Although the 2014 session seems to have started only yesterday, we are already at the halfway point. We continue to move quickly along this session. We have been able to make a lot of progress on our legislative agenda, but we still have much work to do after the Easter/Passover break.
We recently passed a supplemental budget bill that prioritizes supporting our seniors and caregivers. The bill included the full 5% rate increase for our home and community based services, with 80% of the increase going to the wages of our caregivers. I’m proud to support this much needed measure, which will reduce staff turnover, improve retention and help guarantee the consistent, high quality levels of care that some of our most vulnerable citizens deserve.
A measure that I introduced to support senior dining services was also included. The bill gives $250,000 to this important nutritional program. Not only does this provide meals to our state’s seniors, but it provides the community with a place to socialize and interact with peers. This is a great need that we must fill.
I was also grateful to see my legislation for the Let’s Go Fishing program included. The Let’s Go Fishing programs provides fishing and boating excursions for individuals aged 55 and greater, kids and veterans. This program improves the quality of life for seniors and helps to build stronger communities. The $400,000 appropriation would provide community outreach to senior citizens, youth, and veterans for costs associated with recruiting and establishing new chapters.
Considering the relatively short session we have, another great accomplishment is the work we have done to provide further tax relief for hardworking families, businesses and students. Already we have passed a smart and balanced tax bill that provides $443 million in tax relief.
Included in the bill is repeals of the three business to business taxes; eliminating sales tax on commercial and farm equipment repair, warehousing storage and telecommunications equipment. These repeals will reduce costs for thousands of businesses. At the same time, we are expanding the Angel Investment Tax credit, a proven job creator. In 2012, this $12 million program spurred over $72 million in private investment.
There is still more work to be done this year. After the Easter/Passover recess, we will begin to tackle the capital investment bill. Capital investment – often called bonding – gives us the opportunity to use state dollars to support job-creating projects across the state. The projects help our communities tackle much needed infrastructure repairs that they may not be able to pay for themselves. I’d like to see a well-balanced bonding bill that gives our communities the help they need to finish critical improvement projects.
After the mid-session recess, we will have only a few short weeks to finish our legislative work. However, if the first half of session has been any sign, then we will continue to be able to efficiently move forward. We have been able to accomplish some good things and I’m looking forward to continuing this good work.