LITTLE ROCK — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., on Friday unveiled a package of bills he said would encourage the creation of jobs in the U.S. and discourage American companies from sending jobs overseas.
“We’ve been through a very, very difficult recession. We all know how hard the Great Recession has been on people, not just here in Arkansas but around the country,” Pryor said in a news conference at the Little Rock facility of Custom Metals, a division of Little Rock-based steel construction company Lexicon Inc.
“One of the reasons that our recovery has been so sluggish is because those middle-class jobs, a lot of them, just aren’t here anymore,” he said. “They can be here, but they’re not here. As the economy gets rolling again, those jobs just a lot of times have been outsourced and they’ve gone overseas.”
The second-term senator, who is facing a tough re-election challenge from U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, touted three bills, one of which, titled the Bring Jobs Home Act, has already been introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Walsh, D-Mont., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
That bill would end corporate tax deductions for the moving expenses of companies that move facilities overseas and would give companies a tax write-off, plus an additional 20 percent tax credit, for the cost of bringing jobs back to the U.S.
Pryor said he is sponsoring a pair of bills to be introduced next week that would:
—Require