Press Releases

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith today voted to repeal the Social Security earning test, saying that it would provide great benefits to both senior citizens and businesses.

The earnings limit originated in the 1930’s and it remains despite the vast changes in the economy and the lives of senior citizens that have taken place over the last 60 years.

Under current law, seniors who claim Social Security benefits before they reach 69 are subject to a reduction in benefits if they continue to work. For seniors 65 to 69, benefits are reduced by $1 for every $3 that their earnings exceed the limit - $17,000 in 2000, rising to $30,000 in 2002 and indexed after that. HR 5 would repeal this limit entirely, effective immediately.

“This change will benefit senior citizens who want to work and businesses who need the employees,” said Smith. “It makes no sense to penalize senior citizens for participating in the workforce. People remain healthy and vigorous longer than they did in the 1930’s and it makes sense to repeal this obsolete and punitive limit.”

Congress passed H.R. 5 today, and President Clinton has promised to sign the bill into law.

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith has co-sponsored legislation to reduce the federal tax on vaccines from 75 cents to 25 cents.

“This legislation will save consumers and states money,” said Smith. “This is common sense legislation that substantially reduces the cost of vaccines, an important part of basic health care for children and adults alike, without negative effects.”

The purpose of the vaccine excise tax was to fund the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which now has a $1.4 billion surplus. Taxes generate well over $100 million a year, and the surplus generates another $60 million in interest. Payouts and administrative costs each year are less than $60 million. Lowering the excise to 25 cents will ensure that the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program still has a surplus, albeit growing at a slower rate.

“Washington state taxpayers will save over $1.9 million each year,” Smith explained. “Furthermore, vaccines will be cheaper for everyone.”

H.R. 2118 the Vaccinate America’s Children Now Act, has been endorsed b y the Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“I am hopeful that Congress will take up this important bill soon,” Smith said. “It is legislation that should be supported by all Members of Congress, regardless of political party.”

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith today voted for legislation to substantially increase research in long-term information technology and networking.

H.R. 2086, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act, provides a 92 percent increase in information technology funding over the next five years for the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Energy Department, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Our predecessors made a wise decision to invest in science and technology research,” Smith said. “To succeed in the New Economy, we must ensure that we have the best science and technology in the world, and that all our citizens are empowered to take advantage of it. This bill will help ensure the economy continues to grow, providing opportunity to as many people as possible.”

The measure authorizes a total of $3 billion for the National Science Foundation from 2000 to 2004. This funding would include grants for research on high-end computing, software, the social and economic consequences of information technology, network stability, security, and privacy.

Education is also prioritized in the legislation. The bill also provides $95 million for colleges and universities to establish internship programs in information technology research with private sector companies, and authorizes $56 million for NSF to establish a research program to develop and analyze information technology applications for elementary and secondary education.

“The education piece of this bill is very important,” Smith explained. “We need to improve all students’ computer literacy, from elementary school to universities.”

Ed Lazowska, Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington was in Washington D.C. today to lend his support to the bill.

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith today said that the new bipartisan focus on debt reduction is “a critical development in ensuring continued economic success.”

Smith noted, “President Clinton strongly emphasized fiscal discipline and paying down the debt in last night’s State of the Union Address, and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were very supportive.”

Debt reduction and fiscal discipline have been longtime priorities for Smith. He authored the Honesty in Budgeting Act, which requires the government to stop counting Social Security surpluses as income in the federal budget.

“The Honesty in Budgeting Act was just one of the factors that led to this new bipartisan focus on debt reduction,” said Smith. “Now almost everyone, from the Republican leadership to President Clinton, is committed to balancing the budget without using Social Security and paying down the national debt.”

Smith acknowledges that supporting debt reduction and actually voting to make it happen are two separate things. “With budget surpluses, there will be a lot of temptation to use that money either for tax cuts or spending increases,” he warned. “While I think we can make some additional investments and cut some taxes this year, I will be diligent in ensuring that fiscal discipline is our overriding goal so that we can pay down the debt, leading to lower interest rates and fewer tax dollars being wasted on debt service costs.”

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith today unveiled legislation to restructure the federal role in K-12 education.

