Senator Boxer understands that Californians and people across the country are struggling through this recession. She is working to strengthen California’s economy and the nation’s economy by leading efforts to create jobs, help small businesses compete and provide much-needed tax relief for middle-class families. She has also been a strong advocate for California businesses, promoting policies to help the state’s agricultural, high-tech, biotechnology, entertainment companies succeed.
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Economic Recovery in California
- Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act – Senator Boxer was a strong supporter of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. She voted for the Recovery Act – and helped craft key provisions – to help save and create jobs in the state, speed our economic recovery, provide tax-relief for middle-class families, and secure critical funding for the state. The law is already having a significant impact:
• Across California, 12.4 million families are receiving up to $800 a year in tax relief from the Recovery Act.
• California will receive an estimated $85 billion for critical priorities such as repairing roads and bridges, expanding access to health care, investing in clean energy technologies, and improving public education for our children.
• The Recovery Act is expected to save or create nearly 400,000 jobs in California, according to White House estimates.
During the debate over the Recovery Act, Senator Boxer helped secure additional funding for key priorities. She contacted Vice President Joe Biden and National Economic Council Director Larry Summers to urge the inclusion of more COPS hiring grants to make sure that police and sheriff’s departments, hit hard by state and local budget cuts, could retain and hire more officers to protect public safety.
As chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, she advocated for and helped secure more Recovery Act funding for transportation and water infrastructure projects, as well as greater investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and other clean energy technologies.
- Clean Energy Jobs – Senator Boxer has been a leading champion in the Senate for legislation that will create millions of clean energy jobs. She joined with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to write the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, legislation that would create clean energy jobs, reduce dangerous global warming pollution and move us away from our dependence on foreign oil. A recent UC Berkeley study concluded that clean energy jobs legislation could create up to 1.9 million new jobs nationwide by 2020. Clean energy is one of California’s fastest growing industries, creating 10,000 new businesses and more than 125,000 jobs between 1998 and 2007.
- Creating Jobs in Transportation – As chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Boxer has worked closely with Senator Jim Inhofe, the committee’s ranking Republican, to reauthorize federal highway and transportation spending programs, which are critical for creating jobs, reducing traffic congestion and speeding the flow of goods in our economy. According to the Department of Transportation, every $1 billion invested in transportation supports nearly 35,000 jobs.
- Putting People to Work Repairing Our Water Infrastructure – Senator Boxer led the fight to secure passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorized $1.3 billion for 54 flood control, ecosystem restoration and navigation projects in California. She also joined with a bipartisan group of senators on the committee on legislation that would invest $37 billion to help repair our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, which would help protect public health and create jobs in our communities. The Water Infrastructure Financing Act was approved by the committee in May 2009.
Helping Small Businesses
- Increasing Lending to Small Businesses – Senator Boxer joined with Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley to write the Bank on Our Communities Act of 2009, legislation that would allocate up to $15 billion in existing TARP funds to recapitalize community banks on the condition that they use it to restart lending to small businesses. Senator Boxer also co-sponsored legislation with Senator Mary Landrieu that would increase the maximum size of three types of Small Business Administration loans to help entrepreneurs and small business owners who need larger loans to grow their businesses and create new jobs.
- Helping Small Businesses Afford Health Care – Right now small businesses pay three times the administrative expenses for health care as larger firms and as much as 18 percent more in health care premiums because they lack the bargaining power of larger companies. Senator Boxer supports the creation of health care exchanges that would help reduce administrative expenses and allow small businesses to compare the prices and benefits of plans and give small businesses the same bargaining power as larger firms. She also supports health insurance reforms that would give small businesses tax credits to allow them to reduce costs and provide coverage to more of their employees.
- Promoting Job Growth in Our Communities – Senator Boxer is leading efforts to pass legislation to reauthorize the Economic Development Administration, which helps promote private sector job growth in economically underserved communities. The agency provides grants to state and local governments, regional economic development organizations, universities and other public and private entities to encourage job creation and economic development in communities in California and across the country. Senator Boxer is working in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on legislation to reauthorize the agency through 2013.
- Tax Incentives for Home-based Businesses – Senator Boxer and Senator Merkley introduced the Home Office Deduction Simplification Act of 2009, legislation that would cut red tape and allow millions of home-based business owners to claim a simple $1,500 deduction for expenses related to their businesses. Currently the process for claiming the deduction is so complex and burdensome that only 25 percent of eligible taxpayers claim the home office deduction. The bill has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the National Association of the Self-Employed and the National Small Business Association.
- Jumpstarting Small Business Growth – Senator Boxer is also cosponsoring legislation with Senator Merkley that help small businesses during their critical first year in operation by increasing the tax deduction for small business start-up expenses from $5,000 to $10,000. The Small Business Jump Start Act would also increase the threshold for the phase-out of the deduction from $50,000 to $60,000 so that more small businesses could get help with their start-up expenses.
Providing Relief to Middle Class Families
- Helping Families Afford Child Care - The 2009 budget resolution included a provision written by Senator Boxer to enhance the child care tax credit. Senator Boxer authored legislation to increase the tax credit to 35-50 percent of child care expenses up to $6,000 for one child and $12,000 for two or more children.
