Here are some of the latest press releases from the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation. I think this is a good way to publish their announcements and get our message out there “unfiltered” by the regular media. Now that more of our Congressional delegation is sending me their releases this is a good way to collect and publish these messages.
From Allyson Schwartz:
Congress Passes Schwartz’s Resolution Creating National Save for Retirement Week
Washington, D.C. – This week Congress passed National Save for Retirement Week, a resolution authored by U.S. Representatives Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa) and Sam Johnson (R-Texas). Prior to the vote, Schwartz spoke on the House floor to encourage her colleagues to support this important measure recognizing the vital need for American families to plan for retirement, especially given the current economic uncertainty.
Schwartz’s statement follows.
“The resolution before us supports the goals and ideals of National Save for Retirement Week, which this year falls between October 19 and October 25, 2008. I want to thank my colleague, Mr. Johnson of Texas, for working with me to bring attention to the importance of retirement planning for American families.
“We are living in a time when workers are being asked to shoulder an increasing share of the cost of saving for retirement. Even with an employee-sponsored retirement plan and the promise of Social Security benefits, Americans need to put additional money aside to ensure a financially secure retirement.
“For many Americans, saving is becoming an increasingly difficult task as they struggle to meet their everyday obligations. Even in solidly middle-income families, financial resources are stretched thin as parents work to meet other pressing needs, whether it’s purchasing health care coverage, paying for college, buying a tank of gas, or simply paying monthly bills on time.
“Over the past several years, we have seen a dramatic shift in our retirement system. Most workers are no longer eligible for traditional pensions, which provide a predictable monthly benefit throughout retirement. Instead, workers are bearing more of the costs and investment risks of saving adequately for their retirement through workplace defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s or through IRAs.
“As a result, the value of most Americans’ retirement benefits, and the security of their retirement, is now directly linked to their own decisions and the amount of dollars that they save over the years and the balance held in their accounts when they retire.
“The dramatic shift towards individual defined contribution plans is clear. According to Employee Benefits Research Institute, only 10 percent of workers are currently covered by defined benefit plans, compared to 63 percent of workers who are currently covered by 401(k) plans. This stands in stark contrast to the reality of 30 years ago when it was just the opposite, when coverage rates were 62 percent for defined benefits plans and 16 percent for 401(k)s.
“While this shift is empowering American workers to make more of their own financial decisions, many families are finding it difficult to save significantly to meet their retirement needs. It is particularly difficult during a time of economic uncertainty, as we are experiencing today.
“It may be difficult but continues to be vitally important for Americans to prepare for retirement, to think about savings, especially given that half of all workers have less than 25 percent in total savings, whether for retirement or to help them in periods of financial difficulty.
“As our country shifts towards an increasing reliance on individual savings and as families are tempted to dip into their retirement accounts to meet current everyday expenses during this time of high gas and food prices, it is more important than ever that we educate Americans about the pressing need to save even small amounts every year that they possibly can.
“In my district, I have partnered with banks and credit unions and other financial institutions to host seminars to help provide information on how to make educated, financially responsible decisions about personal and family budgets and to help establish a habit of saving for the future.
“I have even visited with schools in my district to help reach out to young people in order to emphasize the importance of saving for the future. It is never too early to learn that every little bit we save now will help in the long run.
“So whether you’re a 16-year-old receiving your first paycheck, or a 25-year-old getting your first real raise, or a 45-year-old with a mortgage and two kids, the habit of putting a little bit away every month in regular savings can, with the help of compound interest, add up to a more secure retirement.
“The resolution before us supports and encourages educational opportunities on a national scale and creates a collaborative effort to emphasize the importance of making savings for retirement a priority for all Americans.”
U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz to be
Awarded First-Ever “Gateway to Innovation” Award for Her Leadership on Healthcare
On, Monday June 30, U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz will become the first-ever recipient of the “Gateway to Innovation” award, presented by many of the nation’s premier healthcare providers to members of Congress who demonstrate commitment, leadership and vision in working to improve the quality and affordability of healthcare in the United States.
Schwartz will be presented the award by the Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of chief executives of many of the nation’s leading healthcare companies and organizations representing all health care sectors.
U.S. Rep. Schwartz was selected by the Healthcare Leadership Council as an inaugural recipient of the award because of the leadership she had demonstrated throughout her career in public service, from her efforts in the Pennsylvania State Senate to create the Children’s Health Insurance program to her current role as Co-chair of the New Democratic Coalition’s Healthcare Taskforce. She is a champion in Congress on issues ranging from making health coverage more affordable for working families to pressing for the nationwide development of health information technology to elevate both the quality and cost-effectiveness of U.S. health care.
From Jason Altmire:
ALTMIRE VOTES TO ENCOURAGE
(Washington, D.C.) — U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) today voted for three bills that would help make America more energy independent and provide relief to Americans struggling with high gas prices. These bills encourage oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres of federal land which they are currently leasing, but have not yet developed; crack down on energy speculators who inflate the price of oil; and provide grants to mass transit authorities in order to reduce public transit fares.
