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May 2, 2018

Rogers praises tax reform, complains about Mountain Parkway, broadband progress in Prestonsburg

GOP Congressman also tears into Social Security, Medicare and other 'entitlement' programs

U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers discussed a myriad of topics during a visit to the Big Sandy Area Development District in Prestonsburg this week.

US Congressman Harold ‘Hal’ Rogers speaks to local officials and legislators during a visit to the Big Sandy Area Development District in Prestonsburg on April 30. Photo by Mary MeadowsUS Congressman Harold ‘Hal’ Rogers speaks to local officials and legislators during a visit to the Big Sandy Area Development District in Prestonsburg on April 30. Photo by Mary MeadowsIt was part of a regional tour, during which Rogers made stops in Magoffin, Floyd and Johnson counties on Monday.

City mayors from Prestonsburg, Wayland, Pikeville, Coal Run, Elkhorn City and Paintsville, Floyd County Judge-Executive Ben Hale, Sen. Johnny Ray Turner and representatives Larry Brown, John Blanton and Angie Hatton joined other community leaders in welcoming Rogers with a standing ovation.

He talked for about 30 minutes, covering numerous topics, including the presentation of a Bronze Star to 99-year-old World War II veteran Albert Patrick in Magoffin County and appearances planned in Paintsville later that day.

Talking about work which has been undertaken recently in Congress, he joked about Kentucky’s most recent legislative session.

“I also want to give you a little update about what we’re doing across the region, and what’s going on, somewhat, in Washington,” he said. “You may not want to hear a lot of this, but John (Blanton) I think, maybe Frankfort sort of beat us out of Washington, with all the fun and games that went on there. I watched from afar.”

He touted recent congressional actions, highlighting an increase in military spending. Congress passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in March, allotting it highest-ever military budget at $700 billion.

“We’ve got almost half of the Marines’ planes can’t fly. We’ve got ships that can’t be sailed, planes that can’t fly, and so on, so we beefed up the military spending substantially,” he said. “We’re borrowing to do it, and I don’t like that, but there’s no other way.”

Rogers also praised the federal tax reform bill, calling it “the most comprehensive, meaningful tax reform bill” since President Ronald Reagan and saying that “Americans will never file their taxes the same way again.”

“Beginning next year, we’ll have a simpler, fairer system with bigger tax breaks for 90 percent of Americans, giving you more money to take home in your paychecks,” he said. “In fact, by the end of the year, I’m told most Kentucky families will bring home $2,000 more in their paychecks than last year.”

That Tax Cut and Jobs Act has been highly praised by Republicans like Rogers. It increased the standard deduction for married couples from $12,000 to $24,000 and, among other things, cut corporate tax rates.

Rogers said tax reform is already enhancing business growth across the country.

“Over 500 companies, and counting, have already announced pay increases, bonuses, or extended benefit packages for their employees as a direct result of the tax bill that’s been passed,” Rogers said. “And that’s going to continue, and the economy is booming country-wide. We’re feeling some of the effects here, and I hope and pray that, that growth continues in a big-time way.”

He did not mention any Ky. projects resulting from the tax bill.

He also mentioned the need to cut entitlement spending in America, talking about how those programs have grown since he started in congress in 1981.

“So, we just passed, late, the omnibus spending bill that funds the government for the balance of this fiscal year, through October 30, and I want to remind you, we only appropriate one-third of federal spending,” he said. “That is to say, the congress does not have its hands on two-thirds, now, of federal spending, the entitlements: interest on the debt, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, and on and on and on and on. That now makes up two-thirds of federal spending. When I went to congress in 1981, we appropriated two-thirds of the federal spending. Now, we appropriate only one-third.”

He said that’s “not smart.”

“So of the total federal spending of $4.1 trillion, we only appropriate a small part of that, and that’s not smart, but the country has not mustered the challenge to trim back entitlement spending,” he said. “And, this being an election year, I don’t expect anything in that regards. Nevertheless, it is a problem that continues to grow.”

He talked about the “important investments” in the military, to fight the opioid epidemic and fund infrastructure and economic development projects.

He talked about the creation of Opportunity Zones designated in 24 counties, including Floyd, Pike and other local counties, saying it should encourages business to expand in Eastern Kentucky.

Lawrence County is not included in the Opportunity Zones project but Martin County is.

Rogers also talked about a pilot Abandoned Mine Land program, which has provided more than $80 million for projects in Kentucky over the past three years, including the Prestonsburg-to-David rails-to-trails funding announced last year.

He said coal companies paid in $4 billion to restore old, abandoned mine lands, but it wasn’t getting used, so he “dipped into” that and “earmarked” it for abandoned mine lands that could be converted into “something useful, economically, to create jobs.”

He said AML funding was recently awarded to Martin County to fix its water infrastructure problems.

“I’m thankful the war on coal has abated, that’s the good news,” he said. “The bad news is it left us devastated. So, the war on coal is real, and despite the downturn in the economy, you come together under this umbrella group called SOAR, Shaping Our Appalachian Region, and we decided that we’re not going to stand for it. We’re going to fight for it. We’re going to pull together.”

Praising SOAR — an organization he co-founded years ago — and innovations at the Morehead State University’s Space Science Center, Rogers said the region is imagining new ways to build its economy.

He complained about the progress of his Super iWay proposal which would bring high-speed cable and internet services to Eastern Kentucky and about the progress of the Mountain Parkway project.

“In Magoffin County, the Mountain Parkway is making the region more accessible,” he said. “I’m really teed off that it’s going so slow. That project over there is so important, it’s so critical, not just to them, but to all of Eastern Kentucky. So, I hope we can kick them in the rump somehow to get it done quicker.”

By Mary Meadows
Floyd County Chronicle and Times

Comments  

0 #1 wow 2018-05-02 20:23
What has been done for this region, nothing. Still no jobs, road improvements or decrease in the drug epidemic. Hey a lot has been done for Pikeville, apparently its their definition of Eastern Ky.
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