Left: Rep. Ron Kind speaks as Chamber CEO Dave Minor looks on. Right: Lunch attendees participate in discussion.
On Monday, April 15, Rep. Ron Kind (D-3) met for lunch with members of the Chamber's Board of Directors, Governmental Affairs Committee and Business Advocacy Investors to discuss federal issues important to the business community. Chamber Legislative Intern Nate Kane reports on the discussion:
The Congressman is cognizant of the issues harming our roadways, and he is actively seeking solutions to fix them. In fact, he listened intently to a few policy suggestions from the Board. One solution offered up was a mileage tax. Under a mileage tax, drivers are taxed not for the gas they consume but for miles they drive. Although this would certainly increase the federal transportation revenue, some worry about the implications it might have on personal privacy.
The Congressman, citing a few state-policy proposals, also expressed discontent with the current gas-tax scheme. This tax, he said, cannot sustain our roads forever because cars are becoming increasingly fuel efficient, which means that in the future less gas will be taxed and less money will be sent to Congress for road repairs and construction. For innovative solutions, he said that he is studying transportation policies in Oregon, a state that has recently dealt with this struggle.
Broadband, which falls under infrastructure, was an area for which the Congressman conveyed steadfast commitment. He said that every home and business in America deserves to have access to the internet. He also said that the United States must continue to increase 5G access. 5G internet is the way of the future, so to stay competitive with nations like China, we must ensure that America is among the first nations to adopt this technology.
The Congressman seemed sympathetic to the struggles of current-day college student who have to pay back large sums of student-loan debt. To improve conditions in this regard, he advocated increasing the number of Perkins loans available to lower-income students. He promoted, too, making the process of consolidating and refinancing loans easier. If those systems were improved, the burden of existing debt would become significantly lighter.
He also agreed that universities must do a better job informing their students about the realities of life after graduation. Many students go to school unaware of the debt they are accumulating along the way. That, all agreed, needs to change if the problem of student-loan debt is going to improve.
Immigration and Workforce:
To Congressman Kind, sovereign nations have a right to protect their borders. But he believes the current administration is exercising that right inappropriately. America, he noted, is experiencing a crisis in employment; there are too many jobs and too few employees. As a result, the country should not be limiting the number of immigrants it takes in. He emphasized as well that throughout history some of the most brilliant American minds have been immigrants, their achievements earning them Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes. So he said that limiting the number immigrants, especially legal immigrants, is wrong—and harmful to the economy.
The national debt seems to be a rare area of bipartisan concern. The Congressman explained that overspending forces the government to bond out to cover its expenditures. When a country bonds out, he continued, financial stability then relies on a stably low interest rate. And since the interest rate have been so low for so long, no one knows where it will go in the future—whether it will remain low or shoot up. Whatever happens, though, that uncertainty is unhealthy for the economy, and if the rate were to get unreasonably high, it could spell problems for the entire nation. Consequently, the Congressman, and most of his colleagues, are exploring solutions to this ongoing issue.
Affordable Care Act federal court decision:
He spoke briefly about the recent healthcare case where a federal judge in Texas held the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, and he did so at a moment when Republicans lack a replacement plan. That means that if the case were to remain good law, the healthcare market could face serious dangers.
Posted by Nate Kane, Chamber Legislative Intern
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.