Fifth District Report
Column by Tom Perriello
My top priority is jobs for Main Street and rebuilding America’s competitive edge in the world. Recently, I was selected for two congressional roles to advance the ball on economic development for Central and Southern Virginia. I was appointed to a Congressional Task Force on Job Creation and was also made Vice-Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee.
Organized as a special working group focusing on a possible “jobs bill,” the Congressional Task Force on Job Creation will recommend economic initiatives in the coming year to promote job creation. The task force will focus on bringing innovative ideas to the table that will foster job creation and restore America’s competitive advantage. We will be focusing on strategies for strengthening the economy and putting Americans back to work. As work on jobs legislation continues, I hope to hear from you about any recommendations for breathing life back into this economy.
The Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee examines bills that particularly affect economic incentives and growth in the transportation and infrastructure sectors. It also handles legislation dealing with government programs like FEMA that handle disaster relief as well as measures regarding government buildings like the Smithsonian or post offices. As Vice-Chair, I will have further oversight and responsibility over the work and legislation considered by this important subcommittee.
Another important economic issue that affects our family farmers and small businesses is the estate tax. Last week, the U.S. House passed a permanent increase and extension of relief from the estate tax. Had we not acted, the estate tax would have reverted to the 2001 levels of exempting only $1 million per individual and taxing remaining assets at 55% (from 45% this year). Under the new legislation, an individual can have $3.5 million exempted, and a couple can have $7 million exempted. It was important to substantially raise this exemption, and to ensure permanence so that farmers and their families were not waiting each year to see what Congress might do. At a time of economic rebuilding, I believe we should do all that we can to ensure this pillar of the American economy is not taxed unfairly and disproportionately.
I held a roundtable in October with family farmers in Pittsylvania County. They were deeply concerned about the uncertainty they face in their financial planning. One of their greatest concerns is that their estate will be assessed at a high value due to the potential value of the land when developed for commercial or residential use. They are often “land rich” but “cash poor.” Such an approach to land valuation dramatically increases the financial burden facing heirs evaluating whether or not they can afford to continue the family’s tradition of farming. Often the only avenue available to heirs to pay off the estate tax is to sell the farmland that their family has worked on for so many years.
I offered an amendment to the estate tax extension bill that would effectively “carve out” family farms, with a total exemption for land and assets that remain part of a working farm. I have also co-sponsored two other bills that would essentially achieve the same goal. Although my amendment was not accepted, the final bill, which I supported, will still go a long way towards helping family farmers and small businesses by providing them with certainty and security. Our farmers and small businesses are key components to our economic recovery and I am committed to supporting them.
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.
Tom Perriello represents the Fifth District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives.