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Evie Rodriguez

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a series of changes to make it easier for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to apply for renewable energy and energy efficiency funding. USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. "These changes are intended to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses throughout America," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "They will streamline and simplify the application process and give businesses more time to do what they do best: innovate, create jobs and serve their rural communities. The proposed changes would affect applications for loans and grants through USDA Rural Development's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).


They would:

• Reduce paperwork, especially for projects under $80,000;

• Implement a more objective and uniform system to score applications;

• Authorize funding for refurbished and retrofitted renewable energy systems;

• Reduce certain reporting requirements.

• Establish a quarterly application period for applicants seeking only guaranteed loans. This change is intended to make the program more appealing to lenders and to ensure that funds are available year-round.


REAP is one of USDA's most popular renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. From the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill through the end of Fiscal Year 2012, REAP funded more than 6,800 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, feasibility studies, energy audits and renewable energy development assistance projects. In 2012, for example, USDA Rural Development provided ARC Technology of Whitewater, Kan., a $9,945 REAP grant to assist with installing a 12.2 kilowatt solar array. As a direct result of the USDA grant, the company expects to save approximately $1,300 per year on its electric bill and see a return on its investment in only two years. USDA is accepting comments on the proposed rule through June 11, 2013. For details on how to submit comments, or for additional information, see Page 22044 of the April 12 Federal Register President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration - the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $700 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.

Gov. Perry Proposes Tax Relief for Texas Businesses

Tuesday, 16 April 2013 19:20 Published in April 2013

Four-point plan to reduce business taxes by nearly $1.6 billion




Gov. Rick Perry announced a four-point plan to provide nearly $1.6 billion in tax relief to all Texas businesses currently subject to the state’s franchise tax. The governor was joined by lawmakers, the Texas Association of Business (TAB), National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute for the announcement. “By cutting taxes for Texas businesses, we are helping job creators in our communities and promoting economic growth across the state,” Gov. Perry said. “Businesses that keep more of their money can pass savings on to consumers, hire more workers, offer greater employee benefits or reinvest it into their companies and grow their business – all of which are good for Texans and our growing economy.”


Gov. Perry’s plan would reduce business taxes by:

•Reducing the franchise tax rates by 5%

•Providing a $1 million deduction for businesses with revenue up to $20 million

•Lowering the rate for EZ Form filers

•Giving companies relocating to Texas from out of state a one-time deduction of moving expenses in the first year they pay the franchise tax.


Gov. Perry’s business tax relief plan would also have the effect of making permanent the current small business tax exemption. That exemption currently impacts 29,000 businesses and is set to expire in 2014. “Business is the economic engine of our state and Gov. Perry’s plan will only serve to fuel that engine,” TAB President Bill Hammond said. “Government doesn’t create prosperity, business does. By reducing the tax burden on Texas businesses, businesses will keep hiring more workers, reinvesting in their companies and driving the economic success of our state.” “Gov. Perry's tax relief proposals will go a long way in helping entrepreneurs and smaller businesses grow during this period of economic recovery,” NFIB Texas Executive Director Will Newton said. “These four specific points demonstrate an understanding of the kind of relief small business owners have said they want. We applaud the governor's willingness to prioritize economic development and provide relief to our state's job creators.”

New survey shows fatalities on the rise as growing statewide population puts more drivers, workers on the road


As traffic increases along Texas roadways because of our booming population, fatal crashes are on the rise. In an effort to curb the trend, the Texas Department of Transportation was joined by state leaders, the city of Austin and members of the transportation industry to ask the public to Be Safe. Drive Smart (video and photos available). In recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 15-19, TxDOT’s Be Safe. Drive Smart. campaign reminds drivers to slow down, stay alert and observe traffic signs when approaching work zones. “Crashes and fatalities in work zones are preventable,” TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton said. “We can build safe highways and increase law enforcement efforts, but ultimately work zone safety is in the hands of all of us who drive. For safety’s sake, we ask that drivers put down their cell phones, slow down, plan for alternate routes and be patient.” At any one time there can be as many as 1,000 active work zones in Texas, Barton said. TxDOT currently has 20 active work zones along I-35 encompassing 109.6 miles from north to south Texas. This is the most work zones the agency has ever had on the state’s main corridor as it tackles one of the largest construction programs in department history. In 2012, there were 16,687 crashes in roadway construction and maintenance zones in Texas, resulting in 134 fatalities. “Any time your job site is just a few feet away from fast-moving traffic, danger is never far away,” said Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “When you see construction signs and orange barrels, take your foot off the gas, put the phone down and keep your eyes on the road.” Work zone crashes have become such a concern, the Associated General Contractors of America recently conducted a survey, which found a staggering 45 percent of Texas’ highway contractors had motor vehicles crash into their construction work zones during the past year. Those work zone crashes injured drivers and passengers 62 percent of the time, and construction workers 19 percent of the time. This issue is not exclusive to urban areas. In fact, 46 percent of fatal work zone crashes occurred in rural areas last year. “Texans love our wide-open spaces,” Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “Unfortunately, there is a higher percentage of fatal crashes on our state’s rural roads compared to urban areas. Wherever you live, it’s vital we all take precautions in work zones. Prioritizing safety above arriving a few minutes early could spare your life and the life of another hard-working Texan.” During National Work Zone Awareness Week, TxDOT’s permanent dynamic message signs along state highways and roadways will remind drivers to use caution, be safe and drive smart in work zones. The messaging comes at a critical time as Texas welcomes more than 1,000 newcomers per day, many of whom are not familiar with the state’s traffic laws.