Thune Comments on 2014 Tax Extenders

Thune Comments on 2014 Tax Extenders
-Tax Provisions Important to South Dakota Included in Legislation

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, today commented on the passage of legislation to extend a host of expired tax measures, several of which are important to South Dakota:

“While I’m disappointed the president stymied the bipartisan good-faith negotiations to make a number of important tax provisions permanent, I’m pleased the Senate acted to ensure individuals and businesses can utilize these tax deductions and incentives on their 2014 taxes. From the deduction for state and local sales taxes, to the higher business deduction limits relied upon by small businesses, extending these expired tax provisions is important to South Dakota families and businesses.”

Earlier this month, Congress came very close to a bipartisan deal to make permanent a number of tax relief measures for individuals and businesses that have recently expired. The proposed deal was supported by Senate leadership of both parties as well as House Republicans, but fell apart when the president issued a veto threat in the midst of negotiations, effectively killing the chances this year for permanent tax relief.

Thune believes that South Dakotans deserve permanent tax relief and a predictable and stable tax system, and he intends to keep working toward this goal in the next Congress. He supported the one-year tax extender package as a stopgap measure in order to prevent a tax hike on millions of Americans. The following provisions, which expired at the end of 2013, were extended for one year through December 31, 2014:

  • State and Local Sales Tax Deduction: The tax deal extends the local and state sales tax deduction. South Dakota is one of only seven states without an income tax, and South Dakota taxpayers deserve the same treatment as taxpayers in states with an income tax, where the deduction for state income taxes is a permanent part of our tax code.
  • Small Business Expensing: The tax deal extends the Section 179 $500,000 small business expensing limit, which is critical for small business owners and family farmers as they plan future investments. If this provision had not been extended, the limit would have dropped to $25,000.
  • Charitable Giving: The tax deal extends three charitable tax incentives to encourage private acts of charity and compassion. The measure included provisions to: allow individuals 70 and a half years of age and older to donate up to $100,000 of their individual retirement accounts to charity without incurring a tax penalty; the enhanced deduction for food donations, which encourages businesses to donate food to food pantries and other organizations that serve the hungry; and the tax rules that make it easier for farmers and other landowners to donate land for conservation purposes, helping preserve America’s natural habitat.
  • ABLE Act: The tax deal included the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, of which Thune is a cosponsor. The provision will allow individuals with disabilities to create tax-preferred personal savings accounts while ensuring they maintain eligibility for important federal programs that assist with day-to-day needs. Creation of these accounts, which are similar to 529 college savings plans, will help individuals with disabilities attain financial independence and plan for the future.

###

Thune Announces Committee Assignments for 114th Congress

Thune Announces Committee Assignments for 114th Congress

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) today released the following statement after receiving his committee assignments for the 114th session of Congress (2015-2016). Thune was selected to continue serving on the following committees: Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Finance. Members of these committees will vote in early January to select committee chairs, and the full Republican conference will ratify those selections. Thune was previously named ranking member, or the senior most Republican, of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for the 113th Congress. Thune will continue to serve in Republican leadership as Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

“Continuing to serve South Dakota in the United States Senate is the highest privilege in public service afforded to me,” said Thune. “Over the past 10 years I have worked diligently to be a strong voice for South Dakota and to represent the values and interests of our state and its residents both through my committee assignments and on the Senate floor. As a member of the Agriculture, Commerce, and Finance Committees, I will be able to help the new Republican majority advance solutions for American families on a variety of issues that are important to South Dakota, from agriculture to rural telecom and transportation reforms to tax and trade policy.”

Thune Committee Assignments for 114th Congress:

Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

The Senate Agriculture Committee oversees matters relating to: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) activities including farm payments, crop insurance, conservation programs, and livestock marketing rules; the Rural Utilities Service and Rural Development, which carry out important programs relating to rural energy development, rural business financing, and rural health care services; nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program, the Women, Infants and Children program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps); and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees all futures markets.

Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has wide jurisdiction with matters relating to: the U.S. Department of Transportation with respect to highway safety, commercial motor carriers, railroads, buses, vessels, pipelines, inland waterways, and civil and commercial aviation; the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding weather and atmospheric activities at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, marine fisheries and navigation, science and technology research and development; telecommunications policy and the Internet; U.S. Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, National Aeronautics and Space Administration regarding nonmilitary aeronautical and space sciences; regulation of consumer products via the Consumer Product Safety Commission; the Federal Trade Commission; and sports.

Committee on Finance

The Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over matters relating to: taxation and other revenue measures; bonded debt of the United States; customs, collection districts and ports of entry and delivery; reciprocal trade agreements; tariff and import quotas; the transportation of dutiable goods; deposit of public moneys; general revenue sharing; health programs under the Social Security Act, including Medicare, Medicaid, and other health and human services programs financed by a specific tax or trust fund; and Social Security.

 

###

Senator Thune’s Weekly Column: Tax Uncertainty a Raw Deal for South Dakotans

Tax Uncertainty a Raw Deal for South Dakotans
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune_official_photoWith a new year upon us, small businesses and families will soon begin reviewing their finances in anticipation of filing their 2014 taxes. The federal tax code is a maze of complicated provisions made worse by the uncertainty businesses and individuals face as they wait for Congress to act each year on a host of tax measures. From the deduction for state and local sales taxes used by those who itemize, to the higher business deduction limits relied upon by small businesses, temporary tax relief does not provide the certainty individuals and businesses need to make long-term planning decisions. Instead, South Dakotans find themselves expending time and money complying with a tax code that would be better spent on new business investments or in their local community.

Earlier this month, Congress came very close to a bipartisan deal to make permanent a number of tax relief measures for individuals and businesses that have recently expired. This proposed deal was supported by Senate leadership of both parties as well as House Republicans, but unfortunately President Obama and a few of his liberal allies in Congress decided to scuttle the deal before it was finalized. Rather than work with Congress to make tax relief permanent for families and businesses, the president chose to issue a veto threat while good-faith negotiations were still under way, effectively killing the chances for a deal.

The administration’s actions are especially disappointing because the bipartisan deal included a provision to finally make permanent the deduction for state and local sales taxes that expired at the end of 2013. South Dakota is one of only seven states without an income tax, and South Dakota taxpayers deserve the same treatment as taxpayers in states with an income tax, where the deduction for state income taxes is a permanent part of our tax code. The proposed deal also would have made permanent the $500,000 small business expensing limit that expired at the end of 2013, which is critical for small business owners and family farmers as they plan future investments. Additionally, the deal would have made permanent measures that promote charitable giving, such as allowing individuals above the age of 70 and a half to give Individual Retirement Account savings to charities without incurring a tax hit.

The president’s ill-advised veto threat demonstrates how difficult it has been to work with this administration on common-sense tax relief measures to give individuals, including small business owners, the certainty they need to make investment decisions to help grow our economy. Unfortunately, rather than enacting permanent relief for individuals and small businesses, Congress did the bare minimum – a one-year extension of expired tax relief, once again kicking the can to the next year for Congress to take up yet again. South Dakota taxpayers deserve much better than this. They deserve permanent tax relief that they can rely upon and a tax code that treats them fairly.

I intend to do whatever I can next Congress to make comprehensive tax reform a reality. I hope that next time the president will choose to work with us.

###

Thune Comments on Senate Passage of FY 2015 Funding Bill

Thune Comments on Senate Passage of FY 2015 Funding Bill
-Key South Dakota provisions included in legislation-

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) today commented on the passage of the omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 and applauded the inclusion of a number of important South Dakota provisions:

“I’m pleased the annual funding bill included a number of provisions important to South Dakota,” said Thune. “Two of these provisions continue the development of key state facilities, the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System and the Sanford Underground Research Facility. Several other provisions rein in burdensome regulations proposed by the Obama administration that would harm farmers, ranchers, hunters, and anglers in South Dakota. While imperfect, this legislation advances several South Dakota priorities that I look forward to continuing to work on in the 114th Congress.”