“Let me be clear: I support domestic drilling and believe that the oil companies should immediately start developing the 68 million acres of federal land currently leased to them,” Altmire said. “It is estimated that this land could yield an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil each day, which would nearly double the U.S.’s oil production. Although this important measure failed to gain the two-thirds majority it needed to pass today, I hope the House will take up this legislation again in July so we can encourage the oil companies to increase their domestic drilling.”
Congressman Altmire is a cosponsor of the “Use it or Lose it” bill (HR 6251), which requires oil companies to pursue drilling on the 68 million acres of federal land they are currently leasing before they can obtain additional federal drilling leases. It is estimated that these 68 million acres of land hold 81 percent of America’s federal oil and gas reserves and could produce 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day. This would nearly double the U.S.’s current domestic oil production and could cut oil imports by one-third. The bill fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass by vote of 223-195.
“It is inaccurate to claim that drilling alone will solve America’s energy problems,” Altmire said. “That is why I also voted today to reign in energy speculators who have driven up the price of oil and to provide grants to local transit agencies in order to lower fares. These bills are the latest in a series of actions taken by this Congress to make America more energy independent.”
The Energy Markets Emergency Act (HR 6377), which passed today by a vote of 402-19, directs the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to curb excessive speculation in energy markets. Experts estimate energy speculators inflate the price of oil by as much as $20 to $30 a barrel.
Finally, the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008, which passed by a vote of 322-98, will give $1.7 billon in grants to mass transit authorities to reduce public transit fares, giving consumers a cost-effective alternative to driving. These grants can also be used to expand transit services and cover escalating operating costs.
From Paul Kanjorski:
KANJORSKI SUPPORTS PASSAGE OF BILL IN HOUSE TO HELP FUND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Kanjorski Co-Sponsored Legislation and Urged Vote
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) announced that H.R. 6052, the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act, which he co-sponsored, passed in the House by a vote of 322-98. With gas prices now exceeding $4 per gallon – a historic high – this bill would authorize $1.7 billion in grants for mass transit authorities for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 to help promote increased public transportation use. This funding is especially important as more and more people are using public transportation due to the increasing cost of gas. According to the American Public Transportation Association, in the first three months of 2008, Americans took almost 85 million more transit trips than in the same period last year. This legislation was originally brought to Congressman Kanjorski’s attention by the Luzerne County Transportation Authority (LCTA).
“It is more important now than ever before to invest in our public transportation systems. The passage of H.R. 6052 in the House today signals the need to provide more options for consumers and public transit systems as a result of the skyrocketing gas prices,” said Congressman Kanjorski. “Many transportation systems are feeling the strains from the influx of riders and this bill will provide funding for these systems to improve services and lower fares so that people will not have to drive as frequently. The House effectively worked together to pass bipartisan legislation directly helping Americans.”
“We at the LCTA applaud Congressman Kanjorski for his support of this bill, and his efforts to ensure its passage in the House,” said Stanley Strelish, Executive Director of the LCTA. “By increasing funding for public transportation, the LCTA, as well as other public transportation systems, will be able to better accommodate the increase in riders from the rising energy costs. I thank Congressman Kanjorski for his support and interest in creating an energy independent and environmentally friendly Luzerne County and Pennsylvania.”
As gas prices continue to reach record highs, more Americans are taking public transportation to avoid paying the costs associated with driving a car. H.R. 6052 would give grants to mass transit systems allowing them to reduce fares for consumers, and improve their own operations. According to the LCTA, bus ridership has increased over 180,000 trips in the past year from 1,208,322 in 2007 to 1,390,174 in 2008 so far.
Congressman Kanjorski is also working in Congress to ease the pressure of energy costs which is causing financial strain for many American families by developing a long-term strategy to effectively combat these issues:
· Call for an energy summit
Last week, Congressman Kanjorski sent a letter to the House and Senate leadership requesting that they convene a bipartisan summit on energy issues before the August District Work Period. Such an event would provide a forum to address the rising costs of energy, discuss how we can reduce this financial strain, and work to decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
· Introduce legislation implementing a windfall profits tax
Congressman Kanjorski recently introduced legislation which would tax oil and gas companies for their windfall profits. In 2007, the Big Five oil companies reported record profits, with Exxon Mobil making over $40 billion, the largest corporate profit in American history.
· Halt shipment of oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)
On May 13, Congress passed legislation, with Congressman Kanjorski’s support, that directed the President to temporarily halt the shipment of about 70,000 barrels of oil a day to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the world’s largest emergency supply of crude oil. This action – which the President initially opposed but ultimately signed into law – could help reduce gas prices by as much as 24 cents per gallon.
· Support domestic drilling, including in ANWR
Congressman Kanjorski supports additional exploration of domestic sources of petroleum to help America reduce its dependence on foreign oil, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. He also voted to allow natural gas drilling 25 miles offshore and allow natural gas leasing in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic.
· Encourage the development of alternative energy sources
Congressman Kanjorski supports and has voted in favor of the development of alternative sources of energy, including wind, solar, and biofuels, as well as the careful expansion of nuclear power. He also supports transitioning to using cellulosic ethanol to help with energy costs and avoid affecting the price of food.
According to AAA, gas prices have reached a record $4.07 per gallon nationwide, over $1 more than the price from a year ago. Additionally, oil prices recently climbed to an all-time high record of $138 per barrel.