Speak-Out for Good Jobs & Quality Care at RI Hospital

From our union brothers and sisters:

Some Certified Nursing Assistants report having to buy their own equipment to make sure they can monitor patients’ oxygen levels. Physical plant workers report troubling shortages of critical equipment they need to combat mold in ventilation ducts to patient and operating rooms. Now the Hospital is threatening to make the situation even worse by laying off more employees.

At the same time, Lifespan – A Health System paid more than $16.6 million in compensation to just ten executives last year. These individuals averaged $1 million more in compensation than the average compensation earned by CEOs of nonprofit hospitals nationwide. Meanwhile, Rhode Island’s largest healthcare employer has employees working more forty hours per week that get no health coverage.

Speak-Out for Good Jobs & Quality Care at RI Hospital.

Whitehouse Calls for Tax Fairness and an End to Tax Haven Abuse by Corporations

From the Whitehouse Press Office:

Congressman Doggett, Senator Whitehouse Introduce Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act. The bill closes a number of offshore tax loopholes, eliminates many tax incentives for U.S. companies to move jobs and operations offshore, and modifies rules on corporate inversions for businesses dodging U.S. taxes.

“While most Americans contribute their fair share to our national security and vital public services, some large corporations still are not,” said Doggett. “They revel in single digit effective tax rates, and in some years, many pay their lobbyists more than they pay in federal taxes. Corporations that renounce their citizenship not only invert their business operations but pervert our tax laws. This bill is a step toward righting some of these inequities and ensuring that taxpaying small businesses are provided a more level playing field.”

“Big corporations shouldn’t be allowed to play games with the tax code and benefit from shipping jobs overseas,” Whitehouse said. “This bill would force corporations that are dodging their responsibilities to pay their fair share of taxes, and create an even playing field for American companies that already play by the rules.”

The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that provisions similar to those in this bill would raise at least $278 billion in revenue over ten years. More than two dozen of the largest profitable corporations paid no federal taxes at all over a recent five-year period. Among the many provisions of this bill are some recommendations contained in President Obama’s previous Budget Proposals. Find a full summary of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act House version here.

The bill is one of three “tax fairness” measures introduced by Whitehouse today, which he hopes will help shape the upcoming debate on tax reform.

Jobs are key to ending poverty, R.I. leaders tell marchers | News – Projo

That’s my Bishop!

“We have gotten very good at responding to the immediate effects of poverty. But we are here to ask you, our elected leaders, to help our community, our state, deal with the underlying issues, issues that are too big for the faith community to respond to on their own,” Mr. Knisely said.

Jobs are key to ending poverty, R.I. leaders tell marchers | News – Rhode Island news right now | Providence Journal.

How is the Rhode Island Foundation Coalition-Building for Health Care Reform? – Health Policy | Grants | Inside Philanthropy

The first female Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, is going to have her work cut out for her with requests for all sorts of things — funding for everything under the sun, reform ideas from every political perspective, and, oh yes, health care — that little elephant in the room, costing us all a fortune, wreaking havoc on middle class and poor families, and making us look bad internationally for having the most bloated, ineffective system in the world.

Enter Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and the Rhode Island Foundation, stage left. They bring with them many years of sustained investment in improving health care. Whitehouse founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute during his time as Attorney General and is a leading voice in Washington for health care delivery system reform. The Rhode Island Foundation has been funding health care initiatives since early in its history, and continues to look for and fund innovative ways to improve health care access and delivery.

via How is the Rhode Island Foundation Coalition-Building for Health Care Reform? – Health Policy | Grants | Fundraising – Inside Philanthropy.

Whitehouse Statement Opposing “Tax Extenders”

Talk about speaking truth to money! From the Whitehouse Press Office:

Floor Statement of Sheldon Whitehouse
On H.R. 5771
December 16, 2014

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr./Madame President, later this week, the Senate will likely take up and pass legislation to extend several dozen expired tax provisions. While I support a number of the individual provisions extended by this bill, I rise today to explain why I reluctantly plan to oppose it.

The so-called “tax extenders” package includes the one-year extension of a hodgepodge of over four dozen tax provisions. This extension is not for the year ahead of us, as one might reasonably expect, but rather for the year that’s mostly past us. In other words, we will be extending for 2014 tax programs that expired at the end of 2013. This means that, for the most part, the bill will offer credits and deductions to reward things that have already happened while doing absolutely nothing to help businesses and individuals plan for the future.

If tax policy is intended to influence behavior, the extenders bill is a double failure: it spends money rewarding things that have already happened and offers no incentives for businesses and individuals for the year ahead.

