February 10, 2009

Wyden Fights for Oregon in Economic Recovery Package

Legislation contains an estimated $1.5 billion in direct benefits for Oregonians

Washington, D.C. - Calling the legislation "a step in the right direction," U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today cast his vote in favor of the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." The bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 61 to 37 will create and save thousands of good-paying Oregon jobs, upgrade the state's roads and bridges, expand access to broadband technology, especially into rural communities, and provide essential relief to families facing rising health care costs and the specter of unemployment.

"This bill will give the economy a desperately-needed jump-start so we can finally help Americans begin to re-claim their financial security," said Wyden. "I will be spending the next days working with my colleagues in both the House and Senate to restore the much needed funding for our states and schools, but the important message for today is that Congress is taking decisive action to get the economy back on track."

Also included in the legislation is a provision authored Wyden and U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) requiring Financial Institutions that used "federal bailout" funds to pay employees bonuses in excess of $100,000 to repay the full cash amount of those bonuses with 120 days or face an excise tax of 35% on what is not immediately repaid to the treasury.

"It should have gone without saying that the bailout money was never intended for employee bonuses, but once again financial institutions have taken advantage of lax regulation and the public trust," said Wyden. "This provision injects the kind of Congressional oversight that should have been in the TARP program in the first place and I intend to put pressure on the conference committee to ensure that it stays there."

Also included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will impact Oregon by:

· Building on the Wyden-authored Build America Bonds program which provides state and local governments with a new tax credit bond to stimulate investment in infrastructure projects;

· Creating thousands of new jobs and restoring the health of the state's choked forests by providing $500 million for fire management including the reduction of fuels in the forest that endanger communities with increased risk of fire;

· Increasing broadband access in underserved areas through a $7 billion investment in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, 50 percent of which will be focused on rural communities;

· Expanding on "mini-COBRA" programs that exist in Oregon and other states by helping many people who have lost their jobs in small businesses keep the coverage they had—or something similar to it;

· Protecting over 310,000 Oregonians from the Alternative Minimum Tax in 2009;

· Making it easier for Americans to purchase their first home by increasing the First-Time Home Buyer credit up to $15,000 and allowing it for all home purchases (not just first-time purchases).

· Funding low income housing with $27 million in HOME Funding to enable state and local government to acquire, construct, and rehabilitate affordable housing and provide rental assistance to poor families

· Preventing homelessness with $14.9 million to be used for prevention activities, which include: short or medium-term rental assistance, first and last month's rental payment, or utility payments;

· Encouraging renewable energy production with a tax credit for energy providers who help move the country down the path toward true energy independence, ushering in a new industry of green jobs;

· Creates a new tax credit for investments in equipment and factories to manufacture green energy technologies, such as solar cells.

· Improving the Oregon's roads with $344.7 million in Highway Funding.

· Investing in Oregon's mass transit systems with $89.4 million in Transit Formula Funding;

· Providing healthcare for low-income Oregon residents with $840 million in additional Medicaid funding;

· Increasing Bonneville Power Administration borrowing authority by $3.25 billion to finance construction of new electric transmission projects to increase reliability and connect new renewable energy projects to the electric grid;

· Easing the burden on unemployed Oregonians with $86.1 million in new funding;

· Helping struggling Oregonians put food on the table by giving a $203.9 million boost to the state's food stamp benefits program;

· Providing $149.4 million to prevent cuts in programs for special education students and low-income residents; and

· Supporting education with $367.7 million through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to local school districts and public colleges and universities in addition to incentive grants as a reward for meeting key education performance measures and additional funding for other high-priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education. As well as $124.7 million to help close the achievement gap and enable disadvantaged students to reach their