augusta free press news

Tom Perriello: Getting America moving forward

Column by Tom Perriello

During last week’s Congressional District work week, I spent time in all 22 localities of the district to hear the needs and concerns of constituents and report back on progress made on jobs and economic relief.

In addition to numerous individual meetings, I made stops on 14 Main Streets throughout the district. From Stanardsville to South Boston, and Altavista over to Lawrenceville, I stopped into businesses and community organizations to get the perspective of those on the ground. Our small business leaders are essential to our economic recovery because two out of every three new jobs is created by a small business.

One message that came through clearly is that a full recovery will not happen until America starts building, making, and growing things again. That is why I have fought successfully to block efforts to expand NAFTA and why I aggressively sought to close the tax loopholes that reward companies for sending American jobs overseas.

I also updated small business owners on new tax breaks that have either become law or passed the House of Representatives. These include a one-year holiday for capital gains taxes on small business investment, a 35 percent tax credit for health insurance costs, and a quadrupling of the tax exemption for small business start-up costs. We have also changed rules for depreciation of new equipment which encourages purchasing by lowering the tax burden on that equipment.

A major concern for small businesses has been getting banks to lend in these tough times. To address this problem, we have been working to create the Small Business Lending Fund through our community banks. Rather than create a new government bureaucracy, this proposal simply rewards community banks with a lower interest rate based on whether they are lending to local businesses. This is part of a much larger need to shift our focus and concentration of capital from a few far-away multinational banks back to our reliable local institutions.

Last week, I also issued a one-year progress report on my Energy Independence Blueprint.”The blueprint, which was released July 4, 2009, is a detailed, forward-looking plan that has guided my efforts to put Southside and Central Virginia at the forefront of the new energy economy. One year later, I am thrilled that we have delivered major results in virtually every category.

Over 800 homes across the district had their utility bills decreased through weatherization, almost 1,000 families received rebates to upgrade to more energy efficient appliances and fifty houses are receiving rebates for installing solar generation equipment. The cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use, so these efficiency investments put people to work now and save money over time.

We also made investments in alternative energy production, like converting landfill gases in Martinsville into power, or converting cow manure into power for Chatham. Smart investments and demonstration projects will show the country and the world that our region is ready to be a leader in addressing our energy challenges. It also gives our region a competitive advantage as we compete globally for the jobs and investments that will be required to meet the energy needs of the 21st century.

Our region has a proud tradition as a former tobacco and textile power house, but we must take equal pride in our future, which could be as a new energy capital of the East Coast. This region can be a future center of new energy production and advanced manufacturing, and I am working every day to bring tomorrow’s jobs to our Main Streets. What I heard on Main Streets across this district this week is deep concern about our economy, but an even deeper belief that America can and must get back to building, making and growing things.