  • EPA Regulation of Ammunition and Fishing Tackle: The FY 2015 funding bill includes an important provision championed by Thune preventing the Obama EPA from regulating lead in ammunition and fishing tackle for one year. Thune introduced the Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act in the Senate with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) in September of 2013. The standalone legislation would permanently exclude ammunition and fishing tackle from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act, leaving the oversight to the relevant state agencies, which currently regulate ammunition and fishing tackle.
  • Sage-Grouse Endangered Species Listing: The FY 2015 funding bill prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from listing the sage-grouse on the endangered species list for at least the remainder of FY 2015. In 2011, the FWS reached a secret sue-and-settle agreement to require listing determinations on more than 250 species across the United States, including the sage-grouse. The sage-grouse listing would impact ranching, energy development, and other land uses in parts of western South Dakota, so securing this provision was an important win for West River ranchers in our state.
  • EPA Regulation of Methane Emissions: The FY 2015 funding bill delays the EPA regulation of livestock methane emissions under the Clean Air Act, which could require farmers and ranchers to purchase expensive greenhouse gas permits. Thune has championed provisions in previous funding bills prohibiting the EPA from creating a livestock emissions permitting system for one year at a time. While this is an important short-term success, a permanent ban is necessary to protect South Dakota producers.
  • Lewis and Clark Regional Water System: The FY 2015 funding bill includes $2.4 million specifically for Lewis and Clark and an additional $31 million for ongoing rural water projects which will be allocated by the Bureau of Reclamation. The Lewis and Clark Regional Water System will provide safe, reliable drinking water to over 300,000 individuals in South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota once completed.
  • Sanford Underground Research Lab: The FY 2015 funding bill includes $15 million to continue research in the underground lab and $23 million to support superconducting radio frequency accelerator research, development, facilities, and infrastructure.

###

Thune Pays Tribute to Tim Johnson on Senate Floor

Thune Pays Tribute to Tim Johnson on Senate Floor

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) took to the Senate floor today paying tribute to retiring Senator Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota). Below are video and transcript of his remarks on the Senate floor.

“Mr. President, I rise today to bid farewell to my colleague and friend, Senator Tim Johnson.

“Tim has deep roots in South Dakota and in the towns of Canton and Vermillion in particular.

“He has served our state for more than 35 years, first in the state legislature, and then, after winning a highly competitive primary against two well-known Democrat opponents, in the halls of Congress.

“In 1996, after a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives, Tim won the first of his three terms in the U.S. Senate.  I am well acquainted with his second election because I came out on the short end of that stick.

“But I’ve had the privilege of serving with him in the South Dakota delegation for over 16 years, and today I want to pay tribute to his many years of public service and all he has done for our home state.

“I’d also like to take a moment to thank his staff for their dedicated work.

“They have worked closely with my staff for many years, and I’m grateful for their efforts.

“Mr. President, like many South Dakotans, I will always remember Tim as a fighter.

“South Dakotans are tough, rugged folks, and Tim has exemplified that spirit every day in the U.S. Senate.

“A big part of his legacy as a public servant will be his tenacity, his work ethic, and his unwavering focus on the policies that he believed to be in the best interest of South Dakota.

“Tim and I haven’t seen eye-to-eye on every issue, but we’ve always been able to come together and work for South Dakotans in times of crisis.

“From drought relief, to flood and tornado responses, to protecting the Black Hills from wildfires, Senator Johnson and I have always been able to quickly respond to the needs of our state, regardless of party differences or past disagreements.

“Mr. President, when you represent a state like South Dakota, what some people call a “flyover” state – a state some of our colleagues here in the Senate occasionally mix up with North Dakota – there are days when it can seem like the concerns of rural Americans aren’t given fair consideration, that the needs of rural America are not being heard by the administration or the more densely populated coastal states.

