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Last Thursday marked my 100th day as your U.S. Congressman, and I’d like to report back on some of the successes of this first 100 days and what more remains to be done. While the extraordinary times we face have demanded some extraordinary measures, like the recovery bill, I believe we have laid a strong foundation for economic recovery and fought successfully for the priorities for Virginia's working families.
Expanding Opportunities for Higher Education: My very first bill, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, was signed into law six weeks after it was introduced as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bill provides for a tax credit of up to $2,500 for tuition and related expenses (including textbooks, for the first time) to help middle-class families afford college and allow displaced workers to attend community college in preparation for re-entry into the workforce.
Working a Double Shift for Economic Recovery: I supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has already helped our localities avoid major cuts to essential services and create new jobs. The plan has funneled more than $126 million to 5th District education, over $1 million to law enforcement agencies, and millions more for energy efficiency, housing initiatives, and community health centers. It also contained the largest middle-class tax cut in history, benefitting nearly three million Virginians. The plan will also provide funds for transportation and infrastructure, encouraging investment in the 5th District’s new competitive advantage.
Holding Corporations Accountable, Protecting Taxpayers: I was an early co-sponsor of the bill to reclaim the outrageous AIG bonuses for taxpayers. I also voted against releasing the second $350 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) – or bank bailout – that was approved by the previous Congress. While I did not support the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, I did fight successfully for removing a line-item in the budget for a future bailout.
Fighting for Our Veterans: I’ve introduced two pieces of legislation that would help the brave men and women who have served our country. One bill would expand benefits for veterans to pursue on-the-job and apprenticeship training, helping them re-enter the workforce at a time when there is double-digit unemployment among our returning troops. The second bipartisan bill is aimed at preventing veteran suicides, which has reached record highs. I have also formed a Veterans Advisory Board comprised of veterans from the 5th District who will make legislative recommendations for my position on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. With a bipartisan group of Members of Congress, we successfully stopped a proposal to privatize veterans' health care for combat-related injuries.
Expanding Opportunities for Americans to Serve: I co-authored an amendment that was passed as part of the GIVE Act, which will greatly expand service and full-time volunteer opportunities for all Americans. The amendment, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, creates a service reserve corps to harness the skills of our service alumni in case of a national emergency.
Creating a Blueprint for the 5th District's New Energy Economy: I convened a group of nearly 60 leaders from all around the district for a new energy summit to put together a blueprint for getting our region ahead of the curve on green jobs. Central and Southern Virginia can be the economic engine of our Commonwealth once again if we invest now in this growth industry. We have the entrepreneurs, the research universities, the farmers, and the spirit of independence that can transform our hard-hit area into the next big thing: green jobs that cannot be outsourced.
While these first 100 days have been both exhausting and rewarding, there is still much more work to be done. We need to work harder to bring the deficit under control, demand more accountability from those who helped create this financial mess, and still have the courage to make smart investments in the 5th District’s new competitive advantage. It will take time before we start to see the economy turn around, but I can promise that I will continue to work a double shift to fight for you for the next 100 days and many hundreds more.
There is a new toll-free number you can use to contact my office: 1-877-TOM-HELP (1-877-866-4357). Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may also write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 or visit www.perriello.house.gov.