Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved funding to build another two Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for the U.S. Navy at Wisconsin's Marinette Marine shipyard. I've worked hard to bring this Navy contract to Wisconsin because it means good jobs for our state and a new generation of more agile, cost effective ships for our
Returning veterans face a host of challenges and decisions when they come home; some return to school, some enter the job market, and others want to start their own businesses. Starting a business from scratch is often a daunting task and many people do not know where to begin, but former members of the military have a truly unique set of skills that would help them succeed and thrive in the competitive business environment.
Wisconsin veteran Ted Lasser knows both about serving in the military and starting a business. Ted served in Vietnam and when he returned as a veteran he began his work in business. Recently he has taken his expertise and is using it to help other veterans. He set up a business incubator, the Veteran Entrepreneurial Transfer, Inc, in Milwaukee that helps members of the military transition into civilian life and launch their own businesses. An incubator helps new businesses with rent and expert advice as they start up and begin to grow.
Ted has shown leadership in both the military and the business world and was honored this week by the White House as one of their Champions of Change. I am proud of the work that Ted has done to improve the lives of veterans and local businesses in Wisconsin.
A mistake caused our troops to be denied leave when they returned home from overseas, and we need to make it right.
Many service members have deployed overseas in the last decade. To compensate men and women serving multiple or extended deployments, the military began a program to provide extra days of paid leave.
Members of the Wisconsin National Guard's 1157th Transportation Company received some of these days off when they returned from Iraq, but the Army miscalculated the number of days they earned under the new program. The mistakes were discovered and the Army corrected their records, but only allowed them to take the extra days after they returned from their next deployment. However, many of these soldiers will not deploy again, and some no longer serve in the military. It has been years since they returned and they still have not been compensated.
Mistakes happen, but they need to be fixed. That is why I introduced an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill last year that would provide these men and women with the option to cash out the leave they were incorrectly denied. Unfortunately, the amendment was blocked on the other side of the aisle from being included in the final Defense Authorization bill.
But this is not the end of the story. This week we took a big step forward and introduced the Fair Military Leave Act, which is similar to my previous amendment. I was joined in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Rep. Ron Kind and Tom Petri have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
I have the highest respect for the members of our military and we should not drag our feet on this issue. They earned this benefit, and they should be allowed to use it.
military. The Navy plans to build a total of 55 of these new small warships to replace its aging fleet.
The LCS is a fast and agile surface combatant built to operate in shallow coastal waters. The ship can be customized for a variety of missions, including anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare and mine countermeasures. It's designed to reflect the modern demands on our Navy, and nobody builds it better than Marinette Marine.
This investment also means good jobs, at the shipyard and for its suppliers and support services around our state. Marinette Marine estimates that they will employ more than 2,000 workers at the company as a result of this Navy contract and that $2.6 billion will be injected into Wisconsin's economy over the life of the contract.
It's been gratifying to be part of this exciting project as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I look forward to watching it grow in Wisconsin over the coming years.
In many working families, balancing the demands of jobs and children are just the beginning. Add concerns about saving for retirement, covering the costs of education, paying medical bills and helping aging parents, and the balance becomes more difficult. That's why we work to find solutions to make the road a little smoother for working families across our state.
This week, I introduced legislation to expand access to affordable child care by extending tax credits to employers who provide on-site or nearby child care for their employees' families. This tax credit, based on my bipartisan Child Care Infrastructure Act, was signed into law in 2001 and will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts. It is a powerful and proven incentive for business – especially small business – to arrange on-site child care for their employees.
Child care is a good investment for employer and employee alike. Businesses get employees who miss less work to deal with family issues and stay in their jobs longer. Parents know that their children are safe, sound, and close-by while their Mom or Dad is at work.
I'm confident that this legislation will be supported on both sides of the aisle before the end of the year. I was honored to be named among the "Best of Congress" today by Corporate Voices for Working Families and Working Mother Media for our work to expand access to affordable child care and other initiatives to help working families. You can learn more about our work here
This week, the Senate is debating legislation to make it easier for companies who outsource jobs to move them back to the United States. In my office, we are acutely aware of manufacturing's impact on Wisconsin's economy and are focused on the importance of creating and retaining American jobs. It is absolutely essential that we support our manufacturers and give them the opportunity to grow and prosper in America.
