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January 21, 2014

VIDEO: Sen. Donnelly updates T-S editorial board

Says Farm Bill nearing passage

TERRE HAUTE — Passage of a long overdue U.S. farm bill could be completed by the end of this month, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Tuesday.

“I think we will have a farm bill within the next few weeks. I have expectations of that,” Donnelly said in an interview at the Tribune-Star. The U.S. senator spoke to the newspaper’s editorial board.

“I think the farm bill could have been done months and months ago. I think when the farm bill is finally done, it’s going to be very close to the form we passed in the Senate many, many months ago,” Donnelley said.

One key to its passage is an agreement that will cut about $9 billion over 10 years, Donnelly said, in funding to the food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That program provides money to about 47 million low-income people to pay for food.

Democrats, who hold a majority in the U.S. Senate, offered $4.5 billion in cuts to food stamps over 10 years, while the Republican-run House proposed $39 billion in cuts.

Donnelly said he thinks such a large cut “would have been devastating to that program.”

“There will be cuts to the nutrition program, but cuts that still enable us to be able to provide a meal to a child and do the basics of nutrition, while at the same time having a farm program that makes sense,” Donnelly said.

“It reduces the deficit by more than any other part of the budget, by $30 billion. Overall, the final bill will be a successful bill,” Donnelly said. “I think the SNAP program is a pretty efficient and effective program right now.”

The five-year farm bill covers domestic crop subsidies as well as exports and global food aid. Federal lawmakers are more than a year late in replacing the 2008 farm law, which expired in the fall of 2012 but was extended until Sept. 30, 2013.

On another issue, Donnelly said training and work skills are more important than business tax cuts, as he specifically targeted an Indiana General Assembly idea of eliminating or reducing a business personal property tax.

“When businesses come to see me at the Senate office and before, they didn’t line up to tell me, ‘Well, look, if you lower our business personal property tax, we’ll come to Indiana,’” Donnelly said.

“I understand that we want to try to have the best business tax environment that we can,” the senator said. However, Donnelly said businesses “have repeatedly said if you have the trained and skilled people, we’ll be there.”

Increasing job skill sets is the key to business development, Donnelly said.

“We need to increase our level, not only of high school graduates, but when they finish high school that they receive some form of additional training, whether it is vocational training, whether it is community college or whether it is a four-year college. Those extra steps are what create the increased wages, and would also create the attraction for employers to come here,” he said.

“We are in a good place logistically, we are in a good place climate wise, in terms of business climate. And, so, by increasing our skills level, we will increase our jobs. And you will see more jobs filled,” the U.S. senator said.

“I think our employment rate would drop significantly again if jobs that are available here in Indiana, that are available today, had the people to fill them that had the skills.”

Donnelly said that is why he sponsored the America Works Act while in the U.S. House and is a co-sponsor of it in the U.S. Senate.

“What it does is to make sure to target federal dollars, that are directed at work training programs, directly to those areas that are producing jobs,” Donnelly said.

“This is something that is burned into my soul that a family works best when mom or dad have a job [and] have a chance to take care of the family,” he said. “Great things flow out of job opportunities, and we want to see  more of them here.”

 

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

 

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