“Currently the federal government places too much emphasis on process, bureaucracy, and paperwork, and not nearly enough on flexibility, local control, and results,” Smith said. “We need a system that is more flexible, more controlled by locals, and focused on results. My legislation would do just that.”

Smith will formally introduce the Empowering Local Schools Act (ELSA) upon Congress’s return in late January.

Smith went to Tyee High School, his alma mater, in the Highline School District this morning. He was joined by Highline Superintendent Dr. Joseph McGeehan, a supporter of the bill.

Smith and various Pierce and Thurston County education professionals then introduced the legislation at Franklin Pierce High School this afternoon. “His [Adam Smith’s] proposed bill will add flexibility and enhance the ability of school districts to target local needs,” said Yelm Superintendent Alan Burke. “In Yelm we have been frustrated by the enormous paperwork burden that we endure to capture federal funds in grant programs such as Eisenhower Math and Science and Goals 2000.”

ELSA is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which governs the vast majority of K-12 federal education programs. ESEA was last reauthorized in 1994 and Congress must reauthorize it again this year.

ESEA authorizes more than sixty programs, from broad programs such as Title 1, which provides extra funding for low-income students, to narrow programs such as native Hawaiian education and School-to-Work Opportunities Grant. Smith argues that the current system has created confusion and red tape for local school districts who need federal funding.

“Under current law, some federal education programs are distributed through formulas that take poverty and population into consideration, while others are grant programs that school districts must apply for,” Smith explained. “Then, schools have to document exactly how they’re spending the money in each program. This puts our schools into a straitjacket because they have very little discretion and flexibility. For example, if a school receives funding under the much-touted 100,000 teachers program, but they really need to invest more money into keeping their new teachers instead of hiring brand-new ones, they can’t do it. We need to give local schools more flexibility so that they can tailor federal funding to their school’s needs.”

Smith’s legislation would condense existing programs into six funding streams and send the money directly to local school districts. The funds would be largely distributed through a formula based on poverty and population. “This will basically eliminate school districts’ need to hire professional grant writers so that they can receive federal funding,” Smith noted. “Instead, schools will be able to rely on a certain federal funding level, with the neediest school districts receiving the most money.”

The funding streams would be:

  • Title 1 – Disadvantaged students ELSA retains Title 1 but makes two important changes: it allows schools more flexibility in using Title 1 funds and targets funds more towards low-income schools.
  • Limited English Proficient Students Smith’s legislation consolidates existing programs that focus on non-English speakers (the 12 Bilingual Education grant programs and Emergency Immigrant Education) into one funding stream that gives local schools flexibility in choosing methods of instruction.
  • Professional Development ELSA consolidates existing teacher training and hiring initiatives such as the Eisenhower Professional Development Program, Goals 2000, and the 100,000 Teachers program into one fund to be used for hiring new teachers, teacher training, teacher pay, and lowering class size.
  • Education Reform/Innovative Practices ELSA consolidates other existing ESEA programs, such as Technology in Education programs, the Safe and Drug Free Schools Act, school-to-work programs, literacy programs, and after-school programs, into one fund distributed to local schools to be used for a wide variety of priorities based on the school district’s needs.
  • Public School Choice ELSA strengthens federal efforts to assist local school districts’ efforts to promote public school choice. It condenses the current magnet school and charter school laws into one program and increases funding.
  • Impact Aid The legislation maintains current law as it relates to Impact Aid, which supports those school districts that have a large amount of federal property, such as military bases, to make up for the lower property tax base.
  • Accountability ELSA eliminates current law’s program-by-program process-based evaluation and instead includes funding for the state education agency to monitor the use of the federal funds. Local school districts are required to establish five-year goal plans for each of the above categories. States will annually monitor progress towards the goals, and if local school districts are failing to meet their goals, the state must work with the local school district to set up a plan for corrective action. After three years, if the district or school is failing in any category and not taking appropriate corrective action, the state may take over the administration of the school district or individual school

Smith hopes to bring these new ideas into Congress’s debate over ESEA reauthorization. “I think it’s important that we move towards more flexibility, more local control, and less bureaucracy,” he said. “I will be working with my colleagues to ensure that we move in that direction.”