Dec 23 2004

How Social Security Reform can Become a Reality

Op-ed by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota)

With a renewed debate over the future of Social Security underway, Republicans and Democrats alike need to begin by setting aside our differences and focusing on the common ground between us. As two policymakers — one from each party — who have been committed to the well-being of Social Security throughout our careers, we have agreed that the following principles should guide our deliberations going forward: Where to start First, Social Security must be preserved. Since its inception in 1935, the program has provided a basic safety net for Americans. Millions of workers pay into the Social Security system with the expectation of receiving a benefit at retirement, as well as insurance for their family in the event of their death or disability. According to the Social Security Administration, two-thirds of today's retirees rely on Social Security for more than half of their income. And nearly 50% of beneficiaries would be in poverty without Social Security. Second, it is also clear that Social Security must be strengthened. The demographic tidal wave of the baby-boom generation will mean we will soon have too many beneficiaries and too few workers to keep the system in balance. By 2018, for the first time, the program will begin to take in less in payroll taxes than it pays in benefits. And by 2042, it is estimated that Social Security will be able to provide only 73% of promised benefits. Doing nothing is not an option. Third, strengthening Social Security will require tough choices and, if done in a responsible manner, can greatly improve our nation's fiscal outlook. Acting sooner will give us more time to adjust and allow for more gradual solutions to be adopted. But there are no easy answers. To address Social Security's funding challenges, all options should be on the table for discussion. Under some reform plans, transition costs could reach several trillion dollars during the next 10 years. Borrowing all of those funds would pass on an unfair burden to future generations and could undermine the fiscal strength of the nation. Fourth, the costs of changing Social Security must be open and transparent. The American people need to be provided with an honest accounting of the costs of maintaining the current system and the costs of reform. If private accounts (either on top of or carved out of the existing program) are created, real dollars will be required now that will have a very real impact on a federal budget that is already deeply in deficit. Proposals to conceal the costs of reform by placing them "off budget" — ignoring or minimizing the real and upfront fiscal impact — should be rejected. If the corporate scandals have taught us anything, it is that hiding debt is a recipe for disaster. The public must be aware of the difficult trade-offs among benefit cuts, tax increases and additional borrowing that will be required regardless of how we strengthen the system. And they must be aware of the impact of these reforms on the federal budget, the economy and individual beneficiaries and taxpayers — in the short term and over the long term. A bipartisan approach In 1983, President Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill worked together across party lines to protect Social Security — setting an example for future generations. We need to do the same thing now. A solution must be bipartisan; presidential leadership will be needed; rigid ideology must give way to workable solutions; and reasonable sacrifice will be required. Both parties have been far too hesitant to ask the American people to make sacrifices for the common good. It is our belief that the American people, if asked in a responsible manner, will embrace the hard choices necessary to save Social Security for younger workers and future generations. It is time to address this problem. Social Security must be preserved and strengthened. But we need to be candid about the costs and willing to make the tough choices that real reform will require. If Republicans and Democrats can agree on this, we can save a vital program for generations to come. Sen. Kent Conrad is a Democrat from North Dakota. Sen. Lindsey Graham is a Republican from South Carolina

Dec 22 2004

Graham to Serve on Budget Committee in 109th Congress

Continues Service on Armed Services, Judiciary, and Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has secured a seat on the prestigious Senate Budget Committee in the 109th Congress set to begin in January. The Budget Committee is responsible for drafting Congress' annual budget plan and monitoring action on the budget for the federal government. In addition, the Budget Committee has jurisdiction over the operation of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The budget resolution prepared by the committee each year sets out a broad blueprint for total revenues and spending for the federal government. Other authorizing and appropriations committees prepare legislation that enacts specific tax and spending policies. In the 108th Congress, U.S. Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-South Carolina) served on the committee. He was the only U.S. Senator to serve on the Senate Budget Committee since its establishment in 1974. In addition to Budget, Graham will continue to serve on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Veterans Affairs Committees. He will relinquish his slot on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee (HELP). “The Budget Committee is on the ground floor in the fight to save Social Security for future generations,” said Graham. “It also plays a very important role in shaping the tax and spending policies of the federal government. Given the agenda items I want to see addressed in the Senate in the coming years, it’s a very good place to be.” #####

