Government

Kelly Discusses Foreign Affairs at New Castle Event

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NEW CASTLE, Pa. — The 47 Republican members of the U.S. Senate that reached out directly to Iran’s leadership last week acted out of concern for the nation and the Middle East, not out of a desire to undercut President Obama in ongoing negotiations over nuclear enrichment, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly said following an event here Friday.

“What the concern is, is that we have a really strong agreement,” Kelly, R-3 Pa., said in an interview with The Business Journal.

“I don’t think there’s any question in anyone’s mind where we are right now. I want to ask some of our folks who have been here a little bit longer – you look back to Germany in the ’30s and Europe in the ’30s if what you’re seeing today doesn’t closely resemble what happened then,” he cautioned.

“We’re looking at a nuclear-armed Middle East that could wreak havoc for the entire world. What the senators are concerned with is if this is a treaty, it better be a treaty that not only protects the United States but protects the United States’ friends,” he added. “I don’t think [the letter] was out of a way to try and push the president down.”

Kelly visited the offices of the Lawrence County Community Action Partnership Friday to promote access to Free File, a program that permits qualified taxpayers to electronically file their state and federal income tax returns at no charge.

Offered through a partnership of 14 companies, including Intuit and H&R Block, and the Internal Revenue Service, Free File is available to taxpayers earning $60,000 annually or less. Some 111 million taxpayers, or 70% of all taxpayers, are eligible to use the programs offered, said Chris Long, a representative of the Computer & Communications Industry Association

“These are brand name, best in class,” Long said. In some cases, taxpayers are leaving thousands of dollars on the table by not claiming deductions they qualify for, he remarked. The companies provide the service at no cost to prevent the government from developing its own program to offer to taxpayers.

“It’s a win-win for both sides,” said Patrick Price, an IRS tax consultant.

Since the program started 16 years ago, Intuit – which makes TurboTax – has donated the preparation of more than 31 million returns, said Amanda Pedigo, representing the Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation.

One of the things people fear most is getting a letter from the IRS but the agency “is not our enemy,” Kelly said. The United States has to have a means to collect revenue to run the country but “to a person” individuals he talks to say they are afraid of making a mistake on their return.

“I think what we’ve seen are abuses by certain IRS people, personnel and people, and no one headlines that more than Lois Lerner,” a key figure in the scandal involving the IRS targeting for audits conservative organizations, he said.

“It’s necessary to have the IRS; it’s necessary to have taxes. By the same token, they shouldn’t be able to run roughshod over people,” Kelly said.

One of the issues Kelly is working on as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee is a transportation bill, he said. Last week, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, and three colleagues sent a letter to the president urging him to secure a new transportation bill before the Trans-Pacific partnership trade deal.

While he agreed with Ryan about the importance of getting a transportation bill passed, trade treaties are “awfully important,” Kelly said.

“We want to make sure that we’re involved in treaties that allow American-made products to be on an equal playing field with the rest of the world,” Kelly said. “Tim’s right when he talks about all these other things that are out there but I don’t know how you prioritize which one’s less important than the other.” Trade agreements are “critical because we want to make sure America leads in the global economy, not just participates but dominates the global economy. We can do it,” he said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.