Last week, we saw the consumer price index surge to 7.5% over the past year. This is the highest reading since February of 1982 – confirming what we all already know- inflation is hurting every sector of the economy and making us all pay more for everything! Inflation has been fueled by President Biden and Congressional Democrats’ out-of-control government spending for their failed Far-Left agenda. We can’t keep doubling down on these failed policies and expecting different results! Instead of getting serious about the economic crisis impacting all Americans, the majority passed another stop gap measure to extend current year funding for several more weeks. They also continued to pursue lavish spending plans and radical environmental policies that will only hurt consumers. I will continue to push back against these measures and to advocate on your behalf! On a lighter note, like many of you I am disappointed that we won’t have the Bucs to cheer for in Super Bowl LVI tonight.
However, I’m still rooting for our hometown athletes on the grand stage. Congratulations to: Mitch Wilcox of the Cincinnati Bengals who went to Tarpon Springs High and USF, Jacob Harris of the Los Angeles Rams who went to Palm Harbor University High School, andTyler Higbee of the Los Angeles Rams who went to East Lake High Additionally, congratulations and continued good luck to my constituent, Nathan Smith, who made his Olympic debut last week as part of the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team!
Ignoring the Crisis at the Border
Ignoring problems do not make them go away. More than 2 million people have been caught illegally entering the country since President Biden took office. And I can tell you from personally visiting the border that, despite their best efforts, Border Patrol agents are barely scratching the surface when it comes to catching the record number of people who are attempting to enter illegally. The facts are clear: the Biden Administration’s border policies are broken. Instead of reversing course and reinstating strategies that were proven to work under the previous administration, President Biden is
doubling down on his failed policies. The Administration’s unsuccessful focus on the “root causes” of migration within the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador simply have not worked. We cannot keep ignoring this problem. Republicans have a simple, concrete plan to fix the crisis.
Fixing our Broken Economy
Another problem we cannot keep ignoring is the record high inflation that is strangling families and small businesses across our nation. Inflation has caused us to pay more for everything from groceries and gas to housing and transportation. The large spending packages being considered by Democrats will only worsen this problem.The
worker shortage is also causing serious damage to small businesses struggling under crushing hiring challenges. A recent report indicates that for every 10 unemployed workers there are over 17 job openings – the highest ratio of openings to unemployed workers ever. We must address the serious workforce shortage and get our economy moving in the right direction again. Also, because of the Biden Administration’s failed energy policies, gas prices have increased for the passed five weeks. Florida families are now paying an average of $3.46 a gallon for gas. Our national debt also recently topped $30 trillion. We cannot keep kicking the can down the road and worsening a problem that will haunt our grandchildren. We must stop the reckless spending, adopt a balanced budget amendment, and start living within our means instead of saddling future generations with an economic disaster.
Backing the Blue
New statistics indicate that intentional killings of law enforcement officers in 2021 reached a 20 year high, excluding 9/11. Tragically, two of these officers were my constituents. Last week, I
spoke on the House Floor about their ultimate sacrifice. As we were honoring the service and sacrifices that our heroes are making, one of my colleagues was once again calling on Congress to defund the police.
This type of rhetoric is absolutely the wrong approach. Defunding and demonizing the police has dangerous consequences. Violent crime is on the rise across the country. This means our brave police officers are being targeted, injured, or even killed at an alarming rate. In January of 2022 alone, 30 police officers were shot, five of whom were killed. We must support our first responders and give them the tools they need to do their jobs.
Fighting Back Against Government Overreach
Over 85% of my constituents surveyed about the Biden Administration’s plan to allow the IRS to spy on the bank accounts with transactions above $600.00 said it was a bad idea. Now the agency, which is grappling with a backlog of 16 million tax returns, is
kindly requesting a selfie from Americans. We can only speculate about the many things that could go wrong with this newest hare-brained idea. We need less government intrusion into our lives, not more! Speaking of the IRS backlog, I am continuing to press the IRS for answers. Millions of families cannot get calls answered by the IRS and some of them have even received collection notices despite being tax compliant because their returns are still buried in the backlog.