During my time in the Senate, I have strongly supported and worked with a program called the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. I've seen first-hand how they successfully assist and grow many small and medium manufacturing businesses. I discussed this tremendous public private partnership in greater detail when I addressed the Senate today during consideration of S. 3364, the Bring Jobs Home Act:
We all know the importance of jobs to individual families, communities, and to our economy as a whole. I will continue to do everything I can to keep American jobs here in America.
The number one challenge facing our country is to create jobs and get our economy growing, and small businesses are the engine of job creation. Our political parties may disagree on some things, but we should all agree on helping these companies to thrive and expand.
This week, the Senate voted on the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act, which provides tax breaks for companies that create jobs and invest in their business. This bill would give businesses that create jobs a Hiring Tax Credit equal to 10% of the increase in their payroll. This tax credit is capped at $500,000 per business, which targets the majority of the benefit to small businesses.
This bill would also allow companies that make major investments in their business to deduct the full cost of that investment on this year's tax return. Normally, companies must spread this deduction over several years. This would encourage businesses to make investments now to get our economy moving – and cutting taxes for these businesses enables them to grow even more.
Both parties have supported these tax cuts in the past, and this is the bipartisan approach our economy needs. Unfortunately, this bill was blocked by Senate Republicans by a vote of 53-44. Even though it received majority support, we needed 60 votes to end the filibuster.
I'm disappointed that the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act was blocked this week, but we will keep working hard to find common ground to get our economy moving. I'm hopeful that we'll have more opportunities to help small business before the year is over.
I believe the Supreme Court made the right decision today. There is much more work to be done in controlling health care costs, but the Affordable Care Act brings us closer to providing health care to all Americans at a cost we can afford. Under the bill, nearly 60,000 Wisconsin seniors on Medicare have already saved almost $38 million in prescription drug costs, more than 43,000 of our state's young adults have gained health insurance coverage, more than 400,000 women now have access to preventive cancer screenings and no one can be denied coverage for a preexisting condition. As we know, health care costs are a drag on our economy and the Affordable Care Act tackles some of the most rapidly growing health care expenses.
SENATOR KOHL: Mr. President, I rise to support and encourage passage of this farm bill.
Farm bills are difficult measures to shepherd through this chamber. There has never been -- and never will -- be a 'perfect' one in the eyes of every member of this body. But American agriculture needs a new farm bill and this one deserves our support for a variety of reasons.
For starters, it delivers over $23 billion dollars in savings at a time when our nation's balance sheet needs it most.
It improves nutrition programs by curbing fraud and improving program integrity. Hungry Americans – many of whom are children – need a food safety net when times are tough. These changes support that safety net and deliver more accountability to taxpayers.
This bill also responds to concerns articulated by dairy farmers who are hugely important to me and to Wisconsin. Long-time farm policy observers know of my enduring interest in dairy policy. The MILC program, which I co-authored with several of my colleagues in this chamber, was the first comprehensive safety net for American dairy producers. It provided payments in time of low prices and cost the government nothing when we had robust dairy prices. Dairy farmers today face new and different challenges. In recent years they have seen situations where, despite robust milk prices, their input prices dramatically escalated and their margins evaporated. The dairy policy embodied in this bill recognizes that challenge and establishes margin protection insurance. Participants will be given the option to choose the level of margin protection that makes the most sense for their dairy operations.
I supported a number of amendments to this farm bill. Among them were modifications to enhance rural development and programs for beginning farmers. Farm bills touch our nation in many different ways, and these are two areas that merit more attention and continued diligence. I also opposed a number of amendments because I feared they would undermine agriculture exports, our ability to innovate, and our organic agriculture sector.
Finally, I want to congratulate the Chair and Ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee for their diligent work. It takes an enormous amount of effort to move a farm bill. They worked hard to find consensus and deserve our thanks. I encourage my colleagues to support the bill.
