Thompson hits tax reform highlights
By WENDY STIVER
LOCK HAVEN — U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson stopped at The Express community newspaper Thursday, between a morning spent talking with local dairy farmers and attending a lunch meeting of the Lock Haven Kiwanis Club.
A resident of Howard, and vice chair of the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, Thompson has accepted Gov. Tom Wolf’s invitation to join him in the Pennsylvania State Farm Show’s opening ceremony Saturday.
The Republican Congressman is also hosting a listening session that day at 1:30 p.m.
“We appreciate The Express because you pay attention to the local people, the local communities,” he said.
Thompson said he is passionate about career and technology education, farming, higher education, and other issues that are important to the residents in his congressional district.
He also highlighted recent events from Capitol Hill that appear to foster a new climate of growth.
He outlined what the recently passed tax overhaul means to Express readers. One thing people can expect is more disposable income in their pockets, he said, and starting in February, working people should see more money in their paychecks.
In addition, the short form for filing tax returns will be simplified, which will help the 81.6 percent of tax filers in his Fifth Congressional District who use the simple form. “It really will be an over-sized postcard,” Thompson said.
The child tax credit has been doubled, to $2,000, he said, and households that support an older child or parent now can take a tax credit for that as well.
The credit for adopting a child or youth has been improved, as has the deduction for medical expenses and the one for charitable giving, Thompson said.
He took the lead on protecting graduate students’ tuition waivers, he said, and the final tax reform package allowed the waivers to remain untaxed.
The corporate tax rate has been lowered from 35 percent to 21 percent, and the Congressman said specific businesses have already pledged to raise wages because of this tax break.
Thompson said he is very interested in how this lower rate will impact small businesses.
The tax package also eliminates the penalty for individuals who do not have a health care plan. The Congressman said he has seen more people uninsured today than in 2010, and they are forced to pay a penalty for not seeking coverage. That penalty will cease to exist in 2019.
Washington also has recently “changed the rules for multi-national companies that have been parked offshore” to encourage them to bring their business back to this country, he said.
Nestle, which is known as the world’s largest food and beverage company, is considering a $50 million investment in our region and is looking at Centre County, Thompson said. Another news source reports that Nestle is checking out the quality of the Spring Township watershed for a potential Deer Park water plant.
Another area of growth will be domestic oil production, the Congressman said, with 2,000 acres in the Arctic opened for that purpose now. That amount of acreage out of 9 million acres is “a postage stamp,” the Congressman said, yet it is expected to be relatively rich in oil.
Environmentalists and others concerned about protecting natural resources stood against drilling in this region of the world for decades, Thompson said.
He said he believes in protecting the environment himself. He has spent time on local watersheds with Trout Unlimited. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and is a senior member and former chair of the subcommittee devoted to watersheds.
Through his legislation, $1 billion is to be released to help reclaim watersheds tainted by coal mining, and Pennsylvania stands to receive $300 million of it, he said. This is on top of funding for abandoned mine sites. The Fifth District has more such sites than any other congressional district in the nation, he said.
Coal mining is in his own family’s background, he said, just as it is for many area residents, and in its day, the coal industry helped win both world wars. “We shouldn’t be embarrassed or apologize for the coal mining era,” he said, “but it did leave scars.”
He also characterized regulatory rollback as a “huge legislative victory.”
“I look at what is efficient, what is effective” in terms of environmental regulations, he said. “There is a massive amount of regulations.”
The time businesses and industries must spend each day responding to those regulations can be burdensome, he said. That problem should be solved but without removing environmental protections, he said.
He is somewhat enthusiastic about benefits that businesses and industries will see from Washington under the administration of Pres. Donald Trump.
“My first eight years in office, I was never invited or welcomed into the West Wing to work with the administration, although I did work with them as a leader in agriculture,” the Congressman said. “In my ninth year (2017) I was invited many times, and it was not partisan… The president just wants to get things done. He likes working with people. He likes to bring people to the table.”
Thompson recalled one meeting when he and 11 other members of Congress, from both major parties, sat around the cabinet table with the president and his chief of staff. Thompson said, “It was fascinating to watch the president work the table and ask each person, ‘What do you think?'”
Tax reform, health care, immigration were all topics, he said. The meeting gave Thompson a chance to be positive, he said. He talked about the future when both tax reform and funding for infrastructure would create new jobs, and reminded the president, and his colleagues, that the nation needs people with the appropriate skills to fill these future jobs.
“Six million jobs will be open by 2020 that people won’t be qualified to fill unless we change how we do career and technical education,” he said.
Keystone Central School District, and many others, are looking for places to cut expenses, and unfortunately, cutting back career and technical education (CTE) seems to be a short-term solution. But as a representative from a district with a large number of economically disadvantaged students, Thompson said, he asks why not grow CTE instead.
“Education is transforming the lives of our kids,” he said.
A former school board member, he represents people who live in 60 to 70 different school districts, from Austin Area School District which has fewer than 200 students, to urban districts. One rural district has so many low-income families that students are served dinner before they board the buses at the end of the school day, he said.
“To cut CTE is a long-term losing strategy,” Thompson stated.
“Really diverse manufacturing is here and finally made it back to Clinton County,” he said, but the right workers are needed for the jobs.
“There are many paths to success,” he said. “There is not a youth who would not benefit from some CTE” including those who go on to become engineers, doctors — even farmers, who must use science and technology to succeed.
“We need to do everything we can to grow these opportunities,” Thompson said, citing his legislation the House has passed to strengthen and improve CTE.
“My legislation brings businesses and industries to the table with education,” he said.
He insisted, he said, on including in the bill an increase in the investment over the five years it covers.
He is pleased that the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology, in Pleasant Gap, has received a $4 million state grant toward a new health sciences building. CPI is a good example of how education and commercial concerns can work together, he said. When the institute built a transportation center, Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. contributed money and equipment toward it, with an eye to having trained graduates available for hire in the future.
Something similar may happen with the health sciences building, Thompson added.
The Congressman also brought the news that his VETS Act passed the Senate that morning, with no one speaking against it. The act expands telemedicine across state borders to serve veterans, particularly those who live in rural areas. It mirrors Thompson’s act he sponsored for active military members.
Now, he said, it would be nice it to expand telemedicine “for the rest of us.”
Thompson was ranked as the No. 1 speaker on the House floor in 2017, speaking 122 days. This record indicates that he is present in Congress and is working on legislation.
He tries to speak only on relevant issues, he said, but those issues can range widely. Last year they included both the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the lengthy record of Clyde Glossner who stepped down at the end of 2017 after 47 years in the elected position of Woodward Township supervisor.