Let’s take for example the production tax credit for wind energy, a program I strongly support that encourages the construction of wind farms. The provision in the extenders bill offers this incentive for properties for which construction has commenced by the end of 2014. That’s three weeks from now. Instead of giving energy companies time to plan and prepare wind projects, we’re saying: if you happen to have one ready to go, you’ve got until the end of the holiday season to break ground. The clock is ticking.

In contrast to Congress’s temporary, year-to-year treatment of the wind tax credit and other incentives for renewable energy, Big Oil and Gas enjoy permanent subsidies in the tax code. It’s long past time to reform the tax code so it reflects America’s 21st Century energy priorities. Permanent incentives for oil and gas and temporary programs for renewable energy is simply upside-down public policy.

In total, there are 50 or so extensions in this bill, and the only thing they seem to have in common is that Congress repeatedly packages them together. It’s truly a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s start with some of the good provisions. In addition to clean energy incentives, the bill extends a popular tax credit that encourages businesses to hire veterans, a host of incentives for energy efficiency, and a provision that ensures that families that lose their homes in foreclosure don’t incur tax bills for the deficiencies. These provisions have strong bipartisan support.

Then there’s the bad: the unjustifiable tax giveaways. These include so-called “bonus depreciation,” a program that allows corporations to deduct the costs of equipment right away instead of spreading out the deductions over the life of the equipment. Congress first included this provision in 2009 in the Recovery Act when it made some sense. The idea was to encourage businesses to accelerate their purchases when the economy most needed the investments. We’ve extended it so many times, though, that now we’re just giving money away to corporations for buying things they would have bought anyway. That’s a nice subsidy for the businesses, but not a wise use of taxpayer dollars.

The bill also includes tax giveaways for NASCAR tracks and racehorses. While I know these sports are popular, it’s hard to justify subsidizing them with taxpayer dollars at a time when we’re running large deficits and face the prospect of more budget sequestration.

And then there’s the ugly, the stuff that does actual harm. There’s a pair of provisions in the bill–the “active financing” and “controlled foreign corporation look through” provisions–that reward U.S. corporations for shifting money overseas to avoid paying taxes. Sadly, there are already a number of provisions in the tax code that encourage companies to move operations and assets overseas. We should repeal those provisions, not enhance them as the extenders bill does.

This one-year, retroactive mixed bag of extensions will increase the budget deficit by over $41 billion. To put that figure into perspective, that’s more than the annual budget for the entire Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier this year, my senior Senator from Rhode Island, Jack Reed, lead an effort to extend unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have struggled to find work in this uneven economic recovery. Republicans repeatedly filibustered his unemployment insurance legislation, with many citing the $17 billion price tag and the offsets included to pay for it.

I expect many of these same Republicans will vote to pass the $41 billion tax extenders bill, legislation which is not offset and will add to the deficit. If Republicans are truly as worried about the deficit as many of them claim to be, they need to raise these concerns consistently and not forget them when it’s convenient. Spending through the tax code is still spending, and we should offset it.

Mr./Madame President, next year this body will have new leadership and a fresh opportunity to tackle our nation’s problems. I hope Senate Republicans will show us they can exercise the power of being in the majority responsibly. President Obama says he is eager to work with the Republican majority on several major bills including tax reform. I too am eager to work with Republicans on sensible, responsible tax reform—reform that ends the era of year-to-year extensions, eliminates wasteful tax spending, and decreases the deficit. I thank the chair, and I yield the floor.

THANKSGIVING MARKET: LAST ONE OF THE SEASON

From the Pawtuxet Village Farmer’s Market:

Tomorrow is the final day of our outdoor season; come say goodbye and go home with some delicious food from our farmers for your holiday table.

We will be holding our raffle drawing as well; tickets will be for sale until 11:30, so there’s still time.  If you haven’t had a chance to buy tickets, but still want to support our Bonus Bucks program, you can send a check for your donation to the Pawtuxet Village Farmer’s Market, 253 Norwood Ave, Cranston RI 02905.  The market is now operating under the auspices of the West Bay Land Trust, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, so your contribution is tax deductible.

Our winter market will commence in January.  Please sign up at the Market Welcome table, or send an e-mail to this address with Winter Market in the subject line.  We will continue to make announcements to this list as well.

Thank you all for a wonderful year; our little market is growing up, and all of you have contributed to that growth through your support for our unique community.

See you at the market.

