U.S. Congressman Courtney Delivered Good News on Recent Legislation and Initiatives Ahead at Business Luncheon
The Chamber welcomed U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney on January 22 to address 160 regional business and nonprofit representatives at the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa. Rep. Courtney shared a list of recent legislative accomplishments that impact eastern CT and its residents.
Chamber President and CEO Tony Sheridan introduced the representative from the 2nd Congressional district, “No better Congressman in the United States of America. What this man has done for the region is amazing…He has established himself as a tireless advocate for our region’s active-duty and veteran military members, workforce development, agriculture, and the environment.”
Rep. Courtney sits on the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he chairs the subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.
He discussed major legislative actions including appropriations that fully fund defense spending for projects at Electric Boat, an act to provide healthcare for Navy vets impacted by Agent Orange, a repeal of the tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans, and increases to education funding. Provisions under the SECURE Act allow small businesses to establish retirement saving plans for employees and repeal taxes that impact Gold Star families.
“We’ve got to do better in this country in terms of getting people’s retirement portfolios strengthened. The SECURE Act is going to help enable that,” said Rep. Courtney. The SECURE Act will provide tax credits for companies to set up 401Ks, which they can do within a pool to strengthen their plans and provide autoenrollment for employees.
Rep. Courtney also thanked John Carbone, of Access CT, for pointing out tax credits available to businesses through SHOP, Small Business Health Options Program. Carbone explained that some small businesses could be eligible for a tax credit up to 50% for business and 35% for nonprofits.
In addition to the details he provided on recent legislation, he pointed out initiatives for the upcoming session: workforce training, lowering prescription drug costs, college affordability, school infrastructure, surprise healthcare billing legislation, and an infrastructure package. “There’s going to be an infrastructure bill rolled out next week, long overdue. Kind of got a little tired of waiting for the White House,” said Courtney, of a bill that is being rolled out by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio.
Rep. Courtney also addressed his vote to adopt articles of impeachment against the president. He noted there is a video that explains the reasons for his vote. He went on to discuss his previous votes against beginning impeachment proceedings, the fairness of the process, the credentials of the witnesses who came forward, and the concerns he has about Ukraine. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, he has been engaged for many years with U.S. ally Ukraine and the conflict with Russia, a situation he described as dire with 13,000 people dead. Concerned about serious ramifications to U.S. national security, “We cannot conduct foreign policy and military policy in this fashion. There really is only one tool that the Constitution provides for in Article One, and it is articles of impeachment.”
Here is more detailed information on a number of recently passed provisions discussed by Rep. Courtney.
- SECURE Act – effective January 1, 2020- This provision allows small businesses to set up retirement plans in a pool with other small businesses and establishes a tax credit for employers that include autoenrollment in their plans. The SECURE Act also addresses a tax that impacted Gold Star Families unfairly.
- Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act – effective January 1, 2020 “This act finally eliminated the grave injustice of denying Agent Orange benefits for people who served in Vietnam in the sea services.” He recognized the navy veterans in this area who were relentless in their efforts to get this passed after 17 years of work. About 77,000 veterans who were previously denied benefits for an herbicide-related disability received a letter from the VA with instructions on how to reapply for benefits.
- Middle Class Health Benefits Tax (Cadillac Tax) Repeal – signed into law December 20, 2019. Courtney put forward this bill that eliminates the excise tax on health plans, passed 419 to 6. He explained that while the tax never went into effect, the possibility led people being pushed into high deductible plans.
- TRACED Act (Stopping Robocalls) – signed into law December 30. In addition to cracking down on the annoyance of robocalls, the provision helps protect people from scams. The FCC is in the process of setting up rulemaking under the guidelines of the law.
- Wild & Scenic Rivers – New river designation, fully funded on December 20. The Wood-Pawtucket River was recognized through the Department of the Interior program that promotes conservation.
Details from Appropriations
- FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and Defense Appropriations– passed on December 11. This authorizes a number of provisions. It fully supports the Block V Virginia class contract, fully funds Columbia class production, restores funding to sub repair projects, provides $72 million for new pier for SUBASE, and backs CT aerospace programs regarding F-35s and C-130s. “This is a complete green light in terms of the contract that was just negotiated—the largest shipbuilding contract in U.S. history,” said Rep. Courtney. Pointing the contracts for repair work secured under the provision, he noted, “That’s a really good way to smooth out the workforce in terms of some of the ebbs and flows.” The investment in the pier indicates the future of the sub base is strong.
- Repealed “Widow’s Tax,” an offset that affected military families’ benefits, where they could lose up to $12,000 annually. The NDAA reversed the Department of Defense’s policy of restricting servicemembers with more than sixteen years of service from transferring their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to eligible dependents.
- Expansion of New London VA Clinic. “They have outgrown the space there, and we expect to have the new site selected by the Government Services Administration within a month or so.” The build out for the larger facility will take approximately a year.
- Investing in Education. Increases across a number of programs were achieved: Title 1 grants increased by nearly $500 million; IDEA grants, which help district’s fund special education costs, increased by $350 million; DOD Supplemental Impact Aid increased $50 million and Department of Education Impact Aid increased $40 million. Pell Grant maximum award increases by $150 per person for the 2020-21 school year. “When you freeze Pell Grants, all that does is increase tuition for all the other kids,” said Courtney. He noted that he is working on a higher education affordability act.
Critical changes to the tax code
- Repeals for the Medical Device Tax, the Health Insurance Tax starting 2021, and the Unrelated Business Income Tax/Fringe Benefits for Nonprofits, which was imposing taxes on churches and nonprofits.
- Tax relief has been extended under Mortgage Debt Forgiveness through January 1, 2021 and applies retroactively to all mortgage debt after December 31, 2017. This impacts people underwater in their mortgage and protects them during a short sale.
- Deductions were reinstated for college tuition and expenses and mortgage interest, retroactively for 2018, 2019 and through the 2020 tax year.
- Craft Beverage Tax Deduction reduces the excise tax for beer and certain wines and spirits through 2020.
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