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Texas This Week: U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett weighs in on the Inflation Reduction Act

Austin's congressman has mixed feelings about the sweeping health care, tax reform and climate change legislation.

AUSTIN, Texas — In this week's edition of Texas This Week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas has a new CEO, Texas schools got their grades from the TEA and President Joe Biden got a major win this week, signing the Inflation Reduction Act into law. 

Three things to know in Texas politics

1. ERCOT board names new CEO

The board of the Electric Reliability Council Of Texas (ERCOT) and the Public Utility Commission approved hiring Pablo Vegas as president and CEO of ERCOT. Vegas is currently the executive vice president of NiSource, a natural gas and electric company serving six states, including Ohio and Indiana, but he is no stranger to Texas. From 2008 until 2010, Vegas was president and COO of the electric transmission company American Electric Power Texas. His five-year contract with ERCOT starts on Oct. 1 and he will earn $999,000 a year plus other incentives. 

RELATED: Texas power grid operator ERCOT names new CEO

2. Texas Education Agency issues grades for schools and districts

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Texas Education Agency issued school ratings this week. But instead of the usual A-F system, campuses and districts earned an A-C or got a Not Rated label. The Not Rated rankings went to schools that would have gotten an D or F. Getting a Not Rated instead means they won't face penalties from the TEA. Overall, most schools showed improvement compared to 2019. In fact, almost 74% of the schools rated earned an A or B. 

RELATED: TEA releases grades for Texas schools, districts for first time in 3 years

3. $16 Million donated to Uvalde families has not been distributed  

A report from The Texas Tribune reveals families impacted by the shooting at Robb Elementary School in May that left 19 children and two teachers dead haven't received any of the $16 million donated to them from around the country. A committee was created to distribute the funds and it plans to roll out an application process for families to apply for the money next month. That means it could still be another two months before the families get any financial assistance to help them as they grieve the loss of their loved ones. 

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) on Inflation Reduction Act

This week, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. The sweeping health care, climate and tax reform bill is seen as a major win for the president. Austin Congressman Lloyd Doggett joined Texas This Week to talk about how the law will impact Central Texans.

Ashley Goudeau: There are several aspects of this legislation. Before we talk about the climate portion, I want to talk to you about health care. Now, this bill caps how much seniors will pay for their prescriptions, their out-of-pocket costs. It also caps insulin prices for people on Medicare, and it locks in that lower rate for Americans on Obamacare. But you have said that it doesn't go far enough on health care. What didn't you see in the bill that you wanted?  

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett: "Well, the major omission of great concern to me is that there are as many as 2 million Texans who have never gotten any benefit from the Affordable Care Act. That's because the State of Texas never used federal dollars to extend and expand Medicaid coverage to some of our economically disadvantaged neighbors. This bill does provide support for the many people who, come this fall, will be signing up again for the Affordable Care Act policies. It will make them more affordable. But I want it to help those really the bottom of the economic ladder get the access to a family physician they deserve. Beyond that, as you know from our prior visits, I'm really concerned about prescription price gouging. This bill does not address that problem for anyone other than those reliant on Medicare. And it takes a long time to get a small number of drugs. So really, even as this bill was being debated, I was on the phone to the Health and Human Services secretary, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, urging that the administration do more to supplement the bill so that American consumers can see where we're standing up to big pharma."

Ashley Goudeau: Another key portion of this legislation deals with taxes and ensuring large corporations pay their fair share. Explain to us what happens with that portion of the package or what's in that portion of this package.  

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett: "Much more should have been done, but at least under this bill, corporations with over $1 billion of profits … they have to pay at least 15%. So many of these large corporations shift their profits offshore and end up paying little or nothing. And when that happens, the tax burden, the cost of our national security and other vital public services, it just gets shifted to individuals and small businesses. So I think that's a constructive step. Many of those corporations that received a great windfall in the Trump tax cut simply used it not to expand and create new jobs and new opportunities, but to buy back stock and raise the price of their stock. And so a small tax has been imposed to discourage those stock buybacks. Overall, the effect of the changes in the tax law is for the first time in a major piece of legislation to actually try to reduce the federal deficit. And estimates are around $300 billion over the next decade in lower deficit as a result of the revenue provisions that are in this bill."

Ashley Goudeau: This bill also, as you alluded to, it, makes the largest single investment to address climate change, $360 billion. I want you to talk to us about how some of those provisions will specifically impact people living here in Texas and in Central Texas.  