- Helping Families Afford Health Insurance - Health insurance premiums are one of the biggest strains on family budgets. In fact, it is estimated that by 2016, 41 percent of the average California family’s income will be used for health insurance premiums. Senator Boxer wrote a bill to provide a $2,000 tax deduction for the costs of premiums and introduced legislation to give Americans access to the same health insurance program that is available to members of Congress. Additionally, she introduced a bill to provide a health insurance tax credit to small businesses in states that require companies to provide health benefits to their employees.
- Raising the Minimum Wage – Senator Boxer fought for an increase in the federal minimum wage. She introduced legislation for 10 years providing an increase, which became law 2007.
- Extending Unemployment Benefits - To help laid-off workers support their families while they look for new jobs, Senator Boxer has repeatedly backed legislation to extend unemployment benefits. In 2009, she supported legislation to extend unemployment benefits for an additional 14 weeks in all states and 20 weeks in states with high unemployment rates, including California – helping more than 170,000 Californians at risk of losing their benefits.
Protecting Homeowners and Taxpayers
- Expanding Refinancing Opportunities for Homeowners - After President Obama announced his Making Home Affordable plan to address the foreclosure crisis in March 2009, Senator Boxer wrote to the administration urging an expansion of refinancing opportunities to include borrowers living in areas where home values have declined the most dramatically. The Home Affordable Refinance program originally allowed responsible borrowers in Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans with a loan to value (LTV) between 80 percent and 105 percent to refinance their mortgages. Senator Boxer urged that the upper LTV limit be raised to 125 percent to assist millions of additional borrowers suffering from the greatest crisis of price declines and negative equity our nation has seen. In July, the Administration made this critical change to the program.
In a follow-up letter, Senator Boxer urged the administration to speed up the implementation of these changes so that homeowners would not miss out on the opportunity to refinance their loans at a lower interest rate. Within two weeks, Fannie Mae moved up its implementation date one month earlier than previously announced.
- Raising Loan Limits - Recognizing that the high cost of housing in the state had excluded a majority of Californians from access to important benefits of loan programs available through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Senator Boxer successfully fought to raise the permanent loan limits for these programs. The “Economic Stimulus Act of 2008” temporarily raised the loan limit for FHA from $362,790 to $729,750, and for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from $417,000 to $729,750, where they remain today. (The “Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008” later set the permanent loan limits for these institutions at $625,000, though the higher limits are still in effect.) These changes have provided for greater refinancing opportunities and lower costs on some loans, and enabled more borrowers in high cost areas to avoid the type of nontraditional and frequently abusive loans that led to the current crisis.
- Protecting Neighborhoods - Following her housing roundtable discussions, Senator Boxer urged Senate leaders to increase Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to address the high number of vacant foreclosed properties that have become magnets for vandalism and crime. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 included $4 billion and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included an additional $2 billion in emergency CDBG assistance for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to combat blight by purchasing, rehabilitating, or demolishing foreclosed vacant homes. During Senate debate on the ARRA, Senator Boxer filed an amendment and worked with appropriators to direct funding to those areas hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis, including many California communities. The final conference agreement included clarifying language to “ensure that the grantees are in areas with the greatest number and percentage of foreclosures.”
Bolstering California’s Economy
- Invest in the USA Act - Senator Boxer and Republican Senator John Ensign authored the Invest in the USA Act. The legislation, which was signed into law, encouraged American companies to bring overseas profits back to the United States to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. The Invest in the USA Act provision helped create jobs and encourage investment in technology through a one-year reduction in the corporate tax rate if the funds were reinvested in America.
- Jobs Reserve Fund - Senator Boxer authored an amendment to the federal budget to create a $24 billion jobs reserve fund. The amendment would set aside funds to improve the economy and establish a manufacturing jobs tax credit for companies that create jobs in the United States. Additionally, the amendment would expand investment in science research and development, provide a tax credit to small businesses to pay for health insurance for their employees and expand trade adjustment assistance to help those who lose their jobs because of foreign trade.
- Research and Development Tax Credit - Senator Boxer wrote a bill to make permanent the Research and Development tax credit, which creates jobs by encouraging companies to invest in innovative research.
- Keeping Entertainment Industry Jobs in America - The entertainment industry is one of California’s major industries and one of America’s largest exports. However, in recent years, more film and TV production has gone abroad, costing American jobs. Senator Boxer pushed legislation, now law, to provide a tax break to encourage film and TV production to stay in the United States.
- Supporting California’s High-Tech Economy - To help keep the high-tech industry in California growing and producing jobs, Senator Boxer has continuously opposed imposing an access and sales taxes on the Internet. She co-authored a bill with Republican Senator George Allen in 2001 to extend the Internet tax moratorium for five years. She also co-authored bipartisan legislation to protect the stock options that many high-tech companies offer to their employees to recruit and retain a talented workforce.
- California Agriculture - Boxer has been an outspoken advocate of California’s agricultural economy, and has worked to eliminate unfair foreign trade practices and reduce trade barriers for the state’s agricultural exports. She has fought for policies to help California’s garlic, almond, tomato, grape and avocado farmers, and dairy producers, among others. Read more about Senator Boxer’s agricultural accomplishments here.