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Jobs and Economy

As a small business owner, I understand what it takes to successfully run a business. The government's role in the economy should be limited to allow businesses to thrive and create jobs, and taxes and burdensome regulations should both be decreased. Fostering economic development and innovation as we recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will make our East Tennessee community stronger than before. At a time when people are suffering, the last thing we need is more job-killing mandates from the White House and taxes on basic needs like gas. It is time to get people back to work and get our economy on the road to recovery.

Last year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order titled Increasing Economic and Geographic Mobility that built on his previous EO 13777, to alleviate regulatory burdens on occupational licensing. To continue to carry his legacy in my service to you and to help get Americans back to work, introduced H.R. 3145, the Freedom to Work Act back in May. My bill encourages states and the federal government to roll back burdensome, job-killing occupational licensing regulations which studies show cost taxpayers $203 billion every year. Many of these requirements are simply a big government power grab to prevent competition and keep would-be workers out of a particular job market. My bill would encourage less red tape and make it easier for Americans to enter the workforce following a career of their choice. Read about support for my bill from Americans for Tax Reform here.

I also introduced H.R. 2363, the Voluntary Protection Program Act, which would codify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) which provides incentives to businesses with a demonstrated commitment to worker safety and health. The VPP safeguards nearly 1 million workers, and it saves private sector employers $257 million and public sector employers $30 million in workers’ compensation, insurance, and lost time costs by promoting safer workplaces. While the VPP has been operating since 1982, it is currently not statutory, meaning that it can be eliminated or defunded at any time based on the preference of the administration. This bill would make the VPP law.

In June, after hearing from many small business, beauty salon, spa, and barbershop owners in East Tennessee, as well as local cosmetologists such as Ashley Williams in Johnson City and Danielle Beam in Elizabethton, I added my name as a co-sponsor for H.R. 821, the bipartisan Small Business Tax Fairness and Compliance Simplification Act. Much like the restaurant industry, employees at barbershops and beauty salons rely heavily on tips to supplement their wages. This legislation would extend the tax code’s Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax tip credit — which is currently available only to the foodservice industry — to the tens of thousands of employer-based beauty service establishments where tipping is also customary. The FICA tax tip credit acts as a reimbursement for the costs employers incur in accounting for tip income and is part of an integrated compliance system that has been effective in ensuring the accurate reporting of tip income and tax compliance. By reducing the tax burdens for our tipped employees as well as improving reporting of tip income, H.R. 821 would simplify and create parity in the tax code for many of our local small business owners such as Elizabeth Gartner of Great Clips with 8 locations in Northeast Tennessee, Doc Roberts of Blades Salon in Pigeon Forge, and Wendy Avery of Levels Barbershop in Johnson City, who reached out to me looking to support their employees and grow their businesses.

In response to the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) 
proposed postal rate increases for this summer — which would be the second rate increase this year — I joined U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) in signing a bipartisan letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy expressing serious concerns about another substantial postal rate increase this year. I’ve heard from many employers in East Tennessee that a second postal rate increase in a single year would be a financial body blow and result in significant job losses and sizable reduction in their use of USPS mail services. Many of these companies, especially small businesses, cannot afford a second increase as their budgets have already been set for 2021, and they have said another postal rate hike curveball would reduce revenues and could lead to job losses. I will be monitoring this issue closely on behalf of the businesses and consumers of East Tennessee.

Toward the effort of keeping our taxes low and spurring our economy and job creation, I have also co-sponsored the following bills and amendments:

  • H.R. 1712, the Death Tax Repeal. This legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes. This legislation would protect family-owned businesses, farms, and ranches from being hit with a hefty tax in the event a loved one dies. This would allow farmers, ranchers, and small business owners to expand their operations, invest in their employees, and upgrade their infrastructure and technology, instead of selling off their assets to pay the estate tax.
  • H.R. 970, the Opportunity Zone Extension Act introduced by our fellow Tennessean, Rep. Tim Burchett. This legislation would stimulate new investment into Opportunity Zones and support a strong post-pandemic recovery in low-income and underserved communities. The Opportunity Zone program was enacted under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that President Trump signed into law in 2017. This program spurs investment in economically distressed communities by providing investors tax benefits in exchange for financing new locally approved projects and businesses. Like other sectors of our economy, the pandemic has slowed investment in Opportunity Zones, putting many projects on hold and creating uncertainty among investors. Despite these challenges, investment activity in the Opportunity Zones market is gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels and recent evidence has indicated that Opportunity Zones have real potential to help struggling communities recover. There are 176 communities in Tennessee that received the federal Opportunity Zone designation by the Trump Administration.
  • H.R. 3104, the Get Americans Back to Work Act. This bill would remove the federal supplemental unemployment benefit by June 30th. It’s time to put an end to federal policies that discourage workforce participation and slow down the American economy. The federal Get Americans Back to Work Act echoes Governor Lee’s announcement on May 11th that Tennessee will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state. Governor Lee further stated, “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”
  • H.R. 3275, the Pausing Unrelenting Markups on Petroleum (PUMP) Act of 2021. This act would suspend the 18.3% federal excise tax on gasoline until all emergency health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted or for 6 months after the date of enactment of the bill, whichever is longer. As of May 24, 2021, the national average gas price sits at over $3 a gallon - the highest it has been since the fall of 2014 - and Americans are suffering because of the growing financial burden. The temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline has only exacerbated this issue. This bill would provide direct relief to American consumers and businesses through a federal gas tax holiday.
  • In that spirit, I also signed a discharge petition in support of H.R. 859, the Protecting American Energy Jobs Act, which would nullify President Biden’s job-killing climate executive orders, overturn the energy leasing ban on federal lands, restore the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, and prohibit future energy moratoriums without the approval of Congress. Upon being signed by 218 members of the House, the discharge petition will force a vote on this bill on the House Floor, and should that time come, you can count on me to support it.
  • H.R. 1304, the bipartisan American Innovation and R&D Competitiveness Act. Research and Development (R&D) investments are more important than ever as U.S. companies strive to keep pace with the continuing evolution of markets and competition. This legislation will allow companies such as Eastman in Kingsport to continue to fully expense R&D costs in the year they occur. This important provision is critical for US based entities like Eastman to remain competitive on a global scale. I appreciate Eastman bringing this important issue to my attention.
  • H.R. 2558, the Accelerate Long-Term Investment Growth Now (ALIGN) Act. This act extends a provision in President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that under current law will phase-out at the end of 2022. It makes permanent the ability of businesses to fully and immediately recover or expense the cost of investments in certain short-lived assets, like machinery and equipment by deducting those costs from their tax bill in the year they make the investment. This represents a strong incentive for American businesses to invest in the kinds of assets that will make their workers more productive — which in turn contributes to economic, job, and wage growth. In my view, smart tax policy produces long-term economic growth more than any government hand out ever could! As our economy recovers and rebuilds from the effects of COVID-19, it’s important that federal tax policy be aligned to ensure the recovery continues, wages keep rising, and employers keep hiring.
  • I cosponsored an Amendment to the Fiscal Year 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriation bill with Congressman Darrell Issa to prevent the Department of Labor from eliminating Industry Recognized Partnership Programs (IRAP). IRAP was a jobs initiative by President Trump that allowedprospective workers to get hands-on experience while making the apprenticeship process more accessible for employers.

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