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett: "Well, for many working families, middle class families in our community, the cost of going electric is just a little too steep. The electric vehicles are a little more costly than the traditional fossil fuel vehicles that we all have. And so this bill is trying to give more people an opportunity to help in their individual decisions to address the climate crisis, which is so real and can make our region unlivable in decades ahead. So there's a $7,500 tax credit that will reduce the cost of an electric vehicle. And for the first time, it applies to used vehicles because the goal is to get more people that might be looking for a less expensive vehicle in this. There are income limits on who can qualify to target this to the middle class, to working families here. And for a family that is perhaps going to be in the market for a clothes dryer, an air conditioning unit, a refrigerator, any major appliance, there are credits to help access electric appliances that will be efficient. And then for those who've been getting these awfully high heating, air conditioning bills because of the heat this summer, there are provisions to provide credits for home efficiency, for an investigation of your house to see what can be done to make it more efficient. And as far as vehicles are concerned, the provision that I personally worked on concerned electric vehicle chargers. One thing that will do is not only provide $1,000 credit for those who own a home and want one at home, but provide a credit for businesses like apartment owners to have an incentive to locate for those who live in their apartments to have access to electric vehicle chargers. Our goal is to eventually have electric vehicle chargers as available as gas pumps are today. If we are to reduce fossil fuel emissions that are causing so much harm here and all the way to the North Pole, we have got to move into clean fuel systems. Transportation contributes more pollution in terms of carbon than any other sector, not far behind are our dwellings, our residences. And so this bill is incentivizing to help people be part of the solution to the climate crisis."

Ashley Goudeau: We can't talk about this bill without noting that it did pass on party lines. All of your Republican colleagues voted against it, including those who represent Austin. In fact, Rep. Chip Roy calls it a "radical tax and spend bill." He says it will not do a single thing to address address inflation. So how do you respond to that criticism?  

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett: "Well, it's not surprising. He's kind of voted against most everything we've had up there. It's unfortunate. We really tried to reach out and engage Republican colleagues in supporting this legislation. And when they refer to it as a tax and spend bill, there is, in fact, some spending, particularly to help the more disadvantaged folks. But most of this bill, the cost of this bill, is in tax cuts, a tax credit after all to buy an electric vehicle, to make a home more energy efficient is just that. You pay less taxes, you get some money back for doing what you can to help lower the heat. And so I think it's it's not a fair objection. And if there had been any willingness to work together – you know, this is the same crowd of people, every Texas Republican voted against the so-called bipartisan infrastructure bill last year that is getting over $30 billion to Texas, mostly for improving our highway system and dealing with traffic congestion, mobility being such a problem here. But they seem to just have kind of a flash card reaction to anything that's proposed and don't want the president or the Congress to be successful. So they voted against COVID relief and getting the vaccines and therapeutics out as a party line. They voted against more roadways and public transportation for Texas. And sadly, they voted against doing anything about the climate crisis. Sadly, Texas, as you know, while we're a leading wind producer in the country, we also lead in both fossilized fuels and in climate denying. It's time to recognize that there's something we can all do to help fight the heat. And I think this bill, while not far enough, is a good step forward in doing that."

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy's (R-Austin) full statement on the Inflation Reduction Act: 

"Today, in the face of rampant inflation and myriad government-created crises, House Democrats unilaterally rammed through a radical tax-and-spend bill that can only be described as a full-frontal assault on the liberties of the American people.

"Despite the bill’s name, it will not do a single thing to address inflation itself a direct result of out-of-control spending and monetary policy – even its supporters admit that. But it will raise an army of 87,000 new IRS agents to sic on the American taxpayer and organizations that oppose the administration’s political agenda.

"It will destroy energy freedom by providing hundreds of billions in crony handouts to unreliable, weather-dependent energy sources while increasing taxes on plentiful, reliable fossil fuels. It will further erode health care freedom and innovation by enacting socialist price controls on prescription drugs, while lining the pockets of massive health insurance corporations.

"And, in a disgraceful dereliction of their constitutional duty, over a third of the bill’s supporters could not even be bothered to show up to vote in-person for this monstrosity, electing instead to vote by proxy. Next Congress, Republicans must take a hard line against Democrat tyranny and commit to ending proxy voting and repealing this legislation on day one."

Ashley Goudeau on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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