In The News
Ari Shapiro, Host: A teacher, a small-business owner and a retiree who complained they paid more in federal income taxes than President Trump are now gracing campaign billboards in swing states around the country. The ads follow reporting by The New York Times that Trump paid little or no federal income tax in most of the last 20 years. Trump has denied that report, but as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, the wealthy are getting less scrutiny from the tax collector with each passing year.... Horsley: The IRS is particularly aggressive about auditing people who claim the earned income tax credit. While that tax break for working families has been plagued by reporting problems, the IRS says it accounts for just 6% of all unpaid taxes. Nevertheless, people claiming the credit were more than 10 times as likely to be audited last year as multimillionaires. Over the last decade, the IRS enforcement budget has been cut by 25%. Democratic Congressman John Sarbanes says that's made it harder for the agency to keep tabs on wealthy people who try to avoid paying taxes. John Sarbanes: The rich get richer. High-end tax cheats get away with not paying their taxes. Meanwhile, those average Americans out there who play by the rules - they're the ones that are getting short shrift here. Horsley: University of Pennsylvania law professor Natasha Sarin says it's hard for ordinary wage-earners to cheat the government because their taxes are automatically deducted from their paychecks. Rich people, on the other hand, have more ways to hide their income and lowball their tax bill.
Iwant to voice my support and congratulations to Rep. John Sarbanes, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and everyone who worked tirelessly to pass America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (“U.S. House passes up to $92 million in Chesapeake Bay cleanup funding; advocates expect Trump to sign," Oct. 1). The passage of this bipartisan legislation is exciting news for the future of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and is cause for celebration. Growing up in Federal Hill, my life has been full of waterfront memories — passing runners on scenic morning jogs and watching the sunset from a bench at the park. However, I also have memories of sweltering afternoons where the lack of shade-providing trees (and the occasional smell of dead fish due to algae blooms) made the four-block walk to my best friend’s house almost unbearable. Over time, I learned that experiences like mine are all too common and not evenly distributed. Volunteering in Sandtown-Winchester, a historically under-resourced part of Baltimore, I learned how systematic forms of discrimination have contributed to higher asthma rates in red-lined communities. To me, restoring the Chesapeake Bay means ensuring every resident of Baltimore has the right to clean water and healthy air, to explore and enjoy green spaces, and to thrive within their neighborhoods. Restoring the environment restores us. The ACE Act will help us do just that through the increased funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, reauthorization of the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network, and the establishment of the Chesapeake WILD program. I especially want to thank Mr. Sarbanes for his leadership on the reauthorization of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He has worked for several years on this important issue and I am grateful for his commitment to the health of the nation’s largest estuary.
Johns Hopkins University is getting a $1.44 million federal grant to study potential COVID-19 testing gaps and disparities for transgender persons. The grant is from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The COVID, transgender research funding was announced by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume. They are all Maryland Democrats. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the severe inequalities that exists in our society,” the Democratic lawmakers said in a joint statement. “This new round of federal funding will help Johns Hopkins University lead a national effort to better serve transgender Americans during this public health emergency and help keep marginalized communities safe as we continue to battle the virus. Working together as a federal delegation, we will always fight to protect and support the LGBTQ community and will continue working to deliver additional COVID-19 relief to Maryland.”
Attributing recent reductions in certain U.S. prescription drug prices to intense congressional scrutiny rather than a biopharma industry commitment to affordability, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) said Congress must put more guardrails in place and restructure how the industry does business. “I don’t trust the industry to do the right thing when we’re not looking at you with these Klieg lights,” he told executives from Amgen Inc., Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Novartis AG Oct. 1 during the second day of a House Oversight Committee hearing on drug prices. Whether a promise or a threat, Sarbanes comments align with analysts’ thoughts on what may lay ahead for drug prices after the November election. For instance, RBC Capital Markets LLC analyst Randall Stanicky said he expects more aggressive drug price reform, as well as corporate tax reform that would have broader market implications, if former Vice President Joe Biden is elected president and Democrats gain a strong majority in both the House and Senate.
