February 13, 2009

Bingaman & Udall: N.M. Set to Receive $1.108 Billion to Create Jobs

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today said New Mexico will receive $1.108 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create 22,000 jobs throughout the state. Additional provisions in the bill will provide tax breaks to thousands of New Mexico families.


The measure passed today 60-38; it can now be sent to President Obama for signature.


"New Mexicans are suffering from this terrible economic downturn. With the passage of this bill, help is on the way. The $1.108 billion set aside for New Mexico will allow us to create good jobs while improving our state's roads, renovating schools and addressing a variety of other needs. In addition to the investments we'll be able to make through this bill, thousands of New Mexico families will receive tax relief," Bingaman said. "I'm very glad we were able to get this bill done and to the president."


"With New Mexico families struggling and the country facing the prospect of an economic catastrophe, this legislation provides the kind of bold action that we need," said Udall. "It combines responsible investments that will create jobs now with tax relief for almost every American family. It will help us get our economy producing jobs again while laying the groundwork for a more prosperous future. I am pleased that this legislation includes the provision I wrote to help our veterans find jobs, though I am disappointed that my plan was changed to exclude some veterans who deserve support. I will continue working to ensure that nobody who serves this country and has the skills to work is trapped in unemployment."


As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Bingaman was able to ensure inclusion in the bill of a 30 percent tax credit for companies - like Schott, Advent Solar, Emcore and Nanopore - that invest in facilities to manufacture renewable energy technologies, like solar panels. This will be the first U.S. tax credit specifically intended to attract manufacturers of solar, wind, and other renewable energy equipment to U.S. soil.


Bingaman also was able to incorporate into the stimulus package a bill that he drafted to stimulate demand for municipal bonds - and thus enable communities to obtain the financing they need to make infrastructure improvements - by allowing banks to hold up to 2 percent of their assets in municipal bonds, on top of an unlimited amount of "small issuer" debt (for which Bingaman expanded the definition to include municipalities that issue $30 million or less in debt each year, up from the prior $10 million limit). This provision will enable counties, cities, school districts, and other municipal issuers across New Mexico to more affordably finance critical infrastructure projects - ranging from school construction to road repairs.


Udall won unanimous support in the Senate for an amendment he wrote to expand tax incentives to employers who hire veterans. The provision expanded tax incentives for veterans discharged only from 2008, 2009, and 2010, to veterans discharged from the Armed Services from September 2001 through December 2010, including veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bureau of Labor Statistic reports that of those veterans who served in our military since September 2001, 6.1 percent were unemployed and the economy has only worsened. At the same time, the jobless rate for veterans of all eras combined was 3.8 percent in 2007. During a House-Senate conference committee, the Udall provision was altered and the final provision allowed employers to receive the credit if the veteran being hired was discharged from the Armed Services within the past five years.


The bill also lowers the income threshold to qualify for the child tax credit from $8500 to $3000, allowing an additional 130,000 New Mexico children will benefit.


Below is list of the categories and levels of funding New Mexico would stand to receive under the Senate's version of the recovery package:
New Mexico's Infrastructure and Science

In order to rebuild our weakening economy, these investments in our physical and cyber infrastructure will put New Mexicans immediately to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, and will also enable the creation of a stronger and more efficient infrastructure for the 21st century economy.


* $19.7 million through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to address the backlog of drinking water infrastructure needs
* $19.5 million through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to address the backlog of clean water infrastructure needs
* $252.6 million in Highway Funding to be used on activities eligible under the Federal-aid Highway Program's Surface Transportation Program and could also include rail and port infrastructure activities at the discretion of the states
* $27.7 million in Transit Formula Funding for investments in mass transit
* $9.4 million through the Public Housing Capital Fund to enable local public housing agencies to address a national $32 billion backlog in capital needs - especially those improving energy efficiency in aging developments - in this critical element of the nation's affordable housing infrastructure
* $14.1 million in HOME Funding to enable state and local government, in partnership with community-based organizations, to acquire, construct, and rehabilitate affordable housing and provide rental assistance to poor families
* $8.6 million through the Homelessness Prevention Fund to be used for prevention activities, which include: short or medium-term rental assistance, first and last month's rental payment, or utility payments. As such, most of this funding will go directly into the economy of local communities, as the funds will be used to pay housing and other associated costs in the private market

Education and Training in New Mexico

In order to compete in the 21st Century, we must have a well-educated workforce, capable of adapting to an ever-changing economic environment. Investing in education now will ensure that the next generation of New Mexico's workers is ready and able to meet the challenge of global competition. In the near-term, millions of workers have seen their jobs disappear, and find themselves unable to match their skill sets with existing opportunities. Providing job training in new and expanding fields will help to lower the unemployment rate and help today's workers better compete against foreign competition.


