the provisions to the economy, including job retention and creation.  The biodiesel industry alone says 23,000 jobs are at risk due to the biodiesel tax credit being allowed to expire.  Those workers are not fat cats.

And in case anyone thinks biodiesel is something only Iowans worry about, these green jobs are in forty-four of the fifty states.  There are 24 facilities in Texas.  There are 15 facilities in Iowa.  There are 6 facilities in Illinois and 6 in Missouri.  There are 4 facilities in Washington.  Ohio has 11 facilities.  There are 5 facilities in Indiana.  There are 3 facilities each in Mississippi and South Carolina.  There are 7 facilities in Pennsylvania and 4 in Arkansas.  New Jersey has 2 facilities.

There is one facility in North Dakota. Only 6 of the 50 states do not have some biodiesel production.  They are Alaska, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming.  The other forty-four states have some biodiesel presence.   I ask unanimous consent to put in the record an article from the Erie, Pennsylvania, newspaper, describing the struggles of a local biodiesel plant.

So we need to turn away from talk of fat cats. We need to get back to work on the bipartisan package that was in the works until the Senate Democratic Leadership's dramatic change in direction.  Many people who are not fat cats or a part of large corporations are counting on these provisions being extended, and they are counting on their elected representatives to work together, as we were doing, to get the job done.

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