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WV Legislative Update: Delegate Brent Boggs - Minority House Finance Chairman

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The beautiful weekend weather was a great way to enjoy the early, sunny days of December.  Again this week, gasoline prices continue to drop, further providing an economic window of opportunity for working families.  Being one of the countless West Virginians that commutes hundreds of miles to work each week, it’s welcome economic relief for all our citizens.  How long these prices will remain below $2 per gallon, no one can accurately predict.  However, the savings may provide the margin that allows many families the opportunity to travel and be together over the Christmas holidays.

On Monday, the nation paused to formally remember and memorialize the Pearl Harbor events of December 7, 1941.  In the wake of that horrific attack, America and freedom loving nations around the world embarked on Pacific and European campaigns to defeat Japan, Nazi Germany and their Axis cohorts.  I am so proud of and grateful to our “Greatest Generation” and its soldiers, sailors, airmen and families that won the war; then came home to build our nation into an economic and military powerhouse.  Our nation continues to be inspired and in awe of these men and women and their example for future generations. 

Sadly, just days before Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, once again cowardly and evil ISIS inspired mass murderers chose to strike – this time on our homeland in a California community that left more than thirty people dead or wounded.  The innocent victims were employees enjoying a workplace Christmas party.

It will take a worldwide effort to defeat these extremists.  It will also require the fervent national resolve to never let this type of terrorist attack deter us from our way of life, our beliefs and our freedom.  As a nation, we mourn the loss of our citizens.  In remembrance of all our citizens that have been victims of terrorism, we pray for their families; and for the safety of our law enforcement and military personnel as they work day and night to protect our homeland and go after these terrorists and bring them to justice.  America must lead by example and lead the charge. 

Finally this week, it’s hard to believe 2015 has gone by so quickly and with 2016 rapidly approaching, so is the Second Regular Session of the 82nd West Virginia Legislature.  The session begins on January 13.  Here is the 2016 Legislative Calendar.

First Day - January 13, 2016: First day of session. (WV Const. Art. VI, §18)

Twentieth Day - February 01, 2016: Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review bills due. (WV Code §29A-3-12)

Forty-first Day - February 22, 2016: Last day to introduce bills in the Senate. Senate Rule 14 does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.

Forty-second Day - February 23, 2016: Last day to introduce bills in the House. House Rule 91a does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.

Forty-seventh Day – February 28, 2016: Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.

Fiftieth Day - March 02, 2016: Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills. (Joint Rule 5b)

Sixtieth Day - March 12, 2016: Adjournment at Midnight. (WV Const. Art. VI, §22)

In the interim, send your inquiries to my home office at:  151 Park Street, Gassaway, WV 26624; call 304.364.8411; or fax 304.364.8711.  If you have an interest in any particular bill or issue, please let me know.  For those with Internet access, my legislative e-mail address is:

You may also obtain additional legislative information, including the copies of bills, conference reports, daily summaries, interim highlights, and leave me a message on the Legislature’s web site at www.legis.state.wv.us/.  When leaving a message, please remember to include your phone number with your inquiry and any details you can provide. Additional information, including agency links and the state government phone directory, may be found at www.wv.gov. Also, you may follow me on Facebook at “Brent Boggs”, Twitter at “@DelBrentBoggs” , as well as the WV Legislature’s Facebook page at “West Virginia Legislature” or on Twitter at twitter.com/wvlegislature.

Continue to remember our troops - at home and abroad - and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Until next week – take care.

GROW YOUR OWN WEST VIRGINIA HOLIDAY TRADITION

A column by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
The Free Press WV

The holiday season is filled with traditions like dinners prepared with special family recipes, shopping, gift exchanges, open houses and caroling - just to name a few. A tradition many West Virginia families enjoy is making an annual trip to a local Choose and Cut Christmas tree farm.

Make purchasing your fresh Christmas tree a family adventure. Before you go, decide which species of tree you want - pine, spruce or fir - and measure the area where you plan to locate it in your home. Knowing the height and width you need also will help you steer clear of anything too large or too small. Once you know what you want, find the farm nearest you that grows your chosen species and has the size of tree you need.

