The two major party candidates for the U.S. Senate spoke to a crowd of Iowa business leaders Thursday afternoon. Republican Joni Ernst outlined her record as a member of the state senate and called for junking the federal tax code, while Democrat Bruce Braley laid out a series of steps he says the federal government could take to boost the nation’s manufacturing sector. Ernst spoke first.
“We need to start by lowering taxes immediately on our hard-working families, but then working over the long term to scrap the existing tax code and work toward something that is fairer, flatter and simpler,” Ernst said. “Something that is much more competitive.” Braley says the U.S. has to do what competitors like China, India, the European Union and Russia have done and develop a national strategy to boost manufacturing and a national infrastructure plan.
“Every year Texas A&M publishes a report on the hidden costs of our failure to meet our aging infrastructure problems,” Braley said. “The latest report estimates we pay a hidden tax of $121 billion because we’re failing to meet these infrastructure needs. They delay the shipment of the goods you manufacture and cost all of us money.” Braley suggested creation of a new bank that could pool public and private resources to finance critical infrastructure projects in the U.S. The two were the final speakers at the day-long Advanced Manufacturing Conference sponsored by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry. Ernst was asked what could be done to increase the number of American workers who have the necessary skills to work in the manufacturing sector.
“The federal job training programs or workforce investment programs, I believe there are 40, 45 or so more programs, but they all overlap in one way or another and they’re administered by nine different departments and it becomes so very confusing,” Ernst said. “…What we need to do is really streamline down our job training programs, make them much more efficient and much more effective.” Braley called for making the federal tax credit for research and development permanent, along with changes in federal grants for students attending community colleges and technical schools.
“Pell Grants which are available over a nine-month academic year penalize community colleges that are helping to train your workforce for tomorrow because many of those students are on year-long programs and the lack of Pell Grants for many of these students in that summer semester poses a substantial economic challenge for them,” Braley said. Go to www.radioiowa.com to listen to all of what the candidates had to say yesterday (Thursday). The two candidates are scheduled to debate one another Saturday night in Davenport.