Rep. Rutherford meets with small business owners
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford met with area business owners last week to discuss local impacts of impending federal legislation.
The Republican congressman led the discussion as six business owners and three representatives associated with small businesses attended a meeting in Callahan at The Pig Bar-B-Q Aug 31.
Topics included healthcare, tax reform, infrastructure and transportation issues. Rutherford discussed how federal legislation affects how bills move forward within the house and senate, affecting all levels, including small business owners. He urged those in attendance to contact legislators to support district-driven funding to keep projects moving.
“I think we need to bring back district-driven funding,” Rutherford said before the meeting’s start. “I think that will end some partisanship in Washington.”
He also wants to see an end to the 60 supermajority cloture rule. For a simple majority, the Senate needs 51 votes to pass a bill and 50 votes if the vice president votes to break a tie.
“The Senate needs to go back to a simple majority rule as opposed to a super majority cloture rule to end filibuster,” Rutherford said. “They can’t get anything done. And, quite frankly, that 60 majority rule – it actually subverts the will of the public. Those two things are really getting in the way of Congress being able to do their job.”
During the roundtable discussion, business owners voiced concern about the shortage of skilled workers. They say the educational focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics has proven detrimental to businesses that rely on laborers.
Traders Hill Farm owner Dick Blaudow said he is challenged to retain workers after they receive training. His aquaponics company is based in Hilliard.
“There are limited people in the pool,” he said.
Nassau County School Board Member Jonathan Petree said the school district has vocational programs in area high schools, including West Nassau High School’s building construction technology courses. Hilliard Middle-Senior High School has agriculturally-based curriculum and machinist courses available. In addition to serving as a school board member, Petree owns the martial arts business Atlantic Warriors Wing Chun Kung Fu.
“The good news is we already have a lot of programs that are in place that do align with the needs of local employers. But we need to get the word out more,” Petree said.
Turning back to governmental matters, Rutherford said that the Affordable Care Act is on the way out. The Senate rejected a repeal on the national healthcare plan in late July. He expects the Senate to reconsider by late September.
“Doing nothing is not an option, because the ACA is going down the tubes,” he said, adding, “We have to do something about this healthcare mess we’re in.”
Rutherford said one of the best ideas he’s seen is to create healthcare associations so that small business owners and individuals can share costs.
The congressman said politicians are also working toward tax reform. The current corporate tax rate at 35 percent could drop to 20 or 15 percent. President Donald Trump also proposes reducing the tax rate on offshore earnings, which are repatriated to 10 percent from the current 35 percent tax rate, according to online news reports.
“I believe we’re going to get tax reform accomplished by November,” Rutherford said. “Both sides of the aisle realize we need to fix our tax structure.”
“(Repatriation) encourages folks to bring their businesses back at a lower corporate tax rate and brings it back to America, which stimulates the economy and our infrastructure while investing in their businesses,” said Taryn Fenske, Rutherford’s communications director.
Traders Hill Farm CFO Tracy Nazzaro supports tax reform.
“We have a very complicated tax system – streamlining that tax system and lowering that tax rate is important so that business owners can reinvest back into their company,” she said. “The bigger we grow these companies, the more folks we can hire.”
Carrol Franklin attended the meeting to gather information for his son Greg, who owns Franklin Equipment. He urged Rutherford to do more for small business owners.
“There needs to be a bigger tax break,” he said.
Because commerce cannot thrive without proper infrastructure, Rutherford suggests reinvesting patriation funds to pay infrastructure costs.
As for transportation, the federal tandem axle weight limit on the interstate system is 34,000 pounds, according to information from the Federal Highway Administration.
Rutherford is in the process of gathering feedback so that he can take concerns under consideration. He’s also learning how weight restrictions affect commerce.
Junior’s Seafood Restaurant and Grill owner Abraham Hassam joined the luncheon. He owns three restaurants, with two in Nassau County.
“It’s nice to be able to voice our opinions and have him accessible to small business owners,” he said. “Go Callahan. Go Nassau County.”
Charting Memories owner Drew Landgrebe said this was his first roundtable discussion with a congressman.
“I’m excited to see exactly what it is,” he said. “The community has been very supportive of our business so far, so it’s been growing well and we’re quite happy with the area.”
First Coast Payments owner Ray Harrington said that Rutherford addressed his concerns about healthcare.
“I thought it was great to hear his perspective and hear what he needs help with,” he said. “It helps me understand what his challenges are as a congressman. I hope he does it again soon.”