This is also the time to decide whether you want to cut the tree yourself or if you want help. The majority of West Virginia’s Choose and Cut Christmas tree farms provide some degree of assistance and tools to get the tree from the field to the car. Others, though, let you do it all yourself so be sure to take along any tools you might need. The West Virginia Division of Forestry provides an interactive map and listings of participating Choose and Cut Christmas tree farms. Download information on locations, operating hours, products, species, sizes and services at wvforestry.com.

When you’re ready, make a day of it! Load the family into the car and sing Christmas carols as you drive to the farm. Once you are there, enjoy any seasonal touches the farm may provide like candy canes, hot cocoa or live music. Before you leave, check out any other products the farm sells, including wreaths and greenery to bring added holiday cheer to your home.

A visit to a Choose and Cut Christmas tree farm creates an enduring holiday memory of togetherness and family fun, and buying your Christmas tree at a Choose and Cut Christmas tree farm supports local farmers and the local economy, which benefits all of us.

Whether you are honoring a long-held family tradition or starting a new one, I encourage you to make this holiday season special with a West Virginia-grown Choose and Cut Christmas tree.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

MEMORANDUM: Senator Capito’s Weekly Address to West Virginians‏

The Gilmer Free Press

This was a historic week in the Senate. We passed the first long-term highway bill in more than a decade and sent an Obamacare repeal bill to the president’s desk for the first time. From lifting the costly burdens of Obamacare and working toward quality, affordable care, to investing in our roads, bridges and highways, both of these bills benefit West Virginia.


West Virginians Deserve a Health Care System That Works

Since Obamacare went into effect, premiums have skyrocketed, small businesses have been forced to cut hours and employees, and countless families have lost access to the doctor and health care plan of their choice. I have voted repeatedly to repeal the disastrous law, and I am glad that the Senate passed an Obamacare repeal bill this week. This is the first time that an Obamacare repeal bill will reach the presidents’ desk – another example of how the Republican-led Senate is delivering results for the American people.

In addition to lifting the heavy burden of Obamacare, this bill also repeals more than $1 trillion in onerous taxes and includes significant resources for mental health and substance abuse services – funding that is vital to West Virginia. I also fought to include a two year transition period for Medicaid expansion in the bill, which will give us time to enact alternative reforms without disrupting coverage. To watch my floor speech on Obamacare.


Moving WV’s Transportation System Forward

This week we also passed a bipartisan, five-year transportation funding bill, known as the FAST Act. This is great news for our state. Not only will this bill provide long-term stability and improve traffic congestion, it will help increase access to rural communities and boost economic development. This is the first time in more than a decade that Congress has passed a multi-year funding bill.

The FAST Act will invest more than $2 billion over the next five years to advance critical projects and repair crumbling infrastructure throughout West Virginia. The bill also includes an important initiative to improve broadband access in rural communities. I am thrilled the Senate came together to pass this long-term transportation funding bill.


Congress Strikes Down Harmful EPA Rules

On Tuesday, my resolution blocking EPA’s harmful Clean Power Plan regulations was sent to the president’s desk after passing in the House of Representatives. These EPA regulations threaten jobs and affordable energy while doing little to actually improve the environment – an outcome West Virginia families cannot afford. My resolution sends a strong signal to world leaders at the climate summit in Paris that they should be cautious about entering into a deal with an administration whose policies are not backed by the U.S. Congress.


Beckley Office Hours Announced for December

On Thursday, December 10th from 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and Thursday, December 17th from 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., my staff members will be available at the Beckley office to meet one-on-one with constituents. Appointments are encouraged, but the office hours are open to the public.


This Week in Washington & West Virginia

Thank you to everyone who came by to see me in D.C. this week. I enjoyed hearing about the issues that are important to you and how we can work together to create a stronger West Virginia. Scroll through the photos below for highlights from this week.

Sincerely,
The Gilmer Free Press
Shelley Moore Capito
United States Senator

Mooney: This Week in Congress

The Gilmer Free Press

On Tuesday, I spoke on the House floor about the disastrous impact that President Obama’s Stream Protection Rule will have on West Virginia’s economy. President Obama’s new regulations will be catastrophic to the coal industry and all hardworking American families that depend on coal to keep their home energy costs low.

