[StBernard] Word from Washington: Fighting Taxes, Farm Bill, and Possible New Business for South Louisiana,
Westley at da-parish.com
Thu May 22 23:28:36 EDT 2008
The last few weeks have seen some extremely exciting developments for all of
us in south Louisiana. My staff and I have been working very hard on many
pieces of legislation important to the Third District, and as the current
session begins to wind down, I would like to tell you about some of the most
Road Home Tax Fix Passes House
For months, Sen. Mary Landrieu, myself, and other members of the Gulf Coast
delegation have been urging Congress to fix a problem in the federal tax
code that would force thousands of Road Home grant recipients to pay taxes
on their recovery grants. I am happy to say that this week the House of
Representatives passed a measure to fix this unintended problem, removing at
least one obstacle facing the many people in south Louisiana who are using
help from the Road Home to rebuild after Katrina and Rita.
Without this fix, hurricane survivors who deducted the losses they suffered
from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita from their federal taxes would then have to
count their Road Home grants as new income, and pay taxes on them. This
backwards situation clearly goes against the purpose of the recovery grant
program. Louisianians who are still struggling to rebuild their homes need
a helping hand, not another tax bill from the government
I am pleased that under the common sense Road Home tax fix passed by the
House, grant recipients will be able to amend their previous tax returns so
they won't have to pay taxes on their Road Home grants. Those who have
already paid taxes on their Road Home grants will be able to amend their
current tax returns to reflect the new law.
In addition, the bill passed by the House would also eliminate the deadline
by which new construction in south Louisiana needed to begin in order to be
eligible for a tax deduction under the Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone Act of
2005. The GO Zone Act allows a bonus depreciation tax deduction for property
placed in service before Dec. 31, 2010, in the five Mississippi counties and
seven Louisiana parishes that suffered the most damage from the hurricanes.
However, in 2006 when Congress extended the deadline for finishing
construction projects, it did not extend the Dec. 31, 2007 deadline to begin
construction. Because of this, only projects that broke ground by the end
of 2007 are eligible for the bonus tax deduction.
This bill would eliminate the deadline to begin construction to qualify for
the bonus depreciation deduction of the GO Zone Act. This would apply the
same language to the GO Zone Act as the language in the New York Liberty
Zone Act, which allowed businesses and employees in the area damaged by the
9/11 terrorist attacks to be eligible for a tax deduction. The Liberty Zone
had no deadline to begin construction, only a deadline to place property in
The rebuilding effort is not complete and the GO Zone program needs to
remain flexible in order to help those who are still rebuilding. By
eliminating the deadline to begin construction, we give those looking to
rebuild another tool to assist them when they are ready to break ground.
Farm Bill Has Strong Provisions for Sugar
Sugar growers and processors in south Louisiana should be happy to know that
the Farm, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (also known as "The Farm
Bill") passed Congress with a veto-proof majority in both Houses. As
passed, the bill will renew the federal sugar policy that helps to stabilize
the domestic sugar
The new Farm Bill strongly supports small sugar farmers who have been
suffering in recent years due to staggering production costs and a slumping
sugar market. Many have been forced to consider closing their businesses.
The bill includes the first sugar loan rate increase in nearly 25 years.
The sugar loan rate has held steady at 18-cents per raw cane pound since
1985. The new Farm Bill will gradually increase that rate to 18.75 cents in
The Farm Bill will also create a sucrose-ethanol program to move surplus
sugar into the ethanol sector. Since Mexican-produced sugar has been able to
enter the U.S. tariff free since Jan 1, 2008, this measure is particularly
important to domestic sugar producers.
Congress passed the Farm Bill with an overwhelming example of bi-partisan
support. It is a sweeping piece of legislation that helps not only sugar
growers in south Louisiana but farmers all across the nation. Agriculture is
the lifeblood of the American food security, but too often farmers struggle
with sinking prices, increased costs and competition from foreign growers.
The sugar industry in Louisiana alone is a $1.7 billion industry that
employs more than 27,000 people. The new Farm Bill invests in our farmers
and will help to make sure the sugar market is stable and American
agriculture remains prosperous.
Nucor May Be New Kid on the Block
South Louisiana got a piece of good news last week when we learned that
Nucor Corporation, a large steel manufacturing company, has chosen a piece
of land in St. James Parish as the only possible U.S. site for a $2 billion
iron-making plant that would create 500 new jobs with an average salary of
$75,000 a year. While Nucor said another foreign site is still in the
running, the company has begun the paperwork necessary to construct what
would be the first new raw steel mill built in the U.S. in 30 years. The
North Carolina-based company said it is strongly considering building the
mill along the banks of the Mississippi River in Covenant, La.
While the new jobs Nucor could bring to south Louisiana are exciting, the
"job ripple effect" holds even more promise. According to an academic study
of a Nucor mill built in Arkansas, for every one mill job created, eight
more jobs were created in the local economy. The Nucor project in Louisiana,
as currently envisioned, is expected to generate 2,000 near-term
construction jobs and an estimated 2,600 additional jobs in the community to
support the mill and its workers. It would be a huge shot in the arm for our
economy. In addition to that, Nucor has pledged to donate $850,000 annually
to the local school board to enhance workforce education.
Bringing more good-paying jobs to south Louisiana is one of my top
priorities in Congress, and I have strongly supported legislation that will
encourage employers to invest in our communities. I don't want our children
to have to move away from home to find work. The news that Nucor has made
the St. James site their top choice in the U.S. is proof that south
Louisiana is an attractive place for businesses and worth investing in.
In closing I want to offer you my best wishes for a happy and healthy
summer. As Memorial Day approaches, it is important that we as Americans
remember the sacrifices our military men and women - and their families -
have made for our great nation over the past two centuries, and are still
making today. If you haven't recently, I encourage you to join me in taking
a moment to thank them for their service.
As your representative in Congress, I am proud to be working on behalf of
the people of south Louisiana and see great things in our future. As always,
I would like to hear from you so please feel free to write, email or call my
offices and share your opinion on the many issues we are considering in
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