According to a report in today's Wall Street Journal, Sony and Samsung - two of the world's largest television manufacturers - "have begun trying to force retailers to rein in discounts on televisions, threatening to cut off those who sell TVs for below the manufacturer's minimum prices." Sony and Samsung have implemented this new policy to reap higher profits – from the wallets of consumers. The same news story also cited other electronics companies that have "tough policies restricting the prices at which their products can be sold…"
Until a few years ago, that kind of vertical price fixing was against the law. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court narrowly overturned the century-old ban on retail price maintenance in 2007. Since then I've been working to restore it.
As the chairman of the Senate Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights panel, I wrote legislation to overturn the Court's decision. Justice Breyer, in his dissenting opinion, estimated that if only 10% of manufacturers engage in vertical price fixing, the volume of commerce affected would be $300 billion, costing the average family of four an additional $750 to $1,000 for retail goods every year.
My bill, the "Discount Pricing Consumer Protection Act," will allow retailers to sell goods below a threshold price set by manufacturers. I'm pleased that it was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last November, and I'll continue to work to bring it before the full Senate for debate. Until then, I'm hopeful that Sony and Samsung and other manufacturers who have policies against discounting find that consumers will look elsewhere for affordable products.
As a businessman, I appreciate that retailers welcome flexibility in their business with customers. As a Senator representing the people of Wisconsin, I know that discounting and discount stores play a vital role in family budgeting.
This spring, many families are preparing for an upcoming graduation. As you or your loved ones get ready for this momentous and exciting occasion, I want to make sure you know about changes that allow children to remain covered under family health insurance policies until they turn 26 years old.
This is essential because it can be difficult for young adults to find health insurance. Many entry level jobs don't provide health benefits, and the jobs that do offer insurance often don't provide great coverage at an affordable cost. Additionally, some young adults simply don't think about health insurance or the need for it. As a result, young adults are persistently the least likely to have health coverage of any age group. This is a problem not only for young Americans without health insurance, but also for overall health care costs because they are more likely to forego preventive services and end up in the emergency room for more expensive care that drives up expenses for all of us.
This problem is improving. In fact, as of a year ago, roughly one-third of all young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 were uninsured. Fortunately, that percentage is steadily dropping as a result of this new benefit. Now 2.5 million more young Americans are covered by health insurance, including more than 27,000 in Wisconsin, and I want to make sure that you know the necessary details of the provision.
Children under the age of 26 qualify for this benefit even if they are married, not living at home, or not claimed as dependents for tax purposes. The provision extends to adult children whether they are enrolled full-time in school or not, and in most cases, parents can add children to their plan even if their kids are offered health coverage through their own employer. If you need additional information about health coverage for young adults—or for anyone else—I would encourage you to visit www.healthcare.gov. On this website you can also find additional information about other new protections and laws that hold health insurers accountable. For example, the new law also bans insurance companies from dropping young adults when they get sick or have an accident. And, for young adults in new plans there's free coverage of key preventive services. Sincerely,
Most Americans rely on our road and public transportation systems every day to reach jobs and schools, businesses and health care, and family and friends. We need to find ways to expand and improve our options to better reflect the way Americans live today. Today I am proud of our bipartisan effort in the Senate to pass the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" bill, which funds our highway, public transit and safety programs for the next two years.
This legislation will lead to safer roads, while also creating up to 3 million good paying jobs over the next two years while rebuilding our aging infrastructure. I am proud to say this legislation will bring roughly $800 million each year for the next two years to Wisconsin in order to repair our highway system, make needed repairs to our bridges, and provide critical investments toward mass transit. According to the Wisconsin Urban & Rural Transit Association, nearly 50% of Wisconsin transit riders rely on buses to get to jobs, and students in high school and college all across Wisconsin utilize mass transit to get to classes. Safe and efficient transportation systems don't just move people, they open doors to opportunity.
To help senior citizens, this bill also includes some key provisions from my "Senior Transportation and Mobility Improvement Act." I worked successfully with my colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee to include an amendment that provides states with greater flexibility in using federal funding for programs that help ensure mobility for seniors who do not have access to public transportation. These funds assist with the costs of operating vehicles, such as insurance, rising fuel costs and driver compensation.
This transportation bill was long overdue and I am pleased my colleagues worked together to craft this legislation in a bipartisan way. Wisconsin depends on this funding to begin or continue projects that improve our infrastructure and sustain good-paying jobs.