My bill, the STREAM Act, would halt President Obama’s radical regulations that put an estimated 80,000 direct coal mining jobs at risk.


On Tuesday, I voted to go to Conference on the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which would help the United States fight currency manipulation by countries across the world.

On Wednesday, I voted against the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. The bill authorizes a large federal role in education. I believe education decisions are best made by the states, local communities and parents—not the federal government

On Thursday, I helped pass the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act, which would modernize our country’s energy infrastructure and enable the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to impose deadlines and other restrictions on federal agencies that attempt to circumvent Congress and make regulations that burden hardworking West Virginia taxpayers.

I also supported and helped pass the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 on Thursday. Our roads and bridges form the backbone of our economy in West Virginia. We must have safe and modern infrastructure; it helps facilitate jobs and economic growth. This highway bill reauthorizes the federal highway program for 5 years, which provides much needed certainty for states, workers, and businesses who rely on our infrastructure. The bill includes some important reforms, including a streamlined environmental review and permitting process that will help make sure that construction projects move forward in a timely manner.


This Week In The 2nd District

On Tuesday, I took a few moments to sign Christmas cards for our troops stationed overseas. It’s important that we all take the time to thank the brave men and women who are away from home for the holidays.

I also had the pleasure of meeting with numerous constituents this week. Please stop by my office if you are ever in Washington D.C.

Thank you,
The Gilmer Free Press
Alex X. Mooney
Member of Congress

QUOTE OF THE DAY

The Free Press WV

“As a presidential candidate, I have instructed my long-time doctor to issue, within two weeks, a full medical report,”

                  Donald Trump tweeted three hours after Politico published a story questioning his age, diet and lack of workout routine.

“It will show perfection.”

In Politics….

The Free Press WV

►  Key elements of transportation bill approved by Congress

WASHINGTON — Congress has approved a sweeping 5-year, 1,300-page transportation bill that places new emphasis on eliminating highway bottlenecks to speed up getting goods to market and provides states the assurance of federal aid that they need in order to commit to major projects. Tucked into the bill were many provisions unrelated to transportation, from a restoration of crop insurance funds to changes in banking regulations.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

FREIGHT CORRIDORS

Puts a new focus on steering transportation aid to highways designated as “freight corridors.“ Over the duration of the bill, $4.5 billion is designated for a new competitive grant program for nationally significant freight and highway projects and $6.3 billion for a national highway freight program that uses a formula to apportion money to states.

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TRUCK AND BUS SAFETY SCORES

Requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to remove safety scores assigned to truck companies from a public website. The scores are based on inspections and roadside checks, but trucking industry officials say the government’s methodology is unfair. The agency would still be allowed to post safety scores for tour bus and interstate bus companies.

___

AUTO SAFETY

—Prohibits rental car agencies and car dealers with fleets of more than 35 cars from renting vehicles that have been recalled but not repaired, a long-sought goal of safety advocates. But the bill doesn’t require used-car dealers to repair recalled vehicles before selling them.

—Triples the maximum fine the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can levy against an automaker that violates safety defect regulations from $35 million to $105 million per violation. The Obama administration had proposed raising the ceiling to $300 million and safety advocates had called for doing away with any limit.

—Doubles the time automakers would have to retain safety records from 5 years to 10 years, making it easier to trace defects.

—Requires the government to revise the five-star rating system for new cars to reflect not only the ability of a vehicle to protect passengers in a crash, but also whether the vehicle comes equipped with crash avoidance systems like automatic braking and lane-change monitoring.

—Provides $21 million for research into in-vehicle sensor technology that can determine if a driver has a dangerously high level of alcohol in his or her body and automatically lock the ignition. No action by the driver, such as breathing into a tube, would be required.

___

NORTHEAST STATES

Restores $1.6 billion over six years in transit aid for seven high-density Northeast states: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The states provide over half of all public transportation trips in the U.S. The House bill would have made the money available to bus systems in all states.

