Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Heritage of a Better Future

by Senator Larry Craig

In the lives of the 41.3 million Hispanics who live in the United States, there was a moment when each one, or someone in their families, made a decision to pack bags, leave his or her land and head out on a new path.

It’s an act of courage. It takes more than a little effort for someone to break away from family, friends and a known environment, to set out to a new land to begin again. It’s not an easy task to go back to square one, to set a new foundation and build a life from scratch.

There is sacrifice. There’s an enormous cost of packing memories and bidding farewell to loved ones until a long next time before you see them again. It is a simultaneous act of detachment from yesterday in favor of tomorrow. And this is what also makes it an act of optimism. The journey to this country, our nation of immigrants, is a step of faith.

That step demonstrates hope in God and a better future, which sustains an immigrant through the tough times. This hope drives him to learn, to plant roots, to work hard; and to grow. These shared values connect the immigrants of today with the settlers who established Jamestown and Plymouth nearly 400 years ago, and those who have been coming ever since. I believe that America continues to be the greatest nation on earth largely because of this constant renewal.

This is what the Hispanic heritage is about: it’s about handing down values like those described above. It involves passing down different elements of a rich and vibrant culture, but as Hispanics know, it’s also about transferring opportunities.

President Bush believes in the equality of opportunity, and has taken measures to extend the “promise of America” to everyone. With the help of Congress, the President has increased the budget for elementary and high school education by 48 percent since 2001. Parents now have options regarding the educational future of their children and resources to complement their instruction with tutoring and other reinforcements if necessary. Around the country, Hispanic children have improved their scores in reading and math, narrowing the achievement gap between themselves and their peers.

More doors are opening up for Hispanics to reach their potential and develop their enterprising spirit. Last year the U.S. Small Business Administration surpassed its lending record with entrepreneurs of Hispanic origin. Today more than 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses fuel the American economy. In five years since 1997, Hispanic-owned small businesses increased by 31 percent and their receipts increased 22 percent, to $ 226.5 billion.

Similarly Hispanics are becoming home owners in larger numbers than ever before. The Census Bureau reported Hispanic homeownership hit a record 49.7 percent in the first quarter of this year. Nearly half of Hispanic families have reached home in the fullest sense of the word. More will.

So this September, when we celebrate the many contributions of Hispanics, we celebrate also the inheritance of the better future they have found here. How very American that is. ¡Congratulations!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

CRAIG ANNOUNCES WATER QUALITY GRANT FOR SHOSHONE-BANNOCK TRIBE

WASHINGTON, DC – Idaho Senator Larry Craig announced today a $700,000 water quality grant for the Shoshone Bannock Tribe to eliminate an ongoing contaminated water problem on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.
“These dollars are part of nearly $22 million in water and wastewater grants and loans we’ve been able to provide to rural communities throughout the state,” Senator Craig said. “This grant will provide the necessary improvements to assure safe drinking water for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe.”
According to the USDA’s Rural Development Office, current drinking water wells in the area have shown high levels of contaminants including ethylene dibromide and nitrates. The funds will be used to install approximately 25,000 feet of water line along Ballard Road on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation along with the installation of fire hydrants and 83 service connections with water meters.

For more information about the project, contact Elise Teton at 239-4580. For information about the USDA grants contact Candace Moore at 378-5603.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Loving Our Lands

by Senator Larry Craig

As I grow a little older, I find that it is getting a little harder to keep track of all the commemorative days, weeks, and months designated to celebrate all kinds of different events. However, I’m convinced that the challenge is not my old age. Rather, every year there are more and more of these commemorations showing up on the calendar.

There is Earth Day, Groundhog Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, National Preparedness Month (September) and more. Did you know that September 19, was designated by some groups as “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”? Obviously, some of these commemorations are more lighthearted than others. But one of the days that I do like to keep track of every year is National Public Lands Day, which falls this year on Saturday, September 24.

The first National Public Lands Day took place in 1994, sponsored by three federal agencies. The purpose is to encourage citizens to give back to our public lands by restoring trails, building bridges, removing invasive plants, protecting natural and cultural resources, planting trees, and much more. In the first year, 700 volunteers turned out to participate. Today, in just its 12th year, National Public Lands Day will include nine federal agencies, dozens of corporations and organizations and nearly 100,000 volunteers.

Public lands are especially important in western states like Idaho. The federal government owns about 63 percent of the land in the Gem State, and Idahoans love to experience those lands. We use the lands to make a living, like many loggers, ranchers and miners do, or for recreational uses, like hiking, rock climbing, skiing, camping, snowmobiling, using off-road vehicles, hunting, fishing, boating, swimming. Although views on the best use of public lands may diverge, we all value these resources and understand that we must work together to keep them healthy and vibrant for future generations.

Unfortunately, these resources and recreation opportunities are under attack by certain special interest groups. Some are fighting to halt all resource management on our public lands, while others are working to restrict and, in some cases, eliminate human access to our public lands for recreation.

