Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
The start of this year is the beginning of the second half of the 114 th Congress. This is a good time to reestablish legislative and federal policy priorities for the year ahead. Improving our nation's economic wellbeing remains my first priority, as addressing our fiscal crisis is paramount. I will continue to use every opportunity to make progress on this and other efforts of importance to Idahoans.
As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I will work with my colleagues to build on last year's passage of the first budget resolution conference report in years. We must follow a balanced budget that stops the unsustainable growth of our national debt, which now exceeds $18.8 trillion, and contains strong budget controls to curb the explosive level of federal spending.
Simplifying our overly-complex and anti-competitive tax code remains an essential part of the economic reform our nation needs. This requires dramatically simplifying our tax code, eliminating complexity, broadening the base and significantly lowering rates for all Americans. We must build on the pro-growth provisions included in last year's tax extender legislation, which made important policies, including the research and development (R&D) tax credit, permanent. Comprehensive, long-term reform of the tax code would provide needed certainty to businesses and families, rather than the continued uncertainty of extending these policies for a year or two at a time.
As mandatory programs comprise the majority of federal spending, debt solutions must also address automatic federal spending. Most importantly, we must improve the solvency of entitlement programs-Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid-to ensure that they are sustainable for current and future recipients. As the third ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, that oversees taxes, Social Security and certain health care programs (Medicare and Medicaid), among others, I will continue to press forprogress.
Additionally, crushed under an ever-increasing regulatory burden, community banks and credit unions are disappearing from America's financial landscape. My focus as the second most senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee is to work with my colleagues to create a regulatory environment in which traditional lending can thrive in all communities, with an emphasis on personalized services that meet the needs of local residents and businesses. In addition, I will work to protect taxpayers, stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, push back on regulatory agencies' collection of big data on private financial accounts, and end the Department of Justice's Operation Choke Point.
Serving on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also provides opportunities to make progress on issues from stopping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's aggressive overreach into the lives of Idahoans to ensuring that rural areas are fairly considered for infrastructure funding. I welcome the opportunity to promote sensible and effective environmental policies that do not jeopardize the economy and small businesses. I will also continue to advance locally-driven collaboration as a best means of addressing many of our environment and public lands issues.
There are many more critical issues: reducing regulatory overreach; expanding market opportunities for U.S. businesses; Secure Rural Schools reauthorization; border security and immigration reform; renewable energy promotion, including advancing the Idaho National Lab's nuclear energy research as a reliable, safe, clean and efficient part of a diverse national energy portfolio; Endangered Species Act improvements; addressing wildlife species concerns; fire management; water, timber and mining complexities; confirmation of a new federal district court judge for Idaho;2nd Amendment rights; domestic violence prevention; addressing veterans' needs; education improvements; and many more. I will continue to advocate for Idahoans' priorities in the Senate.
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