WASHINGTON — With American aid going to Kurds, Poles and others around the world who are in trouble, says Sen. John Breaux, D-La., the same sort of aid should go out to communities which will lose jobs and money as military bases in their regions close.
Breaux and Sen. William Roth, R-Del., announced a package of tax credits and other benefits designed to aid towns around the country where 78 military bases will likely be closed or streamlined according to a Pentagon plan to chop its budget.
The list of bases, which includes Ft. Devens, was drawn up by a presidentially appointed base closure committee, approved by President Bush, and will go to Congress for approval.
The Breaux bill, called the Base Community Recovery Act, is a package of tax credits to businesses and employees that aims to ease the blow to the affected communities, where thousands of jobs will be lost and entire communities fear they may dry up.
Breaux said at a press conference Thursday that no cost figure had yet been attached to the plan. Revenue lost through the credits would approximately equal the tax revenues lost if workers remained unemployed, he said.
Breaux and Roth introduced a bill in June that would give the closed bases to their communities, after environmental clean-up, for free. Ordinarily, these bases would first be offered to federal agencies, then to the state, and finally to the local communities.
Specifics of the new act include:
A tax credit to businesses who hire ex-base employees of $2,400 per employee;
A one-time tax credit of up to $3,000 for former base employees who take jobs in the area of the base, contributing to the economic survival of the areas;
An increase in the depreciation rates and the amount of business expenses an employer can deduct if he moves onto the base, makes capital improvements, and sets up shop;
Increases the authority of communities to issue low-interest, tax exempt bonds in these areas.
The actions are “aimed at addressing the economic bombshells the Pentagon has dropped on 78 bases in 23 states,” said Breaux at a press conference Thursday.
For example, he said, 12,000 jobs, $228 million in sales and $257 million in household income will be lost at England Air Force Base and Ft. Polk, the Louisiana military bases slated for closure.