In the 112th Congress, I served on the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, which plays an important role in investigating the impact of the President’s health law on all Americans. The Oversight subcommittee also oversees the effects of the federal tax code on millions of Americans. I have also previously been a member of the House’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, the committee with jurisdiction over the federal tax code, I am a strong advocate of reforming our cumbersome tax code. I believe it is important to have a simplified, transparent tax code that eliminates hidden tax exemptions, credits and deductions that benefit only a few. By improving our tax code, we will be able to incentivize employers to start hiring while also reducing taxes for all.
Agriculture is the number one industry in the 18th Congressional District. Yet time and again the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued regulations threatening the livelihood of our famers. Proper oversight of the EPA requires they understand the impact their proposed rules and regulations will have on millions of Americans. That is why I sponsored and passed an amendment to H.R. 1633, Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. My legislation requires the EPA to take the economic impact and effect on agriculture jobs into account before it issues new regulations.
One of the most important roles of Congress is to conduct vigorous oversight of all federal agencies. In order to provide increased transparency to both Congress and the American people, I authored legislation that requires federal agencies to provide guaranteed responses to Congressional inquiries. I also previously authored the Federal Program Sunset Commission Act in order to provide the American people with a better evaluation of current federal programs. This bill creates a bipartisan commission to help abolish federal programs that are found to be duplicative, unnecessary, inefficient, or don’t meet specific performance standards. Every year, the Sunset Commission will issue a report to Congress with a list of federal programs that should be abolished as well as recommendations on how other programs can be improved. Importantly, within six months of being listed for abolishment, the federal program will cease to receive federal funding and the program’s funding will be returned to the U.S. Treasury.
As a result of actions taken by whistleblowers, it was discovered that a federal agency spent over $800,000 for a 2010 conference held in Las Vegas. This type of lavish spending is unacceptable and as a result, I supported legislation in both the 112th and 113th Congress that seeks to bring transparency to the process by which federal agencies sponsor conferences for their employees.
Nearly two years after being signed into law, the American people still do not know the complete consequences of the President’s health law. For example, the Medicaid program is one of the biggest expenses for the State of Illinois yet the health law expanded the program to millions of Americans starting in 2014. In order to better understand the impact of Medicaid’s expansion on Illinois’ strained budget I authored a letter, signed by a majority of the Illinois Congressional delegation, to Governor Quinn.
This letter asked him to provide Illinois residents with a full accounting of Medicaid’s expansion to Illinois once the 100% federal match for newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries ends in 2017. Some estimates find Illinois taxpayers will spend $10 billion more on Medicaid than it otherwise would have spent. This additional spending comes at a time when the State of Illinois has been forced to delay payments to providers because it does not have enough money to pay them on time.
When the Social Security Administration told Americans to visit its website in order to learn about their benefits, it did not include the disclaimer that was previously used in its annual statements that were sent by mail. This disclaimer notified future beneficiaries that the benefit estimates were based on current law and subject to change. This transparency is especially important since nearly 10,000 Baby Boomers will file for retirement benefits every day over the next 20 years.
Given the significant role retirement planning will play in the lives of millions, Social Security’s failure to include a disclaimer on its website was inexcusable. According to the Social Security Board of Trustees’ annual report, Social Security’s trust fund balance will be exhausted by 2036. At that time, payroll taxes will no longer be able to cover 100% of promised benefits. Instead, it will only be able to cover 77% of promised benefits. This means current benefits would have to be reduced by 23%, payroll taxes would have to be increased to 16.4% (a 32% increase over the current rate) or a combination of both.
As a result, I authored a letter to the Social Security Administration asking them to revise their website in order to include the disclaimer and inform all Americans about the impact of Social Security’s projected finances on their retirement. All Americans, but especially younger generations, deserve to know the proper state of Social Security’s finances as they plan for their retirement. I’m proud the Social Security Administration agreed and added the disclaimer to its website.
Another federal agency which continues to overstep its authority is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB has traditionally decided cases between labor unions and employers. In recent years, however, the NLRB has become politicized and threatens to jobs with numerous regulations. I authored a letter to the NLRB asking it to back away from a mandate requiring the posting of unionization procedures. As a result, the NLRB decided to postpone the rule. I remain vigilant against a future enactment of the rule as I know if it is ultimately implemented, it will affect millions of private sector employers who are not under the suspicion of denying an employee access to his or her rights under law. I also believe that given the questionable nature of the President’s 2012 recess appointments to the NLRB, Congress will need to increase its oversight of the NLRB in the future.
The President’s failed stimulus plan further wasted taxpayer money by requiring construction projects to spend money on stimulus advertisement signs. I authored legislation, which was included in larger legislation that passed the House in the 112th Congress, prohibiting such signs and requiring agencies that have already spent money on such signs to have their expenses reduced by an equal amount. This taxpayer funded propaganda has already cost the state of Illinois $650,000- at a time when the State of Illinois routinely holdups payments to schools, social service providers and others who do business with the state.