This morning, June 29, 2009, 2nd District Congressman Joe Courtney, defended his YES vote for the recently passed House Energy Bill to the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. Courtney recognized that there were a number of questions regarding the bill but pointed out that the energy bill has been under discussion in the past two Congresses and that the bill went through the normal vetting process. There were hearings before two house committees and the bill had a full markup. It was discussed in the Democratic Caucus on numerous occasions. The bill is scientifically correct on a global scale. The first date of implementation is 2012 and then there is a gradual increase in the carbon cap until the year 2050. There are many positives for Connecticut in the bill. First, Since Connecticut is a party to the Greenhouse Agreement, the state is already doing many of the measures in the new Energy bill. The bill will get the rest of the country to join Connecticut and this puts the state ahead of the curve. Connecticut gets much of its electrical power from nuclear energy and nuclear plants are exempt from the base line placing their owners in a competitive advantage versus coal fired plants. Since cost of new nuclear power plants is still a major issue, the bill will qualify nuclear plants for loan guarentees. In fact the opposition to the bill passed out maps (Which attendees could obtain from Jennie Contois, Courtney’s district manager) showing that Connecticut was one of the few states that would benefit from the bill more than the rest of the country.
Courtney also touted the success of the submarine building program in recent comparisons with other defense procurement programs. Nearly every other program was reduced or even eliminated. The submarine programs were maintained. Knowledgable persons know that the submarine force is vital for the nation, not just the economy of Southeastern Connecticut. The Congressman credited the Navy, the Builders like Electric Boat, and the Workers in Connecticut for this success. He told a story that was relayed to him by some Admirals visiting his office. President Obama received a high level intelligence briefing that included information obtained by the USS JIMMY CARTER (SSN-23). After the brief, the President wanted to know why the nation only had one submarine with that capability. So, on the defense front, the news is positive.
The rest of Courtney’s address discussed the stimulus package passed in February, and its impact in Eastern Connecticut. Courtney noted that the stimulus bill was endorsed by the National Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers as well as many other organizations on both the management and labor sides. Thirty seven percent of the bill was tax relief, some of which has already been seen (the individual tax rebates) or available (the tax credit for first time home buyers). There were also targeted tax cuts for new energy projects. The purpose of the bill was to provide some government investment at a time when private investment had dried up. Thirty three percent of the bill was for local fiscal relief such as grants to New London Police and the boost in Title 1 education funding to local school districts. Before the voting, each Congressperson was able to see what funds would benefit persons in their districts. The effort was to keep up local infrastructure and provide expanded Pell grants for students.
Planned spending for Green technology is off to a slow start. Courtney stated that his office was working with state government, in particular, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, to get the $400 million alloted to Connecticut on track. Aid to AMTRAK will permit the construction of a new bridge in Niantic and Madison and Stonington. The replacement of the Niantic River railroad bridge will go out to bid in early July. The VA hospital in West Haven will get an $8 million expansion to add private and semi-private rooms at the hospital and other improvements are slated for the VA facility in Newington. These projects will create jobs in construction and the trades. The investment in surface infrastructure, education, and individual agencies is a good investment.
Courtney concluded his remarks by stating that he still is focusing on what is good for Eastern Connecticut, not just what the Democratic Caucus leaders want him to do.
Responding to questions from the audience, Congressman Courtney emphasized that government investment was not to take over American industry, but to provide a “jolt” to the economy at a time when the private sector was not investing to get the economy moving again. The stimulus should provide a springboard and a floor for further private venture spending. Eventually, the Congress will have to return to the “Pay as you Go” process of the ninties to get control of the deficit. Right now is not that time. Connecticut has many new and existing companies with new and exciting projects. Yardney from Stonington is working of the battery cells for an electic car. The state is still number 3 in the list of patent approvals. Connecticut won’t cars, drill for oil, or mine for coal. Connecticut’s asset is its brain power. Courtney sees more success ahead.