Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) is concerned about the lack of attention to government reform efforts.  The Senate last week squashed a request of $45 million for the e-government fund for fiscal year 2003, and instead allocated just $5 million - the same amount as in 2002.  Lawmakers had authorized $45 million for the fund through the E-Government Act of 2002, but as Senate appropriators pared spending, the e-government fund came under the axe.  

“In many ways, government is no longer efficient and responsive enough to the needs of the people. We need to utilize technology to bring government closer to people, make federal agencies more user-friendly, and improve the communication between elected officials and their constituents,” said Smith.  “This has been a top priority of mine since coming to Congress and e-government is a critical step in our reforms to ensure that government is customer-service oriented and truly meeting the needs of the citizenry.  Frankly, I’m concerned that these cuts indicate the lack of commitment to real government reform in Washington, D.C.”

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) today expressed dismay over the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) announced cutbacks in VA health care enrollment.

“For years, the VA has been consistently underfunded and now those decisions are coming back to haunt us.  The program needs adequate funding and, clearly, better management.  We need a long-term plan for how to run the VA and make it effective and efficient,” said Smith.  “But instead of trying to tackle that problem, the Bush administration is making arbitrary decisions to cut corners and cover the lack of efficacy.  As a result they’re making decisions that are not sustainable and are setting a bad precedent.  This is not good management and I would expect better from a MBA administration that talks consistently about the need for government efficiency and responsibility.  The fact is that we need fundamental reform to the VA that focuses on healthy outcomes, gives veterans health care options, and ensures the program is viable for future generations.  When you combine this news with their flawed approach to concurrent receipt, it’s clear that the Bush administration’s veterans policies are in complete disarray and that they are unwilling to uphold the promises made to those who have served our nation.
 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) today signed on to cosponsor legislation to stop the recently scheduled 4.4 percent payment cut to physicians for Medicare reimbursements.  The federal Medicare system, which covers health care for the nation’s senior citizens, works by reimbursing doctors, hospitals, home health care, nursing homes – and in the case of the Medicare + Choice system, HMO’s – for the services they provide to Medicare recipients.

At the end of December, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its final Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2003, declaring that there will be a reimbursement rate cut of 4.4 percent for the coming year.  This reduction, on top of last year’s 5.4 percent cut, would have a devastating effect on physicians, other health care providers and patients across the country.  The legislation that Smith signed onto today, H.R. 41, will impose a one-year freeze on the physician’s fee schedule to protect Medicare patients’ access to medical care.

Washington state has been hit especially hard in the past by cuts to the Medicare program and many doctors are holding off on accepting new Medicare patients, withdrawing from the program or retiring.  Further cuts in the program will only exacerbate this problem.  The state already faces difficulties in keeping doctors and insurance companies in the program because of discrepancies in reimbursement rates from state to state, and deeper cuts in rates across the board do not bode well for the state’s Medicare system.  

“Our state’s problems with Medicare are bad enough as it is.  We simply can’t afford to see another cut in the reimbursement rates.  Already our doctors and hospitals are getting smaller reimbursements from the program than they should be and to add additional cuts will leave them with even fewer economic incentives for participating in Medicare.  It’s ludicrous,” said Smith.  

The estimated cost for the bill is around $1.5 billion.  Last night, the Senate approved a 1.6 percent across the board cut on the 11 remaining appropriations bills.  They plan to redirect that money into preserving the current Medicare reimbursement rate, along with shoring up a few other programs.

“We need a long-term solution to our Medicare problem,” continued Smith.  “With health care inflation rising quickly and baby boomers retiring, we’re looking at an enormous influx of seniors into the Medicare program while health care costs continue to grow.  The fact is that we need fundamental reform that focuses on healthy outcomes, gives seniors health care options, provides coverage for prescription drugs, and ensures the program is viable for future generations.”

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) announced today that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and United States Fire Administration (USFA) have awarded SeaTac City Fire Department a grant through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program for Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety.  The department is a first time applicant for federal funding and will use the funds to purchase mobile data computers for their fire engines.  These computers will be equipped with “pre-planning” software to electronically provide fire crews with essential information such as the nearest route to and geographical location of an incident, the location of water supplies, any area storage of hazardous materials, type of occupancy etc.  This will enable better on-site accountability and increased safety for fire fighters on the job. 

“This grant is a very exciting indication of the ways in which the federal government is helping local communities provide our firefighters with the tools they need to do their jobs safely and more efficiently,” Smith said.  “One of the challenges that our nation faced in the 9-11 tragedy was that our first responders lacked critical information, and as a result were unable to adequately assess the danger of a rapidly changing situation.  It’s just tremendous that with this help, our local fire companies are able to purchase cutting-edge computer equipment, which they couldn’t access otherwise, to help them be more effective in saving lives.  Our fire fighters are in many instances the first responders to many of our emergency situations and it’s important that we make sure that we’re taking care of them and helping them to do their jobs better.”

Awarded jointly by FEMA and USFA, the Assistance to Fire Fighters Grant Program is designed to increase the effectiveness of fire fighting operations, fire fighter health and safety programs, new fire apparatus, EMS programs, and Fire Prevention and Safety Programs.  The SeaTac Fire Department received $75,510, 90 percent of the total cost of their project, for the purchase of new technology to help address firefighter safety issues and improve the basic fire fighting services they provide to the community.  

For more information about the SeaTac City Fire Department, contact Fire Chief Robert Meyer at (206) 824-2726.

 

On January 10th, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) led members of the Northwest Congressional delegation in a letter to Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) Administrator Steve Wright and Northwest Power Planning Council Chairman Larry Cassidy in support of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The letter attracted the support of all 11 members of the Washington state delegation as well as four other Northwest lawmakers - Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, and Oregon Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, and Darlene Hooley.  It encourages the development of alternative energy sources throughout the 2006-2026 contract period currently being discussed by BPA and the utilities.

“Our country's energy policy is vitally important to our economy, our environment and our national security,” said Smith. “I strongly believe we need to make an aggressive effort to develop and implement energy technologies of the future that will allow us to wean our dependency on fossil fuels.  As we move through the contract process with BPA and the utilities over the coming months, I am hopeful we can take advantage of renewable energy and energy efficiency resources to make a difference in the quality of life in the Northwest, help grow our economy and protect our environment.” 

The full text of the letter follows.  

“We write regarding the Northwest Power Planning Council's Recommendations on the Bonneville Power Administration's role in regional energy supply after 2006. As you know, we are encouraged by the efforts of a number of BPA customer representatives to reach consensus on the many thorny issues this topic raises. In addition, we hope that as BPA begins to formulate its own post-2006 proposal, you will keep in mind a number of our key concerns.

“We have closely followed the progress of discussions aimed at locking up for 20 years the benefits of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) in a manner that will benefit all sectors of the Northwest economy, including residential, commercial and industrial consumers. We must ensure that any such contractual arrangements are legally and practically sustainable across variable market conditions, and will not result in harmful or unintended consequences for Northwest utilities, industries and ratepayers. Temporary solutions that are not durable across a range of circumstances will only serve to undermine the very same certainty this dialogue was designed to provide for the Northwest energy industry and its customers.

“Without prejudging the benefits of allowing certain entities to assume responsibility for meeting their own load growth, we also believe that any changes in BPA's relationship to its traditional customers must not jeopardize the region's ability to fulfill its long-standing stewardship obligations. These include investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy development, low-income energy services and fish and wildlife protection and restoration. It is important that any such modification meet legal obligations to recover endangered salmon and retain the ability to fully implement the salmon recovery plan, and possible future modifications to the Plan.

“The Northwest's economic and environmental future depends on development and deployment of clean energy technologies, diversifying our resource base and capturing all the benefits that result from making our energy system as efficient as possible. Investment in these areas will not only help meet the growing demand for electricity in our region and take pressure off the FCRPS, but it is a key to job creation within the Northwest's burgeoning energy technology and renewable energy industries. 

“We believe that BPA must continue in its role as an engine for innovation and economic development when it comes to investment in cost-effective efficiency and renewable energy. A sustained region-wide commitment to these initiatives will ultimately improve reliability, lower costs to consumers, provide cleaner air to the public and enhance our environmental quality, while simultaneously positioning the Northwest for economic growth.

“As you continue in the effort to preserve and enhance the benefits of the FCRPS, a meaningful public participation process must also be a critical component of your work. Citizens of the Northwest should be apprised of what's at stake and fully included as BPA, the Council and other stakeholders endeavor to make critical decisions about the future of our energy system."