“I have had the great pleasure of working with Tim to bring a voice to the concerns of rural America and those of us who hail from the middle of the country.

“To highlight just one of the many examples I could bring up, since his first term in Congress Tim has fought for water infrastructure to deliver clean drinking water to families in South Dakota and throughout the Great Plains.

“Water is a vital resource in the rural expanses of South Dakota, and Tim’s efforts have helped meet this basic need in underserved Indian reservations, small towns, and rural areas across the state.

“These investments will pay dividends well beyond his tenure in the Senate.

“Throughout Tim’s long career in public service, from his beginnings in the South Dakota Legislature to his ascension to the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee, he has had a hand in numerous efforts that will help South Dakotans and Americans alike for generations to come.

“And I know I speak for all South Dakotans when I say thank you for your dedication and service to our great state.

“Tim, it’s been an honor to serve with you here in the Senate.

“Thank you for your example, your efforts on behalf of our beloved South Dakota, and most of all, for your friendship.

“On behalf of my wife Kimberly and myself, I wish you, Barbara, and your family the very best as you begin a new chapter.”

###

Thune Provision on Ammo and Fishing Tackle in Funding Bill

Thune Provision on Ammo and Fishing Tackle in Funding Bill

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, announced today that the omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2015 includes an important provision championed by Thune preventing the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating lead in ammunition and fishing tackle for one year.

“This is a big win for sportsmen and women in our state,” said Thune. “If the EPA bans lead in ammunition and fishing tackle, it would dramatically increase the cost, making hunting and fishing unaffordable for many enthusiasts. This one-year ban provides some reprieve to sportsmen and women around the country while giving the Senate time to take up my bill to permanently ban the EPA from regulating ammo and tackle. It is important we ensure that future generations of South Dakotans are not unnecessarily restricted from hunting, fishing, and enjoying the great outdoors.”

Thune introduced the Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act in the Senate with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) in September of 2013. This legislation would permanently exclude ammunition and fishing tackle from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act, leaving the oversight to the relevant state agencies, which currently regulate ammunition and fishing tackle.

###

Senator Thune’s Weekly Column: Common Sense Wetlands Policies Needed in Washington

Common Sense Wetlands Policies Needed in Washington
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune_official_photoSouth Dakota’s diverse landscape includes everything from native grasslands and fertile croplands, to forestlands and wetlands. Wetlands are especially prevalent east of the Missouri River in an area known as the Prairie Pothole Region.

Farmers and ranchers in the Prairie Pothole Region are familiar with the unique challenges wetlands pose to their operations. In wetter years, seasonal wetlands can prevent crops from being planted or flood crops already planted. These complications are often exacerbated by federal regulations, which restrict how wetlands are managed by farming operations. Not only are farmers forced to deal with crop losses, but they are also forced to tread around federal rules governing the wetlands.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule redefining “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act to include nearly every stream, wetland, and ditch that has typically been regulated at the state level. This proposed expansion would have significant consequences on property owners, likely subject to new federal permit requirements, compliance costs, and threats of significant fines.

Additionally, hundreds of farmers throughout the state continue working diligently to comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “swampbuster” requirements while waiting, sometimes longer than a year, for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to complete requests for wetlands determinations needed to retain eligibility for farm program assistance.

On December 4th, I raised both of these issues with the Chief of the NRCS, Jason Weller, at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. I made clear that he and other leaders at USDA have an obligation to promote the welfare and wellbeing of agriculture producers, including defending producers from EPA’s overreaching “waters of the U.S.” rule.

I also called on Chief Weller to address the backlog of undetermined wetlands experienced by so many South Dakota producers. Chief Weller stated that since the July NRCS meeting in Aberdeen, attended by more than 300 South Dakota producers, the backlog of undetermined wetlands in South Dakota decreased by 10 percent, and is currently under 2,600 requests. He also announced South Dakota will receive additional staff to reduce the state’s current wetlands determinations backlog. Chief Weller’s goal is to completely clear the backlog in three years.

