Spotlighting my top priorities for 2008 Congress

As Congress comes back into session and Nevadans begin a new year, a lot of work needs to be done. While many issues important to the health of our country and our state need to be addressed, I wanted to spotlight a few of my priorities for 2008.

Immigration continues to be one of the most important issues in Nevada's Second District. I will continue the fight against amnesty and support legislation that strengthens our borders. Taxpayers in our country pay more than $100 billion every year on health care and other services for illegal immigrants, including education, law enforcement costs, and housing. Getting a handle on our county's illegal immigration problem and securing our border is critical to the future health of the United States.

Wildfires and range health also continue to be an increasingly difficult problem to manage. One of my first actions in Congress was to work for greater funding for wildfire suppression and range restoration projects. Many of these fires begin on federal land and move to private property. Congress must find a way to prevent the annual destruction of range lands and provide our federal land management agencies the resources they need to stop this cycle. Watershed restoration funds and range rehabilitation needs to become a priority so we can ensure a healthy range eco-system. Additionally, multi-year disaster relief for public land ranchers is equally as important because range recovery is a multi-year process.

One of my specific legislative priorities is to get the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program Act (H.R. 2515) passed into law. The goal of this bill is to protect sensitive, threatened, and endangered fish and wildlife species and their habitat, while providing both environmental benefits and reliable water and power supplies along the Colorado River. This legislation will provide Southern Nevada, California and Arizona with needed certainty required for capital investment in water projects to more effectively manage water resources from the Colorado River. Proper management, in turn, will alleviate some of the demand for water in Northern Nevada. This legislation is critical to future water resource management across our state.

With more than $200 billion in proposed tax increases and bloated spending bills to match, I am deeply concerned with Congress' current tax and spend attitude. Middle class families are already getting squeezed by high energy costs, education and college costs, and increases in food and clothing prices. This "government knows best" attitude threatens the quality of life for middle class families in Nevada. Congress needs to put into place sensible economic policies that balance the budget, reduce our national debt, and encourage innovation and investments in the business community. Moreover, we need a national energy policy that encourages energy exploration and production. Affordable energy is one of the cornerstones of a healthy economy.

Finally, Nevada is home to approximately 300,000 veterans. Congress needs to ensure our veterans are receiving the care they deserve, and no better message can be sent to our current Armed Forces than to fulfill our country's obligations and promises to our veterans and their families. Just as veterans answered and fulfilled their duty when our country called, so must our nation now fulfill the promises made to the courageous men and women who served in our military.

I look forward to the coming months, and remain optimistic that progress can be made toward resolving some of our nation's most pressing issues. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Nevada delegation to make sure Nevada's priorities are front and center in Congress as we work through 2008.

• Congressman Dean Heller is a native of Carson City. He previously was an assemblyman in the Nevada Legislature and the Nevada Secretary of State.


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