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New Congressional Session Underway, McKeon Looks Ahead

Our Congressman sets his priorities for district.

Yesterday afternoon, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon took the oath of office yet again, representing Santa Clarita, the Antelope Valley and nearby areas in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Not long afterwards, he talked to reporters about his legislative goals for 2009.

First and foremost, McKeon vowed to continue work on the Soledad Canyon Mine Act, which would effectively end a nine-year fight and prevent a Mexico-based Cemex Corporation from building a massive sand and gravel mine off of Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country.

The Act calls upon a deal between three entities; the city of Santa Clarita, the city of Victorville, and Cemex. In it, Cemex would abandon their previously granted mineral rights to the Soledad Canyon location, and instead receive over 5,000 acres of land near Victorville from the Federal Bureau of Land Management.

Cemex would not be allowed to mine that land, however they would be encouraged to sell it to the city of Victorville, who are already making big plans for using the site. The sale of the land would compensate Cemex to the same degree as if they were to have operated the Santa Clarita mine, and it would serve as an economic boon to Victorville. Santa Clarita would receive the ultimate gift; nothing. No mine, no further air quality complications and no major increase of heavy trucking on the 14 freeway.

The Act was first shuffled around Congress last session, where it garnered bipartisan support from several key legislators. However, it never made it to vote, troubled by some funding issues and last minute bailout votes that shoved it to the back burner.

ImageBut this year, McKeon says that the Soledad Canyon Mine Act has been tightened up, and is even better than it was last year. He is confident that Congress will pass the bill this time around.

“We made great strides last year in building support both nationally and locally for the proposal.  And we learned a lot through those discussions,” said McKeon. “Right now I’m working closely with the stakeholders to finalize the details on an improved version of the bill that will build on all the support we’ve obtained this past year.

Another priority for McKeon will be a wilderness bill that was not finalized last session. The bill sets aside portions of wilderness in the northern section of our district and beyond for preservation and recreational opportunities.

Of course the economy will play a big part in McKeon’s work this coming year as well, both on a local and national basis.

Locally, he talked about his concern for the auto dealers, who were hit hard as the economy slowed down.

“I’m pushing a proposal that would give a tax credit to car buyers,” he said. “That would be one of the things that could get us quickly back on the road to recovery.”

When asked how much of a tax credit he had in mind, McKeon said; “Something significant,” and loosely spoke of an amount between $5,000 and $10,000.

Nationally, new economic policy may get a running start as President-elect Barack Obama has already met with congressional leaders to discuss a stimulus/infrastructure plan that could cost between $700 billion and $1.3 trillion.

Such massive numbers have McKeon keeping a close eye on the bottom line.

“When I first came to Congress, a billion dollars was a lot of money,” he said.

While the road to recovery may not be easy or argument-free, McKeon said he is willing to work in a bipartisan matter with his fellow legislators to help get the U.S. economy back on track.

New Congressional Session Underway, McKeon Looks Ahead

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