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I spent last week’s President’s Day district work period traveling around Southern and Central Virginia, talking to business leaders, workers, educators, and others about what it’s going to take to rebuild the economy of our region. From Ruckersville to South Boston to Lawrenceville to Gretna, citizens were full of ideas about what we can do to create more jobs and provide Virginians with some economic relief. More than anything else, we talked about how to support small business and how to make sure that we do not miss the upcoming construction season that employs so many in our communities.
Supporting our Small Businesses. We know that two out of three new jobs created in America come from small business. But right now small businesses face a lack of both consumers and credit as families scale back to make ends meet. We can help on the consumer side by reducing the financial burden on working families, including the consumer protections noted below. That’s why I supported the largest middle-class tax cut in American history, the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, which is currently benefitting 267,000 families in the 5th district.
I also support a two-year elimination on capital-gains taxes for small business, and am cosponsor of H.R. 4236, which would eliminate this tax on equity investments for small businesses in 2010. This can provide tax relief for business owners while making investments in smaller businesses more attractive to investors.
Also, I am backing legislation, H.R. 4295, to help small businesses access credit to sustain themselves during these grim economic times. The legislation would create a temporary direct lending program, administered by the Small Business Administration, to offer direct, low-interest loans to healthy small businesses facing difficulties accessing credit. We should consider every option available to expand lending and support to small business.
Investing in Virginia's infrastructure and building stock. The economy has shown signs of stability and possible growth, but those gains will be crushed if we miss the upcoming construction season. With housing starts unlikely to spike by summer, we must make an immediate investment in two areas of construction – infrastructure and retrofitting of municipal, commercial, and residential building stock. I helped write a bill in December to take back bailout money from Wall Street and invest it in our infrastructure, putting Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, electric grid, and water and sewage systems.
To make our region more competitive in the long term, we also must build tomorrow’s infrastructure, including broadband. Using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we secured a $16 million investment to wire 121 public schools in Southside to high-speed internet access. Not only does this help children have access to the world of knowledge, but it brings us within a step of getting broadband to our rural residents. We must do more to update our aging water and wastewater infrastructure, and improve rail access and highways.
Protect consumers from getting “nickeled and dimed” by the big guys. I heard time and time again stories from middle-class and working families who are getting squeezed by the electric companies, the banks, the credit card companies, and the insurance companies. People were particularly considered about the huge spike in rates by the electric utilities. We must do more to protect consumers from the tricks and traps, monopolistic price-gouging, and hidden fees that can shatter already fragile family budgets.
These ideas came from the people and business owners of the 5th district, and I am working hard to champion them in Washington. To lay the groundwork for recovery, we have focused on relief for the middle class; we are moving forward with ways to encourage business growth and restore consumer confidence so that people will spend again, which in turn will keep our businesses strong.
Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.