 

RELEASE: Sen. Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Fight Climate Change and Boost RI Economy

From the Whitehouse press office:

Sen. Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Fight Climate Change and Boost RI Economy

Carbon Fee Bill Would Return All Revenue to the American People

Washington, DC – With Rhode Island continuing to face the effects of climate change and struggling to rebuild its economy in the wake of the Great Recession, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is fighting back on both fronts.  Whitehouse today introduced the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act, legislation to make polluters pay for the damage caused by carbon pollution and generate as much as $2 trillion over ten years – all of which would be returned to the American people.

 

“For years now, Rhode Island has been on the losing end of the fossil-fuel economy,” said Whitehouse.  “We suffer the effects of climate change caused by carbon pollution – from rising seas that damage property to warming waters that affect our fishing industry.  Meanwhile, the big polluters get to offload the cost of that harm without having to pay a dime.  Today I’m introducing legislation to put the costs of carbon pollution back on the shoulders of the polluters where it belongs, while also creating an even playing field for Rhode Island clean energy businesses to compete and generating much-needed revenue to benefit families in Rhode Island and across the nation.”

 

The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act would require polluters to pay a fee for every ton of carbon pollution they emit.  The fee would start at $42 per ton in 2015 and increase annually by an inflation-adjusted 2 percent.  The price of the fee follows the Obama Administration’s central estimate of the “social cost of carbon,” the value of the harms caused by carbon pollution including falling agricultural productivity, human health hazards, and property damages from flooding.

 

The fee would be assessed on all coal, oil, and natural gas produced in or imported to the U.S. and cover large emitters of non-carbon greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide from non-fossil-fuel sources.  The U.S. Department of Treasury would assess and collect the fee, working with the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Information Administration to ensure the best research methods and data are used.

 

A study from Resources for the Future, a non-partisan think tank, estimates that a carbon fee tracking the social cost of carbon would reduce carbon pollution by about 50% within a decade from the electricity sector alone compared to business-as-usual. The electricity sector is the largest source of carbon pollution, emitting about 40% of annual emissions.

 

All revenue generated by the carbon pollution fee – which could exceed $2 trillion over ten years – would be credited to an American Opportunity Fund to be returned to the American people.  Possible uses include:

Economic assistance to low-income families and those residing in areas with high energy costs

Tax cuts

Social security benefit increases

Tuition assistance and student debt relief

Infrastructure investments

Dividends to individuals and families

Transition assistance to workers and businesses in energy-intensive and fossil-fuel industries

Climate mitigation or adaptation

Reducing the national debt

 

The Whitehouse bill would raise enough revenue to, for example, cut the federal tax rate on Rhode Island businesses from 35 percent to 30 percent, give every Rhode Island worker an annual $500 payroll tax rebate, and boost the Earned Income Tax Credit by hundreds of dollars a year for 84,000 low-income Rhode Island families.

 

By requiring fossil fuel companies to factor the cost of their pollution into their product, Whitehouse’s legislation would also give clean energy businesses a fair chance to compete in the energy market.  “By making carbon pollution free, we rig the game, giving polluters an unfair advantage over newer and cleaner technologies,” Whitehouse noted.  Rhode Island clean- and renewable-energy businesses today applauded Whitehouse’s legislation:

 

“In order to level the playing field that results from the many subsidies that the fossil fuel industry has in place, the biodiesel industry today is controlled by a number of mandates, regulations and subsidies that are continually changing or are eliminated altogether for periods of time.  This makes investment in biodiesel production and infrastructure very tenuous,” said Bob Morton, managing partner at Newport Biodiesel in Newport, RI.  “Since biodiesel produces up to 86% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum diesel, a carbon fee would make biodiesel a much more cost effective fuel and would insure investors that the industry is here to stay.  We at Newport Biodiesel want to thank Senator Whitehouse for his continued efforts to raise the awareness of climate change impacts and to develop practical solutions that can help to address those issues.  Introduction of this legislation is an important step in bringing climate change to the forefront of the national discussion.”

 

“Bioprocess Algae is one of the pioneers in biofilm-based algae production and we are currently operating one of the longest-standing biological carbon capture and re-use facilities in the country,” said Tim Burns, CEO of BioProcess Algae in Portsmouth, RI.  “Our co-located facility utilizes waste heat and CO2 from a corn-ethanol plant to produce high quality feedstocks for nutritionals, animal feeds, biochemical and fuels.  Senator Whitehouse’s leadership on introducing the carbon fee bill, which creates a platform for carbon utilization, is outstanding and a vision for the future.”