February 23, 2006 - E-Newsletter Vol III: Ed III
Congress has hit the ground running in 2006. Between the State of the Union, the push for lobbying reform and the various budget debates, the beginning of this year is shaping up to be an active and important one.
In this E-Newsletter:
- Oil and Gas Companies Shortchanging Taxpayers
- Federal Czar Needed for 9/11 Health Crisis
- Cleaning Up Corruption in Congress
- The Wrong Budget Priorities
- Workers’ Wages Losing Out to Inflation
Oil and Gas Companies Shortchanging Taxpayers
This winter, American families are paying record high prices for gas to heat their homes. Unfortunately, we recently found out that oil and gas companies at the same time are skipping out on paying the bill they owe American taxpayers.
These companies owe taxpayers royalties for drilling on government-owned land. As The New York Times first reported, the companies are hiding behind a complex set of regulations in order to pay lower royalties on natural gas than they should rightfully owe. This is completely unfair for taxpayers and is especially distasteful after a year of record profits for the oil industry.
A number of colleagues joined me in calling for Congressional hearings on this issue. The oil and gas companies must answer questions about their practices, and Congress should take appropriate action to make sure they aren’t repeated.
Federal Czar Needed for 9/11 Health Crisis
More than four years after 9/11, health problems persist for thousands of responders and residents who spent time in the toxic soup of Ground Zero – and in many cases, those problems are worsening. You may have read or seen recent news reports about some of these heroes who have passed away in the past few months. It is an incredibly sad situation that deserves much more attention from the federal government.
Ever since 9/11, I have worked to alert members of the administration to the 9/11 health issue with in order to get proper federal support for medical monitoring and health treatment programs. To this point, the support has been inadequate. For that reason, Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Staten Island) and I recently called for the creation of a 9/11 Health Czar within the federal government to coordinate and implement the federal response to this health crisis.
Marvin Bethea, a paramedic who has experienced numerous ailments since responding to 9/11, sat in the balcony at the State of the Union as my guest. He was there to represent the thousands of heroes still sick and injured and to again make the case for a better federal response. “We will never forget” is a moto that our government should honor.
Cleaning up Corruption in Congress
The Jack Abramoff scandal has brought to light for many Americans the unseemly ties between special interest lobbyists, their money and some Members of Congress. It is clear that reform is a necessity. I proudly signed the Democratic Declaration, with a goal “to restore accountability, honesty and openness at all levels of government.” And I have co-sponsored our legislation to crack down on corruption in Congress. Among other actions, this bill would: ban gifts and travel from lobbyists, slow the revolving door that allows Members of Congress to immediately become lobbyists after leaving office, and prohibit the practice of sneaking special interest provisions into legislation in the dead of the night, just before the legislation comes up for a vote.
The Wrong Budget Priorities
One of the first actions Congress took when we returned to Washington this year was to narrowly pass a budget bill that, sadly, will reduce assistance Americans who need help the most. The legislation slashes $28.3 billion for Medicaid over the next 10 years. It increases the costs of college loans and forces students to pay excessive interest rates. And it cuts $8.4 billion from child support collections.
At the urging of the drug companies and HMOs, changes in the legislation were made to save those industries $42 billion, leaving behind those who rely on Medicaid.
Ironically, the majority titled this bill the Deficit Reduction Act – even though it is part of a budget package that will increase the deficit by $17 billion over the next five years. Only in Washington.
Workers’ Wages Losing Out to Inflation
As the senior House Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee, I review all of the economic statistics our government produces to gauge the state of our economy. Unfortunately, the latest report on real wages – workers wages adjusted for inflation – is not promising. In 2005, the average hourly wage for the American worker, when adjusted for inflation, fell by 0.5 percent.
This means that even though American workers are producing more and working harder, they are taking home less. Middle-class and working-class Americans are, to an extent, being left behind in the economic recovery we have undergone over the past few years, but it should not be that way.
Please feel free to share this email with anyone that may be interested in these issues. As always, I appreciate your comments and invite you to write to me through my website at https://maloney.house.gov.
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress
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