Dec 22 2004

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced over $2.1 million in grants to Marlboro County, a local water company in Wallace and local Council of Governments (COGs) across the state. Marlboro County will receive $1.184 million to help rebuild 4.2 miles of rail corridor. Funding will be used for building and replacing rail crossings as well as replacing rails. The Wallace Water Company in Wallace will receive $459,000 to help expand a water line for business use. The improved infrastructure will allow for future economic growth and development in the area. Council of Government (COG) organizations across the state will each receive $52,000 grants to assist in their industrial plans. The COGs receiving grants include:
  • Lower Savannah Council of Governments in Aiken
  • Central Midlands Council of Governments in Columbia
  • Waccamaw Regional Planning and Development Commission in Georgetown
  • South Carolina Appalachian Council of Governments in Greenville
  • Upper Savannah Council of Governments in Greenwood
  • Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments in North Charleston
  • Catawba Regional Planning Council in Rock Hill
  • Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments in Sumter
  • Lowcountry Council of Governments in Yemassee
The Pee Dee Regional Council of Governments in Florence will receive $59,500. The grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. #####

Dec 17 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made the following statement on the announcement of workforce reductions at Savannah River Site (SRS): “As I’ve indicated in the past, the force levels at SRS will inevitably be reduced as we move toward completion of the cleanup mission. “The layoffs are a result of the workload being reduced as we transition from cleanup to preparing for new missions – not a lack of federal funding for SRS. The Fiscal Year 2005 budget for SRS allows all existing projects to move forward -- some ahead of schedule -- in the area of cleanup. It also keeps the future development of new missions on track. “There will be more layoffs as we clean up the Site and the future missions will not be sufficient to maintain the current level of employment. Now more than ever, it is important we diversify the economy of the region. I’m hopeful we can create a new private sector-based economy focusing on hydrogen and other research projects leading to a robust and stable economy for the area for decades to come. “New missions such as MOX, combined with SRS’s new status as a national laboratory, will create some future employment opportunities -- many of them in the private sector. “However, all the new potential missions and the on-going cleanup efforts, will not be sufficient to maintain the current level of employment. It is a hard reality we face post Cold-War and a fact I have stated on numerous occasions. Post-Cold War, SRS’s employment levels will never be what they were and will continue to decline even as new missions come on board. “This dynamic is a hard reality. It’s something we need to continue preparing for and why the national lab is so important to the future of the area. ####

Dec 15 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced more than $445,000 in grants to fire departments in Moncks Corner, Orangeburg, and Plum Branch. “Firefighters risk their lives to protect others, and they deserve the best equipment and training available,” said Graham. “Firefighters are some of the heroes in our midst.” The Firefighting Vehicle Acquisition Grants help fire departments purchase firefighting vehicles including pumpers, brush trucks, tankers, rescue vehicles, ambulances, quints, aerials, foam units, and fireboats. The grants awarded include: Moncks Corner Pimlico Rural Volunteer Fire Department will receive $88,830. Orangeburg Pine Hill Fire and Rescue Department will receive $196,515. Plum Branch Plum Branch Volunteer Fire Department will receive $162,000. The Assistance to Firefighters grant program awards one-year grants directly to local fire departments, enhancing their ability to respond to fire and fire-related hazards in the community. The program supports departments by providing them the tools and resources necessary to protect the health and safety of the public and their firefighting personnel. Grantees share in the cost of the funded project at a percentage based on the population of their respective jurisdiction. Grantees that serve jurisdictions of 50,000 or fewer residents are required to provide a non-Federal cost-share of 10 percent while grantees that serve jurisdictions of over 50,000 provide a 30 percent cost-share. The match must be in cash without the use of in-kind contributions. In addition, the maximum amount of federal funds that an applicant can be awarded is $750,000 during any fiscal year. The grants are made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ####

Dec 13 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced youth programs in Allendale County, Lancaster County, and North Charleston will receive nearly $1.2 million in federal grants to help young adults complete high school and receive on-the-job training in construction. The Youthbuild program assists students age 16 to 24. Students in the program complete their high school education and build or renovate single-family homes and multi-family apartments. The units are then sold to low-income individuals and families. Allendale County Allendale County ALIVE, Inc. will receive $400,000. Lancaster County Lancaster County School District will receive $396,399. North Charleston GATE (Garrett Academic Apprenticeship, Training) will receive $400,000. The grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. ####