A bill that would will help deliver primary care, dental screenings and mental health services to students in low-income and underserved communities passed by voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives late Tuesday. The School-Based Health Centers Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), would continue federal support for school-based health centers through 2025. The statutory authorization had expired in 2014. These centers offer a range of affordable health services to at-risk children, from primary medical care and vision care to substance abuse counseling and case management, and over a third of them are located in rural areas. “Teams of professionals, I think, is how you describe these School-Based Health Centers across the country,” Sarbanes said on the House floor Tuesday. “And they really marshal response to the needs of young people in schools in a way that you really can’t replicate anywhere else in the community – that’s why they’re so vital. They offer comprehensive health care to youth, delivering it in a setting where they already spend obviously much of their time – in a sense, a captive audience.” There are 80 school-based health centers in Maryland and over 2,500 across the country. Usually schools and community health organizations partner to create a location that is safe and convenient for students to access health care. Areas with school-based health centers have higher graduation rates and lower cases of asthma and hospital admissions, Sarbanes said. Students are 10 times more likely to seek mental health counseling when these centers are accessible, according to School-Based Health Alliance. “And now, of course, the services that School-Based Health Centers provide are needed more than ever, given the coronavirus pandemic. Young people are grappling with uncertainty and changes to their lives and being able to receive care in a familiar and supportive setting is critically important,” Sarbanes said.
Several Democratic representatives blasted pharmaceutical executives over the prices of their companies’ drugs during a Wednesday House Oversight Committee hearing that caught the chief of Bristol Myers Squibb subsidiary Celgene and Teva flat-footed.... Teva’s CEO Kåre Schultz failed so badly to win over lawmakers that one told him he “might as well get off the screen” of the virtual hearing. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) told Schultz, “It would have been nice to come, maybe, equipped a little bit better.”
From the time Oversight Committee Chairman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) gaveled Wednesday’s hearing to order, Democrats seemed intent on making it an extended pitch for their signature drug pricing bill, known as H.R. 3, which would allow Medicare to negotiate over drug prices, akin to the way that many European governments negotiate for drugs and other health care services.... Teva’s Schultz was the clear loser of Wednesday’s hearing. He declined to answer nearly all of the questions posed to him about Teva’s behavior because, he claimed, they dealt with decisions which happened before he took over as CEO in 2017. By the second hour, lawmakers were so frustrated with his answers that began openly insulting Schultz. “I just want to congratulate you on being able to answer, from my estimate, about 50 percent of these questions by saying you weren’t there,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) “It would have been nice to come, maybe, equipped a little bit better.” “You might as well get off the screen,” Gomez added, referring to Schultz’s appearance via video conference.
Maryland lawmakers announced $5.6 million in federal funding to upgrade MARC Commuter trains and improve the overall railroad infrastructure across the state. The congressional delegation includes – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Andy Harris, M.D., Anthony G. Brown, Jamie Raskin and David Trone (all Md.) “This new federal investment will help modernize Maryland’s freight and passenger rail networks – a critical element of our state’s economy,” the lawmakers said. “Team Maryland will continue to secure federal resources to improve our state’s transportation infrastructure and help keep Maryland commuters safe.” The Maryland Transit Administration was awarded $3.1 million for the Martin’s Yard Northeast Corridor Switch Modernization Project, which will install power-operated turnouts where MARC Commuter trains enter and exit the Martin Yard station in Middle River. The turnouts will replace the original hand-thrown turnouts which will “increase capacity at the Baltimore Penn Station for Amtrak passenger trains.” The Department of Transportation was awarded $2.5 million to rehabilitate nearly 2,000 feet of track and install new crossties, ballast and rail. A new turnout on track will also be installed. It will be operated by the Class III Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company.
U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Congressman John Sarbanes (all D-Md.), announced $242,858 in federal funding on Wednesday for the Chesapeake Bay Trust to expand environmental education programs. The funding, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training grant program, will help local school districts and educators create and maintain environmental education programs for students throughout the area. “To protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay in the years ahead, we must inspire Maryland’s next generation of environmental stewards,” the lawmakers said. “This new federal investment will help the Chesapeake Bay Trust continue to provide hands-on environmental learning experiences, connect Maryland students with the natural world, and enrich the classroom curriculum.” The funding is a part of a $2.2 million award for 18 environmental education projects throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.