Monday, December 31, 2012

Thank you, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is retiring from her seat as the new Congress is ushered in.  We Texans owe her a debt of gratitude for her service.  Our senior Senator worked tirelessly for causes dear to our hearts. She has consistently supported NASA, our military members and families, and women's health care,

First elected in a 1993, in a special election, Hutchison delivered her farewell speech to the Senate earlier this month.

Hutchison, who is retiring, has an impressive legislative record in her nearly 20 years in the Senate, including phasing out the controversial Wright Amendment, which limits service at Dallas Love Field; fixing the so-called marriage penalty, which taxed married couples at a higher rate; directing millions of dollars to higher education and research at Texas institutions; making state sales taxes an itemized deduction on federal income tax returns; and fighting for NASA dollars and the space program in the face of cutbacks.
"I think history will judge her as one of the greatest legislators we've ever had," said Patrick Oxford, chairman of the Bracewell & Giuliani law firm of Houston and a lifelong friend and supporter of Hutchison's. "She was Lyndon Johnson-level in terms of understanding the legislative process really well."
 As a woman, I appreciate her ground-breaking work to reform the IRA savings system so that women who are homemakers can also contribute to them.  She is being honored for that work by Texas Senator John Cornyn and Senator Barbara Mikulski.  They are behind the legislation recently passed to name the "homemaker IRA" after Hutchison.  The press release from Senator Cornyn's office:

MIKULSKI, CORNYN ANNOUNCE SENATE PASSAGE OF THEIR BILL TO RENAME PROVISION THAT LEVELED RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLAYING FIELD FOR FAMILIES AS ‘KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON SPOUSAL IRA’Senators Championed Hutchison Legislation in 1996 to Allow Stay-at-Home Spouses to Make Equal, Fully Deductible Contributions to Retirement IRAs WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) today announced Senate passage of their bill to rename legislation championed by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) to allow working spouses and homemakers to contribute the same amount to their IRA savings as the ‘Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA.’ Senator Hutchison spearheaded the effort after she was sworn-in to the Senate in 1993 with the support of Senator Mikulski, and saw the legislation signed into law as part of the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996.
 “It’s fitting that we recognize Senator Hutchison for her long-standing and steadfast advocacy for women,” Senator Mikulskisaid. “Her commitment to this legislation and to the women of America reflects the values of our nation. It rewards good parenting and families and recognizes that not all work is done in the marketplace. Moms and dads who are struggling to do the right thing for their family shouldn’t be penalized for staying at home. By amending this provision in our tax code, women and families across America will know that they’re benefiting from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA.” “I’m pleased to support this legislation to honor Senator Hutchison for her important efforts to help moms and dads who work full-time caring for their children at home plan for their future,” Senator Cornyn said. “As she retires from the Senate, Sen. Hutchison will be remembered for this and countless other contributions that have improved the lives of working Texans and Americans across the country.” Congress created the Spousal IRA in 1996. This legislation levels the playing field by allowing spouses who are non-wage earners to make equal, fully deductible contributions to individual retirement accounts. Women have traditionally been at a disadvantage in saving for retirement because they spend time in and out of the workforce. Currently, contributions of up to $5,000 for each spouse are allowed if the couple's wages or self-employment earnings are $10,000 or more.
As a political scientist, I am appreciative of the skill Hutchison used in working with Democrats in the Senate.  While it is en vogue in the current political environment to be as obstinate as possible to your opponents to appease the most strident within a party, the truth is that politics is the art of persuasion.  Coming together to work our solutions is a sign of maturity and the most patriotic of acts for the betterment of our country.

A hallmark of Hutchison's Senate career has been her willingness to work with Democrats, especially Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., whom Senate wags widely call her BFF (Best Friend Forever).
"When I first came to the Senate 20 years ago, Sen. Hutchison gave me a small briefcase that I still carry to this day. It hasn't worn out, and neither has our friendship," Feinstein said.
"I worked closely with Sen. Hutchison for two decades, particularly on issues related to women and families."
The two joined forces on the Amber Alert legislation for abducted children, named for Amber Hagerman of Arlington, who was abducted and killed in 1996.
They also collaborated on the Breast Cancer Stamp bill, which has raised more than $76 million for breast cancer research.
"Her legacy as a tireless advocate for these causes will live on," Feinstein said.

As a resident of Texas, I am grateful to Hutchison for promoting the passage of eliminating our state income taxes.  As State Controller, Hutchison produced that result for us.

She served us well.  Thank you, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

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