* $258.9 million through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to local school districts and public colleges and universities. Some of the funding may be used for school modernization.
* $91.1 million for Special Education Part B State Grants to help improve educational outcomes for individuals with disabilities, raising the federal contribution to nearly 40 percent, the level established when the law was authorized more than 30 years ago
* $7.8 million in education technology funds to purchase up-to-date computers and software and provide professional development to ensure the technology is used effectively in the classroom
* $106 million for Title I Education for the Disadvantaged to help close the achievement gap and enable disadvantaged students to reach their potential
* $3.3 million in State Employment Service Grants to match unemployed individuals to job openings through state employment service agencies and allow New Mexico to provide customized reemployment services
* $3.4 million in Dislocated Workers State Grants, particularly for grants that support immediate strategies for regions and communities to meet their need for skilled workers, as well as longer-term plans to build targeted industry clusters with better training and a more productive workforce
* $2.7 million for Department of Labor's Adult State Grants
* $6.3 million for Department of Labor's Youth State Grants
* $3.9 million for Vocational Rehabilitation to help individuals with disabilities prepare for and sustain gainful employment

New Mexico's Energy

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would provide investments in areas critical to the development of clean, efficient, American energy, including modernizing energy transmission, research and development of renewable energy technologies, and modernizing and upgrading government buildings and vehicles.


* $31.6 million through the State Energy Program
* $30.4 million through the Weatherization Assistance Program

Protecting the Vulnerable in New Mexico

The current economic crisis has affected all New Mexicans, but none more so than the most vulnerable among us. The spending proposed here will serve to lessen the blow of the current recession, providing immediate relief for children, the poor, and others who may find themselves struggling to put food on the table or a roof over their head. It will also address the urgent need to provide safe and secure places to live, even in neighborhoods that are struggling with high unemployment and surging foreclosure rates.


* $654,000 for National School Lunch Program Equipment Assistance
* $670,000 through the Emergency Food Assistance Program
* $152 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (formerly Food Stamps)
* $525,000 for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which provides grants to nonprofit and faith-based organizations at the local level to supplement their programs for emergency food and shelter to provide for the immediate needs of the homeless
* $17.8 million in Child Care and Development Block Grants to provide quality child care services for in low-income families who increasingly are unable to afford the high cost of day care
* $5.7 million for Head Start to allow additional children to participate in this program, which provides development, educational, health, nutritional, social and other activities that prepare children to succeed in school
* $5.7 million in Community Services Block Grants to local community action agencies for services to the growing numbers of low-income families hurt by the economic crisis, such as housing and mortgage counseling, jobs skills training, food pantry assistance, as well as benefits outreach and enrollment
* $797,000 for Senior Meals Programs to help senior meals programs cope with steep increases in food and fuel costs. Many programs are reducing meal deliveries to seniors or closing meal sites

Law Enforcement in New Mexico

* $18.7 million in Byrne/JAG grants to support law enforcement efforts
* $513,000 for crime victims compensation and assistance
* $694,000 in Internet Crimes Against Children Grants to help law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative response to offenders who use the Internet, online communication systems, or other computer technology to sexually exploit children
* $1.4 million in Violence Against Women Grants for victim services programs to improve the criminal justice system's response to violent crimes against women and to assist victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking who are in need of transitional housing, short-term housing assistance, and related support services
* $30 million for grants to law enforcement agencies in the Southwest border states to help deal with drug-related crime; $10 million for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to fund an initiative that cracks down on illegal gun smuggling networks that arm Mexican drug cartels. This funding was based on two bills Bingaman


Tax Relief for New Mexico Families and Businesses. According to the Senate Committee on Finance, the following are examples of tax provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that will help New Mexico businesses and families, create jobs and get New Mexico's economy moving:


* Up to $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples for the Making Work Pay Tax Credit
* A one-time payment of $250 to Social Security beneficiaries, SSI recipients, and disabled veterans
* $2,500 for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (an increase in the tax credit for higher education and allowing the credit for four full years)

* Extended $7500 Homebuyer Tax Credit to both help aspiring homeowners and stabilize plummeting home prices
* Extended Bonus Depreciation and Small Business Expensing through 2009, allowing businesses that make capital investments to immediately deduct one-half the cost. Small businesses can immediately deduct 100 percent of the cost of these investments
* $22 billion in bonds nationwide for the construction, rehabilitation, or repair of public schools


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would protect over 26 million working families across the nation from the Alternative Minimum Tax, representing thousands of dollars in additional income taxes. According to the Congressional Research Service, about 75,000 New Mexicans would be protected from the Alternative Minimum Tax in 2009.