COUNTERPOINT: How will you address the challenges facing business?
Encourage collaboration, discourage outsourcing, support research
As a candidate for Congress, I often get asked two important questions as I travel the district. First, why would you want to be a part of the dysfunction in Washington? And second, what is the most important issue that people care about in your district?
The answer to the first question is straightforward. I am running for Congress because I am upset at the lack of leadership in Washington, and I believe I bring a unique background and experience that will allow me to help people in Southwestern and Central Illinois. From my 18 years as a judge, I bring a record of public service and a skill-set of listening to facts, bringing people together, and finding solutions. I am a proud mother, who has watched both her children dedicate their lives to public service – one as a middle-school teacher and another as an Army Ranger serving overseas. I want to bring those values and experience to Congress and start improving the lives of families in Southwestern and Central Illinois.
The answer to the second question is also simple: the most important thing that Congress has not addressed and needs to focus on is creating more jobs in our communities. While the topic might be obvious to many, the solutions we need are not so easy. As business leaders, the readers of this publication know that the uncertainty created by Washington’s reckless behavior has hurt growth. I couldn’t stand by and watch the dysfunction in Washington continue to hurt our country. I see plenty of hope for things to get better, but in order to make those changes we need different leaders in Washington to cut through the political fighting and find solutions.
As a member of Congress, I would not become a part of the partisan bickering, but instead focus on the solutions below that I believe can foster job creation and improve our region’s local economy.
The first area that we need to address is our tax system. Congress needs to start setting tax policies that prioritize growing jobs and helping small businesses. We need to create a tax culture that incentivizes creating jobs in America, hiring veterans, and fostering innovation. Even though it hurts our local businesses, Washington politicians continue to pass budgets that give tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas. I will work to stop that, and bring other legislators together to instead incentivize companies to bring jobs back to America. I’d also work to reinstitute the tax credits businesses used to get for hiring veterans. I think it was shameful that Congress let that expire last year, and I’d work to bring it back to ensure that we give our local veterans a good shot at landing jobs.
Next, I would use my role as Congresswoman to bring people together in our area to work collaboratively on finding new economic opportunities. I know that I can’t fix everything in Washington alone, but I believe I can make a difference in our area by bringing business leaders and labor groups together to focus on everyone’s shared goals. I have a record of building coalitions and bringing people together to find results. That is the same approach I’d bring to my role as a Congresswoman in this region.
For example, I’d like to bring business and labor together, to partner with our local universities and community colleges and talk about workforce needs. We should be expanding apprenticeship programs in the district, to make sure that we are preparing our young people for the jobs on the 21st Century. I will support legislation to make it easier for workers to get skills retraining, by offering businesses tax credits for their workers who get training in partnership with local community colleges. By improving the quality of our workforce, we will improve the productivity of existing businesses, and encourage other companies to bring their good jobs here.
One unique opportunity we have in our district is due to the world-class research being done on our college campuses. The illogical sequester cuts created by Congress hit our universities hard and caused some distrust among researchers. I will actively try and build better relationships with the universities, because I think there are real opportunities for job creation and community enhancement. For example, at the University of Illinois, they have created Research Park, a space where both start-up companies are commercializing their products and large technology companies employ students and faculty to help in their R&D and product development. This program employs over 1,400 people, as well as a stream of 400 student interns. By building on the success of this program, we can encourage companies and students to stay in our region. We cannot afford to keep losing good jobs, and the bright young minds that fill them, to big cities and other states.
I also know our region can be a leader for the nation and the world in the production of plant-based bio-fuels. We can build on the research being done on campus to develop new technologies and methods to use crops and plant waste to create fuel. I want to promote investments in wind, solar and other resources to grow a local alternative energy economy that can’t be outsourced. And to help grow this industry, I’ll support measures that provide grants for businesses that provide on-the-job training for renewable energy jobs.
Lastly, in order for all businesses to succeed, we need to make critical improvements to our infrastructure. Congress has failed to address this major need and it is time we act. Our roads, highways, and bridges are in need of serious repair. Congress should also work to ensure that the steel, iron and manufactured goods used in these projects are American-made. This work would not only put Illinoisans back to work now in construction, but would improve the business climate for everyone for generations to come.
Overall, there is not a magic bullet solution to fixing the challenges that local businesses face, but we know things will not get better if the status quo in Washington continues. My vision doesn’t have a Democratic label, it doesn’t have a Republican label, but it does have an urgency to help all of the people from our area in Illinois who deserve a voice in Congress. If we put the right people in Washington, who hold the right priorities and know how to bring people together to find solutions — we can start to improve our situation and create more opportunity in Southwestern and Central Illinois.
Ann Callis is the Democratic nominee this November in the 13th Congressional District race.