$9 trillion national debt has local impact

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

The national deficit has escalated in just six years from $5 trillion to $9 trillion, according to U.S. Representative Baron Hill and it concerns him greatly. “The deficit is $9 trillion and growing with the interest paid being the second largest budget item, second only to military spending,” the congressman shared as he made a stop in Versailles on Tuesday of this week.

Congressman Hill will be heading back to Washington DC next week, but for the few days Congress is out, he’s meeting with constituents in the area he serves. “The long term health of the economy will suffer,” he stated, referring to the growing debt of the nation."

While Washington may seem far removed from life in Ripley County, the congressman noted the debt will impact everyone. For example, Hill explains that our country is indebted to China. With the growing concerns of toys coming from that country that are not meeting US standards when it comes to lead amounts, he sees this as a hard thing to stop if we owe this country massive amounts of money. It’s things like this that lead him to believe foreign policy will also suffer because of our massive indebtedness.

When Hill travels the countryside hearing the concerns of the people, he knows that fuel economy is at the top of the list, along with property tax reform and healthcare.

That’s why the congressman joined forces with Republican Lee Terry to introduce legislation to increase fuel efficiency standards. The bill, H.R. 2927, known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE, was met with enthusiasm. This bill would require the US Secretary of Transportation to prescribe fuel economy standards at the maximum feasible level for each car model year.

Explaining that the fuel efficiency standards have not been changed in several years, Hill said it would mandate that vehicle manufacturers increase the amount of fuel efficiency for each vehicle, for example, a car’s efficiency would have to start at 35mpg instead of the now 24mpg. “This bill presents a real and difficult challenge to the automobile industry: start making your cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles more fuel efficient and friendlier to the environment,” Hill stated. He says while the bill is definitely challenging, it is truly realistic. The caution is in place that while we move the country toward energy independence, the jobs of thousands of Americans should not be put in jeopardy.

The congressman also said that incentives should be put in place for manufacturers of ethanol and alternative fuels to gasoline. He says the future of oil doesn’t look bright as far as cost ever coming down and other ways of fueling the needs of the public must be brought into focus.

A recent bill passed by the House contains a version of the language of Congressman Hill’s Property Tax Relief Act. “Everywhere I go, I hear about how hard people have been hit by the increase in property taxes,” Hill told The Versailles Republican. He said as a homeowner in southern Indiana himself, he knows first hand the concerns. He continued by saying his colleagues in Congress are also hearing about the escalating property tax issue. “I am very pleased we were able to address this problem at the federal level,” he noted.

The Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007 will offer more than $50 billion in middle-class tax relief and will save more than 35,000 Hoosiers in the congressman’s district from having to pay the higher Alternative Minimum Tax next year, according to information from Hill’s office. The Alternative Minimum Tax law was designed to make sure that wealthy individuals do not avoid paying income tax. However, the law now threatens middle-class families because it did not allow for inflation. If Congress does not take action, Hill says it will impact 23 million Americans next year. The bill that the congressman supports would see the standard deduction increased by $350 for those filing single and $700 for joint filers.

Another bill, H.R. 3726, the Property Tax Relief Act of 2007, has been introduced by Hill. In this bill, homeowners who do not itemize will be allowed to deduct their property taxes from their federal income taxes. Currently, the only citizens benefiting from the property tax deduction are those who itemize their taxes. Noting that 40% of homeowners do not itemize, Hill said he felt this would bring some real and immediate relief for taxpayers.

Something important to the congressman is the fact that the Temporary Tax Relief is fully paid for and will not add to the deficit.

Healthcare is definitely at the top of the list for the congressman. He noted that everywhere he goes the story is the same: people either do not have health insurance, are about to lose it, or are struggling to keep afloat by paying high prices for it. “Something has to be done, period,” he stated. Saying we have to get through the election in 2008 before something is changed, Congressman Hill is emphatic about the fact that it will change.

Staying focused on the needs of the people he serves is top priority for the congressman, who says he wants to hear from constituents. You can Hill at any of his offices: Washington Office, 223 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, phone, (202) 225-5315; Jeffersonville Office, 279 Quartermaster, Jeffersonville, IN 47130, phone, (812)288-3999; Bloomington Office, 320 West 8th Street, Suite 114, Bloomington, IN 47404, phone, (812) 336-3000; his website is: http://baronhill.house.gov/IMA/issue.