Congressman Tom Emmer Talks Tax Reform and How It Impacts Small- and Medium-sized Businesses

The Policymaker Profile series is a monthly article aimed at revealing to you, our members, the thinking of leading government officials on current policy issues. Each month we will introduce you to a leader whose duties have a direct bearing on the fortunes of the electronics manufacturing industry.

Featured in this month's edition is Congressman Tom Emmer, a U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 6th congressional district, serving since 2015. He is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and Subcommittees on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises, Monetary Policy and Trade and Terrorism and Illicit Financing.

What are your top priorities in Congress?

As a member of Congress, my top priorities are shaped by the concerns I hear from around the state and throughout Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District: continuing the work to reform our complex tax code; lifting the weight of a burdensome regulatory environment that hinders growth and innovation; opening new markets through international trade agreements; improving our transportation and infrastructure networks; and ensuring we have a workforce ready to propel our country and our economy forward.

Restoring economic vitality to Minnesota is also a top priority. That’s why I introduced the MINER Act, to allow for the exploration of potential mining opportunities in Northern Minnesota and create new, high paying jobs throughout the state. Legislation like the MINER Act will unleash our ability to tap into our abundance of natural resources and provide a brighter future for our next generation, just as those in Northern Minnesota have done for decades while preserving our beautiful state.

IPC applauded Congress for its action in passing the comprehensive Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. What are your views on tax reform and how will it impact small and medium-sized businesses? 

Having owned a small business, I know how burdensome our tax code can be for entrepreneurs and business owners. I am proud Congress ushered in game-changing tax reform, resulting in a more business friendly America and bigger paychecks for Minnesotans. Not long after Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act many Minnesota-based companies - including U.S. Bancorp, Ecolab, TCF Financial - declared their intent to invest in their employees and their communities. Minnesota is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies, many of whom have handed out thousand dollar bonuses, increased wages and a reinvestment in our state’s economy, all because of tax reform.

Tax reform is essential to get our economy going but it’s equally vital that we roll back heavy-handed government regulations, especially for Main Street. As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, I prioritize easing the burden of regulations on small and medium-sized companies and Main Street banks and credit unions.  In 2015 when I first came to Congress, I introduced the Home Mortgage Disclosure Adjustment Act to alleviate excessive reporting requirements on the very banks and credit unions that provide mortgages to families and lines of credit to entrepreneurs. I’m proud the bill passed the House this month and now awaits action in the Senate.

Manufacturing is a major contributor to Minnesota’s economy. As a member of the House manufacturing Caucus how do you plan to create and keep well-paying manufacturing jobs in Minnesota?

With 34,500 Minnesotans working in manufacturing, the industry is the 2nd largest employer in my district. Since last November, our country added 200,000 manufacturing jobs. Ensuring this industry continues full steam ahead remains a top priority for me in Congress. We need policies that allow the manufacturing industry to continue to grow.

One of the ways we can do that is through the development of international trade agreements and the opening of new markets for Minnesota business owners, farmers and manufacturers to sell their products. Nearly 757,000 Minnesotans rely upon foreign trade and investment to provide for their families. Farmers for the leading agricultural producing state generate billions for the United States. Minnesota dairy farmers exported nearly $1.2 billion of dairy products to Mexico and $631 million to our neighbor to the north, Canada. Manufactured products also make up a large part of the $19.2 billion in goods exported from the state of Minnesota in 2016, which is why I continue to lead on trade in Congress and work to end the current trade embargo on Cuba to open new markets for Minnesotans to explore. I am and remain committed to ensuring we have strong, dynamic and fair trade policies in place.

There is mounting concern among our members about the shortage of U.S. workers with the skills needed by electronics manufacturers. In your opinion, what can be done to address the skills gap in manufacturing?

In addition to being a member of the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus, I am also a member of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. Career and Technical Education (CTE) is vital to our nation’s future. I supported the passage of legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which will help more Americans enter the workforce with the skills necessary to compete for and succeed in high-skilled, in-demand careers. When I’m back in the district, I prioritize visiting numerous manufacturing businesses and technical schools and held a “Skills Gap Summit” this past August to bring together educators, employers, and state officials so that they can work together to bridge the skills gap.

Transportation and infrastructure continue to be a focus of mine and remain an important element of spurring job creation in our great state. The current lengthy permitting process prevents our state and local government as well as private companies’ ability to repair our damaged roads and bridges. These transportation networks are not only the lifeblood of our communities and commerce, they also are a key driver in attracting new business and new jobs to Minnesota. It’s imperative that we make the process to update our nation’s infrastructure simpler so more projects can get started and we can move forward, and I remain hopeful that infrastructure reform and investment will remain a top priority for the 115th Congress.

Outside of policy and politics, what do you enjoy doing for fun?

When I’m not working in Washington or Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, I’m spending time with my wife Jacquie and our seven wonderful children. I also enjoy playing hockey (I still play in a scrimmage once a week), and when I can, fishing and hunting in beautiful Minnesota is always a good way to pass the time.