The Leahy Letter -- December 2011
In December, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Senator Leahy, hosted Vermonter Bill Stenger. Mr. Stenger is president and co-owner of Jay Peak Resort, and testified about how the important EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program has revitalized the Northeast Kingdom, turning Jay Peak into a top-notch four-season resort, and prompting economic development around the ski resort in Sugarbush.
Senator Leahy has led efforts in Congress to make the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center program permanent. Vermont is home to one of more than 135 Regional Centers across the country, which facilitate foreign capital investments in local economies and create jobs.
The Regional Center program attracts foreign investors seeking legal permanent residency and a chance to invest in the American economy. Investors must pledge a minimum of $500,000 to a project within an approved regional center and independently apply for an EB-5 visa. If approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), foreign investors are granted a conditional two-year green card. After two years, the investor must provide proof that they have created at least ten jobs as a result of the investment and have met additional investment requirements set by USCIS. As a result of the program’s popularity, additional applications are pending with USCIS to establish new Regional Centers in several states.
Since its inception in 1993, the EB-5 program has been highly successful but has lacked the security of permanence; extending the program for a few years at a time has hampered its growth and stymied investors seeking to bring their capital to the United States. Senator Leahy has introduced legislation to make the program a permanent fixture in American immigration law.
Mr. Stenger testified that, “Since 2005, Jay Peak has developed several EB-5 projects at the resort creating over 2,000 jobs in our region and over the next two years will create that number of jobs again.”
Senator Leahy said, “In 2011 alone, the EB-5 program is on track to create an estimated 25,000 jobs, and provide direct investments in American communities of $1.25 billion. Bill Stenger’s work at Jay Peak, financed in part through the EB-5 Regional Center program, has revitalized a very rural part of Vermont, and turned a beloved and iconic Vermont ski resort into a world class, four-season resort. Projects like this are occurring all over America, and there is every reason to support these job creators as well as the immigrants who wish to invest in and contribute to America. ”
Please click here to watch Senator Leahy in action and Bill Stenger's testimony.
On Saturday, December 17, the Senate voted to fast-track approval of the KeystoneXL tar sands oil pipeline as a rider on an extension of the payroll tax cut. Senator Leahy strongly supports the payroll tax curt extension but has long been a leading opponent of the Keystone proposal and voted against the legislation that links Americans’ tax rates hostage to the tar sands project.
The Canadian oil and gas company TransCanada has been seeking approval to build the 2000-mile KeystoneXL oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas. The pipeline would run from the Alberta tar sands, one of the dirtiest sources of fuel in the world, through the central United States, to the shores of Texas and would lock the United States into nearly another million barrels per day of this inefficient and risky resource.
In a statement on Saturday, Senator Leahy said, “People can disagree about building the Keystone pipeline. But there is more to this than the short term jobs it would create. Jamming it through Congress on this bill in the waning hours of the session has a lot more to do with politics than jobs.
“Tar sands are a particularly dirty source of petroleum, from extraction to refinement. From the beginning, I had misgivings about the State Department’s ability to conduct a thorough, credible assessment of a project of this complexity that they were approaching with an attitude of inevitability.”
His concerns about the project have grown over the course of the past year. In October of 2010, he sent a letter to Secretary Clinton regarding the pipeline and has continued to encourage the State Department to proceed with caution in assessing this proposal.
In a reversal of signals sent earlier on the Senate bill, House leaders for now have blocked a House vote on the compromise.
To learn more about the KeystoneXL pipeline project and to read Senator Leahy’s correspondence with the State Department, please click here.
Vermonters are resilient and resourceful, but little can substitute for a reliable heat source in the chill of winter in Vermont. As winter settles over the Green Mountain State, another round of budget cuts in Congress means that Vermont will receive $19.5 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding for Fiscal Year 2012, $7.5 million less than last year.
On December 16 the House of Representatives voted on the Fiscal Year 2012 omnibus appropriations bill, which included the LIHEAP budget. The funding level is significantly lower than the $26.5 million provided to Vermont during the last fiscal year but higher than the $11 million originally proposed by the administration earlier this year. Today, the congressional delegation announced the release of $3.6 million for Vermont. The latest release of federal funds still would leave Vermotn with a 25 percent cut from last winter.
Senator Leahy, in a joint statement with Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch, said, “As Vermont's winter settles in, another installment of home heating aid helps. This allocation will keep many seniors and families with small children from going cold this winter. But at a time when heating oil costs are rising and we're in the midst of a major recession, we must do more. We must at least restore funding at last year's level for this critically important program.”
The congressional delegation is co-sponsoring the LIHEAP Protection Act to provide level-funding for LIHEAP at $4.7 billion on a national level. Senator Leahy and Senator Sanders have called on Senate leadership to consider the measure as soon as Congress reconvenes in January.
David Carle: 202-224-3693
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