___

TRAINS

—Provides $200 million to help commuter railroads install positive train control technology to prevent collisions and derailments. Federal investigators say if the technology had been in operation a deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia in May could have been prevented.

—Raises the liability cap on passenger rail accidents rom $200 million to $295 million, and makes the increase retroactive to include the Amtrak crash. Damage awards from that accident, which killed eight people and injured about 200, are expected to exceed the current cap.

—Requires the government revisit a rule requiring trains that haul crude oil and ethanol be equipped with electronically controlled brakes that automatically stop rail cars at the same time rather than sequentially. Freight railroads say the brakes are too expensive and their safety benefits are unproven. The bill requires a study and real-world testing of the brakes, after which the secretary of transportation can decide whether the cost of rule is merited or whether it should be revised.

—Requires Amtrak to permit train passengers to carry small domesticated cats and dogs in a pet carrier on board for a fee.

___

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

Restores the authority of bank, an obscure government agency that helps foreign customers finance the purchase of U.S. products. It’s authority was allowed to lapse in July after Tea Party conservatives in Congress opposed its renewal, calling the bank corporate welfare. The bank is self-supported by interest payments and fees, and usually turns a profit.

___

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK

—Transfers $53 billion over 5 years from the bank’s capital account to help pay for transportation programs.

—Cuts the dividend rate the Fed pays to large banks by tying the rate, now at 6 percent, to a much lower floating rate for 10-year treasury notes.

___

CUSTOMS FEES

Increase customs fees paid by airline and cruise ship passengers by indexing the fees to inflation despite objections from the airline and travel industries. The money would help offset the cost of highway and transit programs.

___

CROP INSURANCE

Repeals a section in the two-year budget deal enacted in November that would have cut federal crop insurance subsidies by $3 billion over 10 years. Farm-state lawmakers were furious when the budget deal was released, saying that the cuts could be devastating to farmers.

___

TAX COLLECTIONS

Allows the IRS to hire private collection agencies to recover unpaid taxes.


►  Trump picked stock fraud felon as senior adviser

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump knew a man he named as a senior business adviser in 2010 had been convicted in a major Mafia-linked stock fraud scheme, according to Associated Press interviews and a review of court records.

Trump had worked with Felix Sater previously during the man’s stint as an executive at Bayrock Group LLC, a real estate development firm that partnered with Trump on numerous projects after renting office space from the Trump Organization. But Sater’s past was not widely known at the time because he was working as a government cooperator on mob cases and the judge overseeing Sater’s own case kept the proceedings secret. After Sater’s criminal history and past ties to organized crime came to light in 2007, Trump distanced himself from Sater.

Less than three years later, however, Trump tapped Sater for a business development role that came with the title of senior adviser to Donald Trump. Sater received Trump Organization business cards and was given an office within the Trump Organization’s headquarters, on the same floor as Trump’s own.

Trump said during an AP interview on Wednesday that he recalled only bare details of Sater.

“Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it,“ Trump said, referring questions about Sater to his staff. “I’m not that familiar with him.“

According to Trump lawyer Alan Garten, Sater’s role was to prospect for high-end real estate deals for the Trump Organization. The arrangement lasted six months, Garten said.

The revelation about Sater’s role is significant because of its timing and directness, and marks the first time the Trump Organization has acknowledged publicly that Sater worked for Trump after the disclosures of Sater’s criminal background. Trump has said that among his secrets of success is that he surrounds himself with the “best and most serious people” and with “people you can trust.“

Sater never had an employment agreement or formal contract with the Trump Organization and did not close any deals for Trump, Garten said.

“He was trying to restart his life,“ Garten said. “I believe he was regretful of things that happened in the past.“

Trump did not know the details of Sater’s cooperation with the government when Sater came in-house in 2010, Garten said. But Garten noted that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised Sater’s cooperation with the federal government, when senators asked about him during her confirmation hearings early this year. She said Sater cooperated against his Mafia stock fraud co-defendants and assisted the government on unspecified national security matters.

“If Mr. Sater was good enough for the government to work with, I see no reason why he wasn’t good enough for Mr. Trump,“ Garten said.

