By Senator Mike Crapo
As the 110th Congress ends, we can reflect on important accomplishments including endangered species reform, the Farm Bill and improving benefits for Medicare patients. With a new President and a different dynamic in the House and Senate, legislating in the 111th Congress will require innovative approaches to policy-making. I look forward to working with my colleagues, and the other members of the Idaho delegation, Senator-elect Jim Risch, Representative Mike Simpson and Representative-elect Walt Minnick, to accomplish fiscally-responsible, effective policy objectives that benefit our society and help our economy.
Seven years in the making, comprehensive land management legislation resulting from the historic Owyhee Initiative came close to passing the Senate in 2008. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has indicated that the Owyhee Initiative bill will be one of the first orders of business for the new Congress. Passage of this legislation will write a new chapter in the history of land management in Idaho and the West. Furthermore, I will continue to work with Representative Simpson and Senate leadership on the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act.
Indications are that the current economic challenges will continue for some time. Our financial systems and tax structures should operate in ways that help, not hinder the economy. To that end, it's a top priority of mine to prevent increases in income tax rates, as well as increases in the death tax rates and the capital gains and dividends tax rates-increases scheduled to occur in 2010, barring additional action from Congress. Regarding our financial services industry, the regulatory structure must be equipped to respond to increasingly complex financial arrangements and procedures. Modernizing this structure will reduce the likelihood of the financial catastrophes that characterized the better part of 2008.
As more countries gain access to international markets, fair trade and a level playing field for international trade will become absolutely necessary for the U.S. to maintain economic strength and food security. I will continue to support and advocate policies that expand market access for Idaho and U.S. industries and emphasize our trading partners' adherence to trade commitments. In a related matter, I will work to ensure sound implementation of the 2008 Farm Bill.
Agriculture and trade issues often raise the issue of immigration. My view of what constitutes sound U.S. immigration policy has not changed. The most effective immigration policy will ensure proper protection of our nation's borders, and will provide a workable guest worker program that assures American citizens have the first right to access available jobs. It will not provide amnesty to those who have entered the U.S. illegally.
While current financial difficulties are making media headlines right now, we have another crisis-that is, lack of affordable, choice-centered health care. I will continue working with my colleagues to achieve fiscally-responsible bipartisan health care reform, one that incorporates private market initiatives.
As most Idahoans know firsthand, transportation dollars are critical to our state. I will work to ensure that Idaho's priorities are preserved in the comprehensive transportation reauthorization scheduled for next year. Also, I will continue to advocate for Idaho's leadership in development of alternative energy sources, including nuclear, wind, geothermal, hydro, biofuels and innovations in clean coal and natural gas technologies.
These are just some legislative priorities for the next Congress. But, all legislative goals of mine will continue to abide by principles of fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction. I am energized as I look ahead to next year, working with my colleagues and for Idahoans to enable the federal government to play an appropriately constrained and beneficial role in people's lives.
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