By Senator Susan Collins
It is a privilege to represent Maine in the United States Senate, and I am deeply grateful for the trust the people of Maine have placed in me. Public service is a responsibility that I take seriously. In 2012, I reached a milestone by casting my 5,000thconsecutive roll-call vote. I have never missed a single roll-call vote, a record unique among current Senators (not including those just elected.)
As we enter 2013, the economy and jobs remain my top priorities. As a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I am committed to keeping our nation secure and our skilled defense workers on the job. I secured funding to increase the shipbuilding programs at Bath Iron Works and advance essential modernization projects at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Receiving the Navy League’s Congressional Sea Services Award for 2012 as the leading congressional advocate for our maritime services and US shipbuilding meant a lot to me.
Maine’s economic future recently received a boost with significant federal funds for deep-water, offshore wind energy research and development at the University of Maine and in private sector firms. Maine has some of the strongest and most consistent winds off our coast, and we have some of the world’s leading researchers. These funds will help Maine be a world leader in developing this clean, renewable energy source, ultimately resulting in the creation of thousands of good-paying jobs for our state.
As a leader on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I am also working to ensure that investments are made in our transportation infrastructure. Early last year, construction began on a modern, safe, and efficient replacement for the Memorial Bridge at Kittery, a project for which I secured funding. Working with the Maine Department of Transportation, I also obtained federal funding to replace the aging Martin Memorial Bridge in Rumford and the decrepit Richmond-Dresden Bridge. In 2013, I will continue to seek funding for improvements in our roads and bridges to make traveling safer and more efficient for our citizens and to facilitate commerce. It is also gratifying to see the heaviest trucks on the Interstates where they belong rather than on our downtown streets and country roads. This is the result of a law I authored in 2011.
Maine’s environment is critical to our economy and the health of our residents. I opposed efforts in 2012 that would have weakened the landmark Clean Air Act and would have exposed our state to emissions from coal-fired power plants elsewhere. At the same time, I have continued to work with a bipartisan group of Senators to ensure that federal regulations on industrial boilers protect our environment without imposing onerous burdens on our forest-products industry and other manufacturers.
Many Mainers contacted me last year to express concern about the Postal Service, which is essential to our economy and our way of life. Last year, the Senate approved legislation I co-authored to help put the Postal Service on a sound financial footing since it has been losing billions of dollars. Although the House failed to act on our bill, the Postal Service has heeded my requests to keep open the vital mail processing center in Hampden. I will continue to work to ensure that all Mainers, regardless of the size of their communities, have access to the postal services upon which they rely.
As the daughter of a World War II veteran wounded in combat, I know how important quality, accessible health care is for our veterans. This past year, I worked to help ensure that our rural veterans’ health care facilities are fully staffed and to strengthen our Veterans’ Homes. Federal health agencies also began an investigation into whether Maine veterans were exposed to toxic defoliant chemicals while training at Gagetown, New Brunswick.
With shortages of medications putting some patients at risk, I co-sponsored legislation to encourage manufacturers to report anticipated production problems to help avert shortages. Through this voluntary approach, more than 200 potentially life-threatening shortages were prevented last year, but more work remains to be done.
While Congress averted a huge increase in tax rates for middle-income American families and small businesses, little progress was made last year in tackling our enormous and unsustainable $16.4 trillion debt. It is essential that we do so in a responsible way, and that Washington stop delaying decisions that will shape our economy and future prosperity and avoid saddling our children andgrandchildren with huge debts.
I remain committed to doing all that I can to address your community’s concerns in 2013. If I may be of assistance to you in any way, I encourage you to contact my state office in your area, or visit my website www.collins.senate.gov.