He pleaded guilty in 1998 to one count of racketeering for his role in a $40 million stock fraud scheme involving the prominent Genovese and Bonanno crime families, according to court records. Prosecutors called the operation a pump-and-dump scheme, in which insiders manipulate the price of obscure stocks and then sell them to hapless investors at inflated prices. Five years earlier, a New York State court had sentenced Sater to more than a year in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a broken margarita glass.

Sater declined to discuss his work with Trump.

“Obviously a Donald-and-the-bad-guy piece is not interesting for me to participate in,“ Sater wrote in an email to AP. His lawyer, Robert Wolf, said information about Sater in public records and lawsuits obtained by the AP was defamatory. He credited Sater’s stint as a government cooperator with potentially saving American military lives, although he did not provide details. Wolf told the AP to write about Sater’s past “at your own risk” but did not cite specific concerns.

After his 1998 racketeering conviction, Sater spent more than a decade as an informant on the Mafia and on national security-related matters. Federal prosecutors kept even the existence of Sater’s racketeering case out of publicly available court records for 14 years.

During that time, Sater launched a luxury real estate development career. Sealed court records prevented potential customers or partners from learning about his past association with organized crime. Sater altered his name, to Satter, and became a top executive in Bayrock, a development firm that partnered with Trump on the Trump Soho high-rise hotel in Manhattan and other branded luxury real estate deals.

Civil lawsuits — including a sealed case filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York that was obtained by the AP — have alleged that Bayrock engaged in a pattern of misconduct during Sater’s tenure, sometimes involving potential Trump projects. The AP obtained a copy of the sealed lawsuit, which was refiled last month, when the original complaint was included as part of a lawsuit Sater filed in an Israeli court. Bayrock’s attorney told AP that the firm did not mislead anyone about Sater’s past and denied any misconduct. The firm has not yet responded to a version of the complaint refiled in U.S. court last month.

Trump’s lawyer, Garten, said Trump had no knowledge of alleged improprieties at Bayrock or reason to believe that Sater was a major stakeholder in Bayrock’s projects. Trump only learned of Sater’s troubled past when The New York Times reported details in December 2007. In the article, Trump distanced himself from Sater, saying: “I didn’t really know him very well.“

Garten said Trump had no further interactions with Sater at Bayrock following the revelations of his criminal history. But a new relationship was formed in 2010 when Trump offered Sater office space and a chance to round up new business possibilities for the Trump Organization.

“The guy’s been in business a long time, he’s got a lot of contacts,“ Garten said of Sater.


►  SENATORS MANCHIN AND TOOMEY RE-INTRODUCE COMMONSENSE CRIMINAL AND MENTAL BACKGROUND CHECKS AMENDMENT

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) today re-introduced the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act to prevent convicted criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing guns, while not infringing on law-abiding gun owners’ Second Amendment rights. This commonsense legislation expands existing background checks to gun shows and online sales – a loophole easily exploited by criminals and the mentally insane who have inflicted unimaginable violence on our society.

“While the recent mass shootings throughout our country have elevated the gun safety conversation, we cannot sacrifice our constitutional rights out of fear. It is our obligation to keep our communities safe and to protect our Second Amendment rights – and I truly believe we can and must do both,” Senator Manchin said.

“We need to keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals and the mentally ill while also bringing together a group of experts to look at all aspects of our culture of mass violence. Violence destroys the dignity, hopes and lives of millions of Americans. We have a unique opportunity to stop this epidemic here and now – but only if we can put politics aside and take a look at all aspects of our culture of mass violence. Our words will offer little comfort to the victims of mass violence everywhere. It is only through our actions that these families and communities across America may find solace. I am disappointed this vote failed, but I will continue to fight for commonsense reforms that protect law-abiding gun owners and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those adjudicated mentally ill.”

The bill explicitly bans the federal government from creating a registry and creates a new penalty for misusing records to create a registry – a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. The bill also protects veterans’ rights by offering an appeals process so that veterans do not lose their right to bear arms. Finally, the bill creates a commission of non-elected experts in their fields who will study the causes of mass violence in the United States, looking at all aspects of the problem, including mental health, guns, school safety and portrayals of violence in the media. This broad approach is absolutely necessary to truly address our culture of mass violence.

