SENATOR COLLINS SPEECH TO OXFORD HILLS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Collins outlines 7-Point Plan for Maine Jobs
SOUTH PARIS, Maine – The following is the text of Senator Susan Collins’ address to the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce as prepared for delivery.
“I’d like to offer my personal congratulations to the businesses and individuals you honor tonight. Oxford Federal Credit Union, Cathy Fanjoy-Coffey, Don and Dianne Ferry, Ron Kugell, and Debbie Irons define community service. The contributions of all of the nominees are why this is such a great place to live, to work, and to visit.
“Nothing demonstrates the spirit of the Oxford Hills Region more fully than the way you have embraced the Travis Mills Project. Sergeant Mills’ courageous service in Afghanistan and the way he has responded to his own terrible injuries by reaching out to other wounded warriors is truly inspiring. The effort to establish a National Veterans Family Center here in Maine, supported by Rupert and Suzanne Grover, is a fitting tribute to these heroes.
“Community involvement moves worthwhile projects forward. It also can help correct what has gone wrong. In late 2011, Paris Fire Chief Brad Frost alerted me to an investigative report by the Norway Advertiser-Democrat that uncovered shocking health and safety violations, and wasted taxpayer dollars in Section 8 housing in Oxford County. I immediately called upon the Inspector General at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate. The result was significant changes in the way this vital program is administered. I commend Chief Frost and the Advertiser-Democrat for speaking out.
“Working together, you are producing remarkable economic vitality in the Oxford Hill region. New recreation opportunities and a strong ethic of environmental stewardship are making this region a tourism destination. From locally produced food products and farmers’ markets to the arts, you are advancing the best of Maine. During my previous visits here to Wells Wood Turning, Maine Machine Products, and New Balance, I have seen that our manufacturing sector is driven by ingenuity and a great work force.
“The economic progress you are making underscores the number-one issue we must address in Washington — jobs. Moving our economy forward and putting our people back to work remains my number-one goal. I have developed a Seven Point Plan for Jobs in Maine, which is designed to create and foster an environment that leads to job creation and growth.
“It begins with Maine’s greatest asset – our hard-working, resilient people. Robust workforce development, ensuring that Maine workers get the education and training they need to compete in the 21st century, must be a top priority.
“Despite our nation’s unemployment rate hovering near seven percent, job openings in high-growth industries like health care, clean energy, biosciences, and the manufacturing sector remain unfilled. I have met with business owners in Maine who have jobs available but cannot find trained workers to fill these vacant positions. In fact, a recent analysis by J.P. Morgan found that one-third of the U.S. unemployment rate is due to the imbalance between workers’ skills and available jobs.
“To reverse this trend, I introduced the bipartisan SECTORS Act – “Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success.” By providing competitive grants for partnerships that include institutions of higher education, employers, and workforce boards, this legislation aims to build customized training solutions for specific industries. This legislation will help align America’s workforce with the needs of our employers to promote a robust and growing economy.
“My Jobs Plan has a particular focus on small business. I would change provisions of the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – that impede business success and job creation.
“One is the job-killing “employer mandate,” which imposes draconian fines on businesses with 50 or more full-time employees unless they provide “qualified” insurance coverage they may not be able to afford. While most small businesses want to offer health insurance to their workers, those that don’t usually cannot afford to do so. These fines will discourage many employers close to the 50-job trigger from ever hiring that 50th worker. We should be providing incentives to help small businesses afford health insurance, not hitting them with fines.
“In addition, Obamacare defines an employee working just 30 hours a week as “full time.” This ill-conceived definition will cause millions of workers to see their hours and earnings reduced. In fact, one Maine school superintendent told me she now has to restrict substitute teacher hours, which is damaging to both teacher paychecks and student education. Similarly, I understand that the Town of Oxford has had to cut hours for its part-time workers.
“My plan would also reduce the tax burden on small business, our nation’s job creators. Firms with fewer than 500 employees generate about 50 percent of our nation’s GDP, account for more than 99 percent of employers and employ nearly half of all workers. We should do everything we can to encourage entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. That is why I introduced the “Small Business Tax Certainty and Growth Act,” which would make it easier for small businesses to plan for capital investments that are vital to expansion and the creation of good-paying jobs.
“My bill also would make it less costly to start a new business by doubling the deduction for start-up expenses and reduces the administrative burden on small business owners by allowing more companies to use the less complex cash method of accounting. I have urged leaders of both parties to act quickly on this common-sense legislation.
“As an example of how today’s small business can become the economic powerhouse of tomorrow, look no further than Maine’s robust and growing craft brewing industry, which now numbers 36 breweries with more than 1,200 employees – including those who work at Sunday River Brewery in Bethel. My proposal to reduce the federal excise tax small brewers pay per barrel would help these entrepreneurs grow and thrive. One study found that this change would increase economic activity nationally by $1 billion over five years and create nearly 4,400 jobs in just the first year.
“My next point is one some small business owners I have met with would put at the top of their list: stop tying up our job creators with red tape. We must ensure that federal regulations do not impose an unnecessary burden on job creation. My plan would require federal agencies to take into account the impact on small businesses and job growth before imposing new rules. In addition, if a small business makes a first-time paperwork mistake from which no harm results, my legislation would allow that business to seek a waiver from a penalty.
“As the most senior Republican on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, one of my highest priorities is to strengthen our nation’s transportation infrastructure. The safe and efficient flow of people and goods is critical to America’s economy. That is why I worked hard to secure 5.2 million dollars in federal funding in Rumford Point for the Martin Memorial Bridge replacement. We must make the crucial investments to address our nation’s pressing infrastructure needs.
“While emerging industries are important, so too are our traditional industries. We can create more American manufacturing jobs at no cost to the taxpayer simply by requiring the military to buy American-made athletic footwear for new recruits, just as it does for every other uniform item. In recent years, the Pentagon began giving recruits a voucher to purchase athletic footwear without any preference for shoes made in America, circumventing a law that’s been on the books since 1941!
“That is why, along with Senator King, I have authored legislation that will ensure that the Pentagon treats American-made athletic footwear just as it does American-made combat boots and service shoes. The new Defense funding bill includes our provision directing the Pentagon to evaluate the procurement of American-made athletic footwear for new recruits. One way we can make America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing without increasing the federal deficit a single dime is to make sure that the athletic footwear purchased every year by entry-level military recruits is manufactured by American companies like New Balance. American workers can meet the footwear requirements of nearly all our military service members if they are simply given the opportunity.
“These are common sense proposals that will energize our economy and put people back to work, here in Maine and around the country.
“Common sense is a valuable commodity, but it’s too often in short supply in Washington. As I led the effort last fall to end the government shutdown, I was proud to be joined by 13 Senate colleagues – six Republicans, six Democrats, as well as one independent, Maine’s Angus King. We have stayed united as what we call the “Common Sense Coalition.” We are dedicated to ending the bitter partisanship that plagues Washington and to work together to meet the challenges that confront our nation.
“Common sense, hard work, pulling together in times of difficulty, and rejoicing together in times of success are the values that define our state. Those are the values of the Oxford Hills Region that we celebrate tonight. Thank you for inviting me to be part of your celebration.”