Thank you for your interest in my office. I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on some of the major accomplishments of the past two years, and to share with you my goals for the current session of Congress.
I have worked with my colleagues across the aisle to combat what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, declared to be the greatest threat to our national security: our national debt. The national debt has been piling up to dangerous levels over the past decade, due in large part to two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the severe economic recession that began in 2007 greatly reduced federal revenues and led to higher deficit spending as Congress took steps to stimulate the economy and unfreeze credit markets. I understand that our country cannot sustain continued deficit spending far into the future. Addressing this looming crisis should be among our highest priorities.
I believe it is critical that we address our fiscal challenges head on, and I was among a group of senators who advocated for the creation of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was announced by President Obama on February 18, 2010.
The 18-member Commission was co-chaired by former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles of North Carolina, and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming. The group was tasked with producing recommendations for reducing the deficit, and its leaders showed tremendous leadership throughout the process. On December 1, 2010, the Commission published its final report, which you can read here: http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/.
While I certainly understand the concerns that have been expressed with some of the recommendations in the Commission’s report, and I do not agree with everything in it, I believe that the commissioners showed remarkable courage by addressing a wide range of issues, from tax policy to health care costs. Most importantly, their report will help keep the process of addressing our fiscal outlook moving forward. On December 3rd, I was one of 14 senators who sent a letter to the White House and the bipartisan congressional leadership, urging them to address our pressing fiscal challenges by considering the Commission’s report.
Job creation remains my number one priority. In March 2010, Congress passed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, more commonly known as the HIRE Act. The legislation provides tax credits to employers that hire and retain employees who have been out of work for at least 60 days and eases the tax burden on small businesses that purchase certain capital equipment. Increasing the general business tax credit and extending certain HIRE Act provisions will encourage employers to create jobs and hire unemployed Americans.
I believe that small businesses are the backbone of the North Carolina economy. Small firms represent more than 98 percent of North Carolina employers and are responsible for nearly half the jobs in our state. The Small Business Jobs Act (H.R. 5297) was signed into law in September 2010. This important legislation included an amendment I cosponsored that will create a $30 billion small business lending fund for community banks.
I supported the bipartisan Small Business Jobs Act because it will help small businesses create more than 50,000 new jobs nationwide. Additionally, this legislation will not add to our nation’s deficit. As a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I will continue to be a strong advocate for North Carolina’s small businesses.
Wall Street Reform
The financial crisis also exposed critical gaps and weaknesses in our financial regulatory system. Massive risks in financial markets went undetected by both regulators and market participants. Even if those risks had been exposed earlier, regulators lacked the power to mount an effective response. These systematic failures caused a dramatic loss of confidence in our financial institutions and helped to cause the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Congress had to take action to ensure that American taxpayers will never again have to bail out our financial institutions and that these institutions treat consumers fairly and responsibly.
The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 was enacted on July 21st to provide better oversight in the financial sector. The bill reforms the current financial regulatory structure into a more stable and transparent system that will protect consumers, provide clear and fair regulations for financial firms, and restore confidence in the financial markets.
I supported this legislation because it embodies common sense financial reform that protects consumers, levels the playing field for community banks and provides fair and clear regulations for all financial institutions. North Carolina is a leader in the banking industry, and both our state’s banks and its banking customers will benefit from the financial reforms found in the law. The law will close gaps and eradicate inefficiencies in America’s current regulatory structure. I am proud to represent North Carolina in supporting legislation that works to ensure that American taxpayers will never again have to bear the cost of a financial crisis.
Supporting our troops
North Carolina is the most military-friendly state in the country. Approximately 35 percent of North Carolinians serve in the military, have an immediate family member who serves, or is a veteran. There are close to 120,000 active duty military personnel stationed in North Carolina. There are approximately 25,000 National Guardsman and Reservists that live in all 100 counties of North Carolina.
During my past two years in the United States Senate, I have visited our troops in Afghanistan three times. Many of the troops deployed in Afghanistan are from North Carolina and come from North Carolina military installations. They are leading the charge against terrorism abroad to protect us here at home. I continue to be impressed by the incredible job our military is doing to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. These brave men and women are doing an extremely difficult job under trying circumstances and need our support now more than ever. I pledge to continue supporting our troops who make the greatest sacrifice to preserve and defend our freedom.
Behind every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine there is a family at home that also deserves our support. As a founding member of the Military Family Caucus I strongly support giving the necessary resources to military family support programs and pledge to continue doing so in the 112th Congress.
There are also nearly 800,000 veterans who live in North Carolina.
I have always been a strong supporter of our nation’s veterans. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am working to ensure that our military men and women have the support they need as they as they transition from the military to civilian life. Furthermore, it is my belief that our veterans deserve stability and certainty in their benefits. That is why I cosponsored the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009. The bill requires, beginning in fiscal year 2011, that Congress appropriate funding for the VA two years in advance, eliminating many of the delays and much of the uncertainty created by partisan budget fights in Washington, D.C. The Department of Veterans Affairs and VA facilities across the country will be able to more effectively conduct business and planning, resulting in more efficient and effective services for our veterans.
The 111th Session of Congress was certainly eventful. But we have to keep moving forward. I am excited to continue working in a bipartisan manner on legislative priorities that will directly affect the people of North Carolina.
I will continue to focus on creating jobs in North Carolina. In January of this year it was announced that North Carolina is one of the first two states in the nation to receive funds from a new initiative in the Small Business Jobs Act. The funds will strengthen state programs that leverage private lending for small businesses and manufacturers. The North Carolina District of the Small Business Administration has already approved 414 loans for $198.2 million during the first three months of fiscal year 2011. This is a 37 percent increase in U.S. Small Business Administration loans directed to North Carolina businesses over the first quarter of 2010.
I also recently became a member of the Senate Banking Committee. As a member of the committee, I will focus on encouraging the availability of capital to businesses, which will, in turn, help create jobs; ensuring access to safe and affordable credit for families; and making sure our country’s mortgage system is both robust and stable so that hard-working families are able to own their own homes.
I will continue to support those who serve in our military. North Carolina troops are leading the charge against terrorism in Afghanistan. I have visited troops on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait and met with military personnel in Pakistan. I will continue to support those who make the greatest sacrifice for our country. As a founding member of the Military Family Caucus I strongly support giving the necessary resources to military family support programs and pledge to continue doing so in the 112th Congress.
I am deeply committed to keeping our promises to our veterans. I will continue working to ensure they receive the care and support they deserve. I strongly oppose cutting existing benefits for our country’s soldiers and veterans, and their families, who have risked everything for our country.
During my time in Congress I pledge to continue working to represent North Carolinians to the best of my ability. I encourage you to visit my website, www.hagan.senate.gov, to learn more about my legislative priorities.
Again, thank you for contacting my office. It is truly an honor to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate, and I hope you will not hesitate to contact me in the future should you have any further questions or concerns.
Kay R. Hagan