The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act will not:

·    The bill will not, in any way, shape, or form infringe upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.

·    The bill will not take away anyone’s guns.

·    The bill will not ban any type of firearm.

·    The bill will not ban or restrict the use of any kind of bullet or any size clip or magazine.

·    The bill will not create a national registry; in fact, it explicitly prohibits it.

How The Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up

The Free Press WV    vs.    The Free Press WV

“Investing in infrastructure makes our economy more productive and competitive across the board.”
– Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has announced a plan for infrastructure investment. How does her plan stack up against that of her chief competitor, Bernie Sanders?

Also, how will Clinton and Sanders pay for their plans? On that question, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently came up with a set of principles we can use to judge this.

Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan

Clinton on Monday announced a plan for investing in infrastructure improvements. Meteor Blades laid out the need for infrastructure investment at Daily Kos in “Clinton proposes $275 billion spending for infrastructure“:

… 11 percent of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and a fourth of them are functionally obsolete. Similar deficiencies can be found in schools, dams, levees, railroads, the electrical grid, and wastewater facilities. In its 2013 quadrennial report card on U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the nation would need to invest an additional $1.6 trillion by 2020 to put its infrastructure into good repair. And that doesn’t include innovative infrastructure like universal broadband.

Clinton’s infrastructure plan is detailed at her website in “Hillary Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow’s Economy Today.” Here is a distillation:

● $250 billion dollars in infrastructure investment, spread out over five years as additional spending of $50 billion each year.

● An additional one-time $25 billion to seed a national infrastructure bank. The bank will support up to an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement. These are loans to states and cities which will require tolls, fees, etc. to pay off.

● Spending priorities include “smart investments in ports, airports, roads, and waterways”; “giving all American households access to world-class broadband and creating connected ‘smart cities’”; “building airports and air traffic control systems”; “a smart, resilient electrical grid”; “safe and reliable sources of water”; “a national freight investment program”; “upgrade our dams and levees to improve safety and generate clean energy”; safe, smart roads and highways that are ready for the connected cars of tomorrow” and “the new energy sources that will power them.”

● A promise of “a faster, safer, and higher capacity passenger rail system.” But the plan does not mention high-speed rail. (Note that a single high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco is expected to cost up to $60 billion, which alone is almost one-fourth of Clinton’s entire five-year infrastructure investment for all infrastructure needs.)

Sanders’ Infrastructure Plan

Clinton’s $275 billion infrastructure plan offers modest spending and contains few specifics. Contrast that with candidate Bernie Sanders, who has proposed a highly detailed, $1 trillion plan.

Sanders’ infrastructure plan was originally introduced in January as a Senate bill called the Rebuild America Act. A summary is laid out on his campaign issues page, Creating Jobs Rebuilding America. The plan calls for spending $1 trillion over the same five-year period. Here’s what his plan includes:

● A $125 billion National Infrastructure Bank to leverage private capital to finance new projects.

● $75 billion to upgrade our passenger and freight rail lines.

● $12.5 billion to improve airports across the country.

● $17.5 billion to upgrade air traffic control systems.

● $15 billion to improve inland waterways, coastal harbors and shipping channels.

● $12 billion each year on high-hazard dams that provide flood control, drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, and recreation across the country; and the flood levees.

● $6 billion a year so states can improve drinking water systems.

● $6 billion a year to improve the wastewater plants and stormwater infrastructure.

● $10 billion a year for power transmission and distribution modernization projects.

● $5 billion a year to expand high-speed broadband networks in underserved and unserved areas, and to boost speeds and capacity all across the country.

Warren’s Key Tests For Corporate Tax Plans

Clinton’s infrastructure plan says only that it will be paid for through “business tax reform.” It does not detail the nature of the reforms that would pay for this spending. Similarly, Sanders does not yet have a specific individual and corporate tax proposal, but he has proposed a financial transaction tax and says he will close loopholes.

As we wait for the candidates’ plans for raising revenue through individual and corporate taxes, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has recently outlined a set of principles that we can use to judge the plans the candidates eventually offer.