Dec 09 2004

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made the following statement on Social Security reform. “President Bush is absolutely right when he says you cannot save Social Security by raising payroll taxes. “To maintain solvency by simply raising taxes, the Social Security Administration says payroll tax rates would have to increase nearly 50 percent or we’ll need $3.5 trillion new dollars – in the bank earning interest – today. It would be catastrophic to our economy to try to save Social Security by raising taxes alone. “The solution to the problem facing the system are the reforms being pushed by the President. They include optional personal investment accounts for younger workers along with other structural changes. “The President is right, current retirees or those nearing retirement age, will not be affected by any future reforms. Their benefits will be protected. “The President’s call for bipartisanship is essential as it is the only way we will save Social Security. “Those of us committed to reforming Social Security must honestly deal with the transition costs that come about when personal accounts are established. Under my plan, which has been evaluated by the Social Security Administration, we are able to achieve permanent solvency, but the transition costs are over $1 trillion. “To garner bipartisan support, I am proposing we look at a mix of options to pay for the transition costs. The goal is to use combined measures to finance the transition costs that would avoid a further dramatic increase in the deficit which inevitably comes about by borrowing the full transition costs. “I am firmly convinced many Republicans and Democrats will embrace reasonable reform if the reforms do not rely on budget gimmicks or explode the deficit. “Four things are necessary to save Social Security – presidential leadership, bipartisan support, the rejection of rigid ideology preventing workable solutions, and shared sacrifice by the American people. President Bush is the right person at the right time to help save Social Security. “Social Security is a national treasure. To allow this historic moment to pass without a permanent solution saving the system for future generations would be a national shame. #####

Dec 08 2004

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made the following statement after the Senate passed the Intelligence Reform Bill by a vote of 89-2. “The intelligence reform bill passed today is a responsible step in the right direction and will help correct some of the deficiencies in our intelligence programs. “I am pleased Congress and the White House have worked together to produce a bill that will provide substantive improvements to our nation’s intelligence community. The bill incorporates the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and has protections to ensure our men and women in uniform have the best intelligence available to fight the War on Terror. “The legislation introduces a new level of accountability and central authority into our intelligence community. It will also promote the dissemination of information among federal agencies that was lacking before 9/11. It is not a cure for all the problems facing the country, but it is a good start off of which we can build. “The concerns raised with regard to immigration reform are legitimate. We need to address those issues early in the next Congress.” ####

Dec 02 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced CareSouth Carolina, Inc. in Hartsville will receive a $325,000 grant to assist in providing primary healthcare services to the surrounding area. Graham is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Community Health Center grants are designed to promote the development and operation of community-based primary health care service systems in medically underserved areas. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ####

Dec 01 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced more than $700,000 in grants to fire departments in Greenville, McClellanville, Moncks Corner, Reidville, Ridge Spring, St. Matthews, Spartanburg, and Yemassee. “Firefighters risk their lives to protect others, and they deserve the best equipment and training available,” said Graham. “Firefighters are some of the heroes in our midst.” The Assistance to Firefighters Grants will help the fire departments improve their training, wellness and fitness programs; purchase new firefighting equipment and personal protective equipment; and, make modifications to fire stations and facilities. Greenville Gantt Fire Department will receive $43,200. Piedmont Park Fire Department will receive $208,809. McClellanville South Santee Germantown Volunteer Fire Department will receive $24,964. Moncks Corner Moncks Corner Rural Fire Department will receive $99,000. Reidville Reidville Area Fire District will receive $69,300. Ridge Spring Ridge Spring Volunteer Fire Department will receive $56,187. St. Matthews St. Matthews Fire Department will receive $61,920. Spartanburg North Spartanburg Fire District will receive $119,344. Yemassee Yemassee Fire and Rescue will receive $23,220. The Assistance to Firefighters grant program awards one-year grants directly to local fire departments, enhancing their ability to respond to fire and fire-related hazards in the community. The program supports departments by providing them the tools and resources necessary to protect the health and safety of the public and their firefighting personnel. Grantees share in the cost of the funded project at a percentage based on the population of their respective jurisdiction. Grantees that serve jurisdictions of 50,000 or fewer residents are required to provide a non-Federal cost-share of 10 percent while grantees that serve jurisdictions of over 50,000 provide a 30 percent cost-share. The match must be in cash without the use of in-kind contributions. In addition, the maximum amount of federal funds that an applicant can be awarded is $750,000 during any fiscal year. The grants are made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ####