President Obama recently delivered his “State of the Union” address where he spoke about our nation’s progress and his vision for the coming year. As we as a country turn the page on 2014 and look to the future, I’d like to reflect on some of my work from this past year and highlight my priorities for the year ahead.
I am deeply honored to serve our great state of Maine in the United States Senate and will continue to work to bridge the partisan divide and to forge bipartisan solutions to the many challenges our nation faces.
I am pleased to report a number of successes from this past year, including provisions from my “Seven Point Plan for Maine Jobs.” Some of my proposals to streamline job training programs and better match workers’ skills with employers’ needs were enacted as part of a workforce investment act. I helped secure promising manufacturing opportunities for our state—from requiring the military to buy American-made athletic footwear for new recruits, just as it does for other uniform items, to an additional Department of Energy investment in the deepwater, offshore wind power project being developed by the University of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy, and private companies. For Maine agriculture, I succeeded in including the fresh, white potato in a federal nutrition program from which it has been the only vegetable to be excluded.
Also last year, I was pleased to join in the christening of the Zumwalt at Bath Iron Works, a Navy ship for the 21st Century that will help protect our nation and that reflects the extraordinary skills of men and women in one of Maine’s most vital industries. And, for Veterans living in rural areas, I secured a two-year extension of the successful Access Received Closer to Home program, which is improving access to health care for Veterans in northern Maine. Finally, after several years in the making, I am delighted that Congress has approved my legislation to form a commission – at no cost to taxpayers – to plan a National Women’s History Museum. A museum recognizing the contributions of American women is long overdue, and this bill is an important first step toward that goal.
The biggest challenge facing our State remains the need for more jobs so that Mainers can stay in our State to live, work, and raise their families. Since small businesses create the vast majority of jobs, we must help them to start up, grow, and succeed. We must update our tax code to encourage small business investment in equipment and other assets, cut the red tape that is hampering job creators, build the transportation and energy infrastructure to support an expanding economy. We must also foster opportunities for key industries, from agriculture to defense. We must ensure that our workers have the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow. These initiatives will remain my top priorities.
In the new Congress, I serve as Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. This position allows me to continue working to ensure investments are made in critical transportation infrastructure, which is essential for our safety and economic growth. To date, Maine has received more than $90 million for highway, bridge, airport, rail, and port projects through the successful TIGER grant program.
I also serve at the helm of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, a position I sought because Maine has the highest median age in the nation. Working to address pressing issues facing our seniors, from long-term care and retirement security to the vast potential of biomedical research, will be on our agenda. Preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer's should be an urgent national priority as this devastating disease continues to take such a personal and economic toll on more than five million Americans and their families. The Committee will also continue to focus on the scams and frauds targeting our senior citizens and has a toll-free hotline (1-855-303-9470) where seniors and their loved ones can report suspected fraud.
A Maine value that always guides me is our unsurpassed work ethic. As 2014 ended, I continued my record of never missing a roll-call vote since my Senate service began in 1997, a tally that now stands at more than 5,700 consecutive votes.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the great State of Maine and look forward to continued work on your behalf as your Senator.