Earlier this month Warren gave a speech laying out key tests for a progressive approach to corporate tax “reform.” The post “Must Watch – Warren’s Warning About The Coming Corporate Tax Giveaway” covers this speech. She says that “the problem with our corporate tax code” is “not that taxes are far too high for giant corporations, as the lobbyists claim. No, the problem is that the revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low.”

Warren laid out three principles for tax reform that benefits middle-class families and small businesses, not just wealthy multinational corporations:

1) Increase the share of revenue that corporations pay. The tax code now is so tilted toward the big corporations that any “revenue neutral” plan leaves the country with too little money to fund basic services.

2) Level the playing field between small and big businesses. The business tax code is rigged against small businesses, making it harder for them to compete.

3) Promote investment and jobs in the U.S. Lower tax rates and loopholes for hiding profits overseas encourages more outsourcing of jobs and investment. “Our tax code should protect jobs and investment here at home, period,” Warren said.

How will Clinton and Sanders’ plans measure up to Warren’s tests?

Do They Offer Corporations A “Repatriation” Tax Break?

Here’s one key point to pay attention to regarding any plan for corporate tax “reform”: There is a huge pot of money sitting offshore that giant corporations have moved out and kept out of the country thanks to a loophole that allows them to avoid paying the taxes due on those profits until it is “repatriated” – brought back to the US. The amount being kept out of the country is now over $2.1 trillion, with $620 billion of taxes due. Another $90 billion is added to this pot of taxes due each year.

There are two ways this money can be brought back so the country can use the resulting tax revenue:

1) The corporations can be told to bring it back and pay the taxes they owe on these “offshore” profits. This brings $620 billion of revenue to the government immediately, and another $90 billion each year thereafter.

2) Politicians can offer an “incentive” to bring the money back, in the form of a cut in the taxes due. This is a trick because it “generates” revenue but actually brings less than the $620 billion owed, the rest being pocketed by the corporations.

This is the key point to watch for in Clinton and Sanders’ plans for funding infrastructure. Do they require the corporations to pay what they owe now or do they hand them tens or hundreds of billions by letting them repatriate the profits at a lowered tax rate?

The Politics Of Passing Anything

It is interesting to examine the Clinton and Sanders’ infrastructure plans in light of what is needed by the country, and the fact that a Republican Congress is unlikely to allow any infrastructure plan (or anything else) to pass.

Republicans on Monday immediately came out in opposition to Clinton’s proposal, calling it more government spending. The Republican National Committee called it a “spending binge” and said Clinton “wants to treat Americans’ tax dollars like every day is Black Friday.”

With Republicans opposed to any investment in America’s infrastructure, the proposals are measures of political positions, not measures of what the country should be able to do.

The need is $3.6 trillion by 2020, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) most recent Infrastructure Report Card. That what ASCE says is needed just to catch up to basic standards. (Note that the ASCE total is both federal and state investment.) This need is $1.6 trillion more than currently budgeted – again, just to catch up to basic standards, never mind catching up to the rest of the world by upgrading to things like high-speed rail.

Sanders proposes $1 trillion towards this, Clinton proposes $275 billion, plus loans generated by both candidates’ infrastructure bank plans.

Why So Little?

Why does Clinton propose spending so much less than the needed amount? The second paragraph of her plan says, “Estimates of the size of our ‘infrastructure gap’ register in the trillions of dollars.” Following the fourth paragraph, a new section begins, “That’s why Hillary Clinton is announcing a five-year $275 billion dollar infrastructure plan.” That sums up Clinton’s less-than-courageous proposal.

Republicans are not going to allow any infrastructure spending to pass anyway, so why not take a strong stand? And why not enter into negotiations with a solid progressive position to fall back from? Like her proposal for a $12 minimum wage while Sanders, labor and most progressives propose $15 – with Republicans allowing neither to become law – her $275 billion infrastructure proposal appears to be some sort of signal to voters that she is to the right of and perhaps less “scary” than Sanders. But it is also a recipe for little, if any, incremental improvement at a time when the people and the country clearly need transformative reform.

~~  Dave Johnson ~~

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