Yes, we must manage our public lands responsibly, which includes restrictions on some activities in some areas. What we must not do is unreasonably restrict or eliminate certain activities. Despite our differences over the best use of public lands, I believe that it is possible for everyone to work together to produce solutions all can live with.

What we do not want to live with are thousands upon thousands of acres of our public lands burned over by catastrophic wildfire. Although the fire season has not grabbed the headlines this summer, more than 8 million acres have burned in 2005, nearly double the 10-year average. Several fires in Idaho have burned more than 40,000 acres each.

This is the result of a hands-off approach. The evidence shows that when our forests are left alone, they often become choked with unhealthy, dead and dying trees, which ultimately provide fuel for fires. In these overgrown forests, fires can burn so intensely that the soil is sterilized, and recovery becomes extremely difficult.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again—we will never completely eliminate fires, nor should we. Fires are a natural part of the process of rejuvenation. But well-managed forests are much more capable of surviving a fire, which in turn preserves vital habitat for our wildlife and protects sensitive watersheds.

If you are interested in doing your part to take care of our public lands, please visit the National Public Lands Day website at http://www.npld.com. There you can find a list of activities taking place throughout the state on public lands near you. By giving something back to the lands we love so much, we can make National Public Lands Day a day to remember.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

TAIWAN TO BUY IDAHO AG PRODUCTS

Craig signs letter of agreement with delegation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig announced today that members of the Agricultural Trade Goodwill Mission from the Republic of China on Taiwan signed letters of intent between the Mission, American grain suppliers, and congressional members. Under the agreement, Taiwan will purchase 14.5 million metric tons of U.S. wheat, soybeans and corn in 2006 and 2007. After the signing, the Mission will then travel to several states, including Idaho, to meet producers and sign agreements, and tour agricultural facilities and operations.
“Clearly, the quality of Idaho’s agricultural products has impressed buyers in Taiwan,” Craig said. “Expanding foreign markets helps Idaho producers stay profitable and competitive, and Taiwan has proven to be a very good customer. I’m glad to see this relationship continue.”
Members of the Mission are interested in buying soft white wheat grown in Idaho. Under the agreement signed in 2003, covering the years 2004 and 2005, Taiwan has already purchased 10.1 million metric tons of wheat from U.S. producers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

CRAIG INTRODUCES HOME SCHOOL BILL

Legislation would end discrimination against home schooling

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier today, Idaho Senator Larry Craig introduced the “Home School Non-Discrimination Act” (HONDA) of 2005. The legislation would clarify several existing federal statutes which inadvertently discriminate against home schools or home schoolers.
“All too often, federal laws relating to education have left out the millions of children across the nation who benefit from home schooling,” Craig said. “These students are some of our nation’s best and brightest. Many of them consistently score at the highest levels of achievement tests and go on to succeed at the best colleges and universities in the United States. Unfortunately, despite their talents and achievements, these students may be denied services or privileges available to other students because of oversights in federal law. This bill would rectify such situations.”
Among the statutes corrected by HONDA, one would clarify that home schoolers are eligible to apply for the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship program, and would place home school graduates on par with high school graduates when enlisting in the armed services. Currently, home schoolers are not eligible for the Byrd Scholarship, and are regarded as “Tier II” military recruits – the same as high school dropouts – unless they obtain a G.E.D. As Tier II recruits, home schoolers are ineligible for the signing bonuses and college benefits of Tier I recruits.

HONDA would also clarify that higher education institutions who accept home schoolers will remain eligible for federal funds. Another provision would allow parents to use money saved in Coverdell Savings Accounts for qualified home education expenses, just as parents of private and public schooled students can now use that money for qualified education expenses.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Counteracting Katrina

by Senator Larry Craig

By now, we have all heard of Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing disaster in the Gulf Coast region. For many days, our televisions and internet news outlets have been filled with images and stories of the destruction and the suffering. It is a humanitarian disaster on a scale not seen for years, perhaps decades.

Although much of the commentary has been devoted to assigning blame or responsibility for the hurricane’s aftermath, I’m not going to get into that here. Congress is already beginning to take a hard look at the response of federal, state, and local agencies to Katrina, to try and identify what went wrong, what went right, and how things can be done better in the future – and we will get the answers in good time. Meanwhile, right now, people are still suffering in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Pointing fingers will not put food in their mouths, clothing on their backs, or a roof over their heads.

As I write, the full range of federal resources is being brought to bear on the relief efforts underway. Troops of the 82nd Airborne are patrolling New Orleans on search-and-rescue and security missions. The Army Corps of Engineers has been busily repairing the city’s system of levees and pumps, and the floodwaters are now receding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has swung into action and is helping to coordinate the evacuation of stranded civilians, the delivery of food and supplies, and cleanup efforts. Congress is considering an emergency supplemental appropriation to cover the costs of rescue and relief work. These are just a few of the efforts in progress.

Millions of Americans, however, watch the situation and immediately feel a personal need to contribute to these efforts in some way. Fortunately, there are many different ways to get involved. All you have to do is pick one.

Organizations like the Salvation Army (www.salvationarmyusa.org), the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org), and Catholic Charities of Idaho (www.catholicidaho.org) have long histories of responding to disasters around the globe. A cash contribution to charities like these is always an effective way to get relief to victims.

Idahoans are also mobilizing their talents and imaginations. At Idaho State University, the Greek Council has set a goal of raising $25,000 for hurricane relief. Governor Kempthorne sent five Idaho National Guard tanker trucks carrying a total of 12,500 gallons of gasoline to the Gulf Coast region. With the cooperation of St. Luke’s and St. Alphonsus hospitals in Boise, the governor also organized teams of doctors and nurses to volunteer their services in the region. A gentleman name Roy Prescott, of Jerome, is making available long term care and assisted living facilities for Katrina victims. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Chainsaw Crew in the Magic Valley area is organizing to send a mobile group to cut and remove trees that have fallen on houses and cars and across roads.

For more ideas, an excellent resource is the USA Freedom Corps website at www.usafreedomcorps.gov. There, you can find links to different disaster relief funds and charities, learn how to donate goods or services, or you can read up on ways to volunteer.

In this time, I would also encourage you not to forget your local charities like the Red Cross of Greater Idaho. The valuable work they and other groups do at the state and local levels must continue, but in the past, massive disasters have often diverted attention and donations elsewhere, while the charities closest to home might be forced to scale back services or close their doors altogether.

Despite the vast distances that often separate Americans, we’ve never had trouble pulling together and helping each other in times of disaster. No matter what the challenge, at home or abroad, we have always stood ready to come to the aid of those suffering and in need. Once again, this has proven to be true. I am proud that Idahoans will continue to do their part.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Tax on Death

by Senator Larry Craig

Through the years, some pretty strange ideas have come out of Washington, D.C. Of all the bizarre things though, there has never been a tax on birthdays, thinning hair (thankfully!) or aching joints. To most people, taxes on such normal aspects of the aging process seem ridiculous. But until 2001, the federal government actually did levy a tax on part of the human life-cycle — death.

In 2001, Congress enacted a phase-out of the federal estate or “death” tax, with its complete repeal scheduled to occur for one year in 2010. While that legislation was a significant step in the right direction, the full economic potential of the repeal of the death tax will only be achieved when Congress makes it permanent.

That’s why, just before August recess, I, along with 16 of my colleagues in the Senate, supported a motion to proceed to final consideration of H.R. 8, the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2005. Shortly after the Senate reconvenes on September 6th, I will vote to bring debate to a close, and if successful, will vote to permanently repeal our country’s tax on death.

The death tax imposed under our current system is fundamentally unfair. A taxpayer’s death is the central fact that triggers this tax. There is no reasonable basis in philosophy, economics, or simple fairness for imposing a tax for no other reason than a person’s death, regardless of how much that person owned.

A cornerstone of American society is freedom — including economic freedom. Our forebears came to the United States seeking a better life, which included the freedom to work hard and pass on their life savings to benefit their families, not an overbearing government. A death tax is a detriment to freedom and counterproductive.

With such a burden, what incentive is there for people to work hard, create jobs, implement new ideas, save, and invest, if they know the government – not their family or other designated heirs, such as a church or favorite charity – will benefit from what they have accomplished? I believe people have a moral right to dispose of the fruits of their labors as they see fit, both in life and at its end.

Although the current exemption of an estate’s first $1.5 million is helpful, farmland or a small business that has been in the family for many years often has appreciated, on paper, to a much higher value. That value is locked up in the land and facilities and equipment. When the tax man comes and demands cash immediately, there is often no alternative to breaking up the farm or liquidating part or all of the business.

Unfortunately, the debate over repeal of the death tax often focuses only on the taxes that decedents’ estates actually pay, which have averaged only 1.3 percent of annual federal revenues over the past 10 years. This limited focus ignores the real costs this tax imposes on Americans, especially owners of small businesses and family farms, including: lifetime estate-planning costs, which surveys have found that an average family can spend up to $150,000 on such planning; substantial compliance costs at death with respect to attorneys, accountants, appraisers, and other experts; and deadweight costs, as the death tax discourages productive economic behavior, like saving, investing, and entrepreneurship.

Past politicians have sold the death tax — like other high taxes — on the basis of envy. I disagree with the premise that property should be confiscated by the government for no better reason than the fact that some people have more of it. Instead, our tax system, and indeed, our entire legal system, should be based upon equal opportunity, not the punishment of success or the forced redistribution of good fortune.

It is time for Congress to stop penalizing Americans’ efforts to prosper, to be enterprising, and to create wealth. It is time to make the repeal of the death tax permanent.