Overtaxed, over burdened and overwhelmed Americans won the “triple crown” in 1997. That’s because the first session of the 105th Congress brought passage of the first balanced budget in a generation, the first tax relief in 16 years, and the beginning of the end of the IRS as we know it.
Taxpayers weren’t the only winners-their children were winners, too. This year we made the first true headway toward genuine education reform-without opening up the floodgates of Big Government and letting Washington into the classroom. We’ve shaken up the status quo that is hurting our children and advanced reforms that cut Washington’s bureaucratic strings in favor of emphasizing the role of parents, teachers and communities in improving education in America.
One of my proudest educational accomplishments is enactment of the 21st Century Classrooms Act. This law provides an expanded tax incentive for private enterprise to donate new and relatively new computers and technology to our K-12 classrooms. I hope it will help turn around California’s dismal rank as 45th in the nation in the ratio of computers-to-students. Computers are critical to our children’s future. And with today’s technology, a child can go anywhere in the world. He or she can compose music, write and illustrate a story, research a history project and get help solving a mathematical problem – all while learning valuable technical skills needed for success in the 21st century workplace.
We also passed my International Dolphin Conservation Act to protect dolphins and our ocean’s ecosystem while revitalizing San Diego’s tuna fishing industry. Major environmental groups like Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and the National Wildlife Federation joined with industry groups to support the measure.
To help grow our economy and enhance our quality of life, we must invest in our transportation infrastructure. That’s why I helped secure $6 million for key local transportation projects, including the Escondido-Oceanside light rail project, the San Diego trolley and improvements at the San Ysidro border crossing. And because Southern California’s water is too valuable and too scarce a resource to be used just once, I helped secure $13 million for San Diego’s water reclamation program, including funding to upgrade the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Plant in Escondido.
American seniors won big this year as well. Medicare has been saved from bankruptcy for their generation. They can also look forward to more choices and benefits – and less waste, fraud and abuse – in the Medicare system they depend so heavily upon for their health-care needs.
I also joined with my Republican colleagues to reverse President Clinton’s drastic defense cuts that have jeopardized our military strength. We must remember that the first priority of the Defense Department is to prevent wars. We can secure peace through strength. However, if war becomes necessary, we must ensure our servicemen and women are the best-trained, best-equipped in the world, to win on the field of battle. As a member of the House panel that decides defense spending, I will continue to fight for a military budget that makes sense.
It’s been a productive year, to be sure. But don’t expect a let-down in 1998 and beyond. My colleagues and I believe today’s tax code is too complex and too unfair, and we need a fair, honest code that leaves more money in the pockets of working Americans. And our education reforms are just beginning to take shape.
When Congress returns in January for the second session of the 105th Congress, we’ll build upon the progress we’ve made this year and continue to make a positive difference for overtaxed American families and their children by working for the smaller, less costly, more responsible government they want.
Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Escondido, is the 51st District Congressman.