While I welcome Chief Weller’s update on the progress made over the past few months, the current status of the wetlands determination backlog is still unacceptable, and more must be done to meet the needs of South Dakota producers. I will continue pushing the NRCS to eliminate the backlog of determinations, and I will continue fighting to keep EPA’s “waters of the U.S. rule” from encroaching on farmers, ranchers, and businesses.

###

Thune on Schumer’s regret over Obamacare

From Fox News, it sounds like Democrats are having buyers remorse over Obamacare. Which triggered them being ousted from office:

“Unfortunately, Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer told an audience gathered at the National Press Club last week. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform.”

And…

thune_oct2010Republican leaders were only too happy to pounce on Schumer’s remarks.

“It was fairly remarkable to have the number-three Democrat in the Senate say last week that Obamacare was a mistake,” Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told reporters Tuesday. “That is a really, really remarkable statement if you think about it.”

Read it all here.

Thune Urges USDA Chief to Defend Farmers from EPA Rule and Provide Answers on Undetermined Wetlands

Thune Urges USDA Chief to Defend Farmers from EPA Rule and Provide Answers on Undetermined Wetlands 

-Pressures Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief to Clear up Undetermined Wetlands Backlog-

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON D.C.—At a hearing today before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) questioned the Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Jason Weller about the progress clearing the backlog of undetermined wetlands in South Dakota. Thune also reminded the NRCS Chief of USDA’s responsibility to protect farmers from the potentially harmful Environmental Protection Agency proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule.

“Eastern South Dakota is ground zero in the Prairie Pothole Region, and farmers in this area of the state, especially northeastern South Dakota, have been challenged by flooding off and on over the past several years,” said Thune at today’s hearing. “Many of these farmers, in order to better manage their land and to ensure they meet conservation compliance provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill, have requested wetlands determinations from NRCS.” Thune also told the NRCS Chief that the wetlands backlog is a lingering problem that has created great consternation among producers in that area.

Video of Thune’s questions for Chief Weller is available here.

As of September 1st, South Dakota’s certified wetlands determination backlog stood at 2,824 requests. In July, the state and federal NRCS held a meeting in Aberdeen with more than 300 South Dakota producers to discuss this ongoing problem.

Chief Weller shared with Thune that since the July meeting, the backlog of undetermined wetlands in South Dakota decreased by 10 percent, and is currently under 2,600 requests. He also announced South Dakota will receive additional funds, almost $1.5 million, to add staff to reduce the current backlog and that 18 full-time and four part-time staff will be dedicated to wetlands determinations in South Dakota. It is Chief Weller’s goal that the backlog be completely cleared in three years. Producers awaiting determinations should receive a letter updating them on their status in January.

“While I welcome Chief Weller’s update on the progress that has been made over the past few months, the current status of the wetlands determination backlog is unacceptable, and more must be done to meet the needs of South Dakota producers,” said Thune.

###

Press Release: Thune Announces Staff Changes in D.C. Office

Thune Announces Staff Changes in D.C. Office

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) today announced that Brendon Plack has been promoted to deputy chief of staff and Jane Lucas has been promoted to legislative director in his Washington, D.C., office.

“I’m pleased to have Brendon and Jane in these new roles,” said Thune. “With strong South Dakota roots and key legislative experience in the Senate, Brendon and Jane are well equipped to hit the ground running.”

Plack will replace Summer Mersinger, an Onida, South Dakota, native, who is departing Thune’s office at the end of the year after 15 years of working for Thune. Previously, Plack served as Thune’s legislative director after serving as policy director at the Senate Republican Conference and energy policy analyst at the Republican Policy Committee. Plack is a graduate of Augustana College and a native of Madison, South Dakota.

Lucas replaces Plack as Thune’s legislative director. Previously, Lucas served as health policy counsel and legislative assistant in Thune’s personal office. Lucas is a graduate of South Dakota State University and Georgetown University Law School and is a native of Brookings, South Dakota.

###