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U.S. National Debt:

Priorities For The 112th Congress

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

January is a fitting time to establish priorities to maintain focus on critical goals. While not all-inclusive and adjustable to meet unforeseen circumstances, the following are some of my general objectives as we begin the 112th Congress:

1) Fiscal Responsibility: Getting our nation's fiscal house in order is Congress' most critical challenge. Our nation's extreme debt is unsustainable, cedes sovereignty to foreign creditors, impedes economic growth and saddles future generations with an unfair, dangerous burden. Given the immense risk, timely, decisive action is imperative. Addressing the problem requires reducing federal spending, including health care spending through tackling Medicare's unfunded liabilities and repealing the misguided health care law, which worsens our debt. Limiting the federal government's size and reach will help reduce spending and restore the balance of power established in the U.S. Constitution.

2) Economic Recovery and Job Growth: Debt reduction will advance economic recovery necessary to create lasting jobs and spur growth. It remains unacceptable that there are Americans willing to work but unable to find employment. New jobs come from entrepreneurs who turn ideas into successful businesses. Congress can reduce barriers to turning ideas into job-creating businesses by spurring investment and lowering capital costs, rather than imposing new mandates, like the flawed health care law and Dodd-Frank. Addressing Idaho's economic/rural development and infrastructure needs is also important.

3) Tax and Regulatory Reform: Focus on job creation and economic growth requires review of federal taxes and regulations affecting small businesses and workers. Americans deserve a fair tax code and curtailment of unreasonable government mandates, including Environmental Protection Agency overreach, to encourage innovation, creation of long-term jobs and world market success.

4) Increasing Our Nation's Competitiveness: Reducing market barriers is critical for U.S. small businesses and workers for growth and improved global competitiveness. I will continue to advocate policies that expand market access for Idaho and U.S. industries and ensure trading partners' adherence to trade commitments. Maintaining technical manpower through youths' access to high-quality education is crucial to compete successfully. Additionally, preserving Idaho's priorities in the comprehensive transportation reauthorization will help maintain the transportation infrastructure necessary for shipping Idaho products and accessing markets.

5) Advancing Local, Collaborative Problem Solving: Many challenges, especially those concerning our environment and public lands management, are best addressed through collaboration to achieve locally-driven solutions. The Owyhee Initiative, started by the Owyhee County Commissioners nearly ten years ago, utilized a collaborative model to address a variety of challenges in Owyhee County. What resulted was a landmark legislative compromise, and work continues with the Owyhee Initiative Board of Directors to implement the agreement. Work also continues to advance efforts of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative Work Group, which I convened to find consensus on land management issues in Idaho's Clearwater Basin.

There are many more critical issues--Secure Rural Schools and Farm Bill reauthorizations; improved border security and immigration reform; renewable energy promotion; Endangered Species Act improvements; wolves and other species concerns; water battles; fire management; timber and mining complexities; 2nd Amendment rights protection; domestic violence prevention; addressing veterans' needs; education improvements; and many more. I will continue to advocate for Idahoans and their priorities on these and the other issues that come before the Senate.

Collaboration is instrumental for legislating in the 112th Congress and should not require compromising principles. It requires earnest negotiation with respect for ideas from all perspectives and openness in moving forward. Working together, we can solve our challenges. Local involvement helps obtain long-term results. I look forward to working with fellow Idahoans and colleagues, the Idaho congressional delegation and Governor Otter to accomplish fiscally-responsible, effective objectives that benefit our state and economy.

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