The IRS has over $1 billion in unobligated funds that it received last year from the American Rescue Plan. My Republican colleagues and I demand to know why the agency has not spent these funds to resolve or mitigate the current backlog. Yet we have not received a satisfactory answer. I will keep pushing on this important issue. In the interim, the IRS has provided the tips below to help this year’s tax filers.
Important Considerations Before Filing a 2021 Tax Return
There are important steps taxpayers can take to help prevent tax return and refund processing delays. Filing electronically with direct deposit is more important than ever this year. Individuals who received an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) or advance payments of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) in 2021 should make sure they report the correct amount of these payments on their tax return when claiming the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit for any EIP amount from 2021 for which they are eligible but which they did not receive, and when claiming the remainder of the Child Tax CreditThere are three steps that people can take to make sure they get their refund as quickly as possible:
1. file electronically,
2. file an accurate return and
3. request a direct deposit of refunds.Taxpayers generally will not need to wait for us to fully process their 2020 return to file their 2021 tax return; they can file their 2021 return when they are ready. If a taxpayer is electronically filing their 2021 tax return and we have not yet processed their 2020 tax
return, when validating their 2021 electronic tax return, they will enter $0 (zero dollars) as their prior year adjusted gross income (AGI)If a taxpayer used the Non-filer Sign Up tool in 2021 to register for Advance CTC payments or an EIP, they will instead enter $1 as their prior year AGI.
Parents, not politicians, know what is best for their children. They should be empowered to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to decisions about their children’s health, education, and well-being. Last week, I supported a measure to immediately bring up the Unmask Our Kids Act for a vote. The data is clear, masking children offers them no safety benefit and is instead causing social, developmental, and emotional harm. The bill would ensure that our nation’s children have access to in-person learning and that their parents have the right to choose not to mask their kids by opting out of anti-science mandates. Unfortunately, Democrats- who hold the majority in the House defeated our efforts to pass this important legislation. Parents are the primary stakeholder in their children’s education, and they need to be empowered to make what they determine to be the best decisions for their family.
As Co-Chair of the Congressional Congenital Heart Caucus, I was proud to help kick-off Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Awareness Week. Due to advancements in medical innovation, CHD patients are living longer than ever before. We know research is the key to better understanding the causes of CHD, providing improved prevention measures, and ultimately developing better treatments. On behalf of the millions of American adults and children living with CHD, I will continue fighting for more research into this critical area.
Supporting Small Business
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Weekly, I highlight newly opened or expanded businesses in our community that my team has visited. Congratulations to our newest small business owners and best wishes for your continued success!
Don Phillips of Woodie’s Wash Shack presented a check to Chris Nocco for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit at his grand opening in Lutz.
Franchise owners Dan & Debbie Favuzza celebrated their Premier Martial Arts grand opening in Lutz/Land O’ Lakes.
The Kahn Family cut the ribbon on their Vampire Penguin Palm Harbor franchise location.
Owner/Artist Elizabeth King Hale held a grand opening in Tarpon Springs.
Owner Elena Marrero cut the ribbon for The Great Giftsby in Dunedin.
Owner Holly Myers celebrated the grand opening of Tours in the Harbor in downtown Safety Harbor !
Owner Luke Jones cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Catapult Adventure Park in Tarpon Springs.
My office recently received the following message from a constituent. I wanted to express our gratitude for bailing us out in our time of need. During 2020, our home was being foreclosed on, our business was shut down. Duke energy and our other utilities, such as water etc, were about to shut us off when out of desperation we reached out to Gus Bilirakis’s office. We honestly didn’t expect to hear back with so many people out of work and in distress. Surprisingly, Gus assigned us one of his top assistants. You helped us to finally collect unemployment, you directed us to an organization which helped us with utilities and told us how to receive food stamps. You gave us hope and strength to keep going forward during a very desperate time. Thanks to you, we are in a considerably better position.
This is just one example of the work we do each day. Constituent services are a critical element of our congressional office. The federal government is a massive operation, and my office is available if you ever need assistance in navigating the bureaucracy or cutting through red tape. We are here to serve you!