Marco Rubio Addresses Construction, Manufacturing Industry Coalition

November 9th, 2015 by Nick St. Denis

With the 2016 presidential election a year away, the construction and manufacturing industries are keeping a collective eye on how the candidates’ policies will affect business. Wednesday evening, thousands of industry members had an opportunity to get into the specifics with one candidate.

A coalition of building sector associations participated in the first edition of a presidential teleforum series. Participants spent more than a half hour hearing from presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida on his policies as they pertain to the industry.

Presidential candidate Marco Rubio addressed 7,600

Presidential candidate Marco Rubio addressed 7,600 industry members on a recent teleforum.

The teleforum was hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the Associated General Contractors of America, BIPAC, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Retail Federation. Approximately 7,600 members of the coalition listened in on the call, and a handful were able to pitch questions to the senator during the 45-minute forum.

Rubio was asked by a member of ABC about what he would do to address the skilled-worker shortage plaguing the construction industry. The senator said society needs to “stop stigmatizing that kind of work. We’ve for too long told young Americans that people who work with their hands are people not smart enough to go to college. And that just isn’t true.”

He said the country needs a president that “celebrates these trades” and draws attention to the economic opportunities in the industry, which offers “good paying jobs … in many cases better than the jobs people are getting after four years of college.”

The senator said he will continue to explore the idea of opening up the Federal Pell Grant to students before they graduate high school, so high school students who know they want to work in a particular trade can get the experience and education necessary to be career-ready immediately after high school.

He talked about “modernizing higher education, in particular skills training and vocational training in trade schools.” He also pointed to the Latin Builders Association’s charter school as a model for how the skilled worker pipeline can be bolstered. The school trains students in particular trades to develop the skills necessary to work with one of the association’s members or elsewhere in the industry upon graduation.

“I think we need to be doing more of that,” he said. “Because we do have a shortage of people in these fields, and we have a higher education and education system that just isn’t producing the workforce.”

The forum was very much focused on small businesses.

“Only five percent of American business activity happens through C corporations,” he said, adding that small- and mid-sized businesses are “the backbone of our economy. Without that, we basically become a corporatist society and a corporatist economy.”

He told participants that he is pushing for tax reform that “protects small businesses.” He calls for a “dramatic simplification of the tax code” and has proposed all businesses, no matter the size or how they’re organized, pay no more than a 25-percent flat tax rate. Rubio also proposes businesses be able to fully and immediately expense any investment they make.

“If you make an investment to grow your business, you now have to deduct it on a schedule for depreciation,” he said. “It’s holding back investments, and it’s also unfair to small businesses [that] can’t carry that cost.”

He called for “pro-growth regulatory policy” that includes the establishment of a national regulatory budget, which would set an overall cap on federal regulations.

“It would let Congress vote up or down on regulations that have a major impact on the economy,” he said. “It also exposes the true cost of regulations on the American economy and small businesses. And it would subject independent agencies like the Federal Communications Commission or the Securities and Exchange Commission to cost-benefit analysis. In the process of doing that, through your elected representatives, it would dramatically increase the ability of small businesses to have input into the regulatory process.”

Healthcare was a particular topic of interest. Rubio said he’ll continue to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare,” which he wants to replace with “a patient-centered alternative that provides flexibility to businesses.”

“What I’ve called for is putting everyone in charge of their own healthcare decisions,” he said. “You would be allowed to provide pre-tax money to your employees instead of buying the plan for them. Provide pre-tax money that they can use to buy health insurance from anybody in the country that would sell it to them. And you would also be allowed to create joint pools with other small businesses in the same industry or in the same community that provides the same coverage. These are much better options than what we face right now.”

The senator said he has called for a “common-sense balance between worker and employer rights,” as well as the expansion of American-made energy. He was asked about his opposition to the Import-Export Bank, which he said has grown into what he thinks is a corrupt organization.

“I think there are better ways to make our businesses competitive,” he said, “including dealing with the tax code, limiting the regulations, making America a cheaper place to manufacture, lowering energy costs… providing a more skilled workforce… and of course pursuing free and fair trade agreements that make sure our export products are not discriminated against in the international marketplace.”

At the end of the call, one participant asked Rubio about the growing threat of cyber attacks and his thoughts on how that issue should be dealt with.

He said he is a proponent of more interaction and exchanging of information between experts in the private sector and the government. “Because the truth is, the best people in cyber security are not in government,” he said. “They’re in the private sector.”

Rubio was the first presidential candidate to accept the coalition of business groups’ invitation to address and answer questions from its members. The other candidates invited to speak with the groups are (in alphabetical order) former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Dr. Ben Carson; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas); former HP CEO Carly Fiorina; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); and businessman Donald Trump.

Stay tuned to dwmmag.com in the coming weeks and months for continued coverage of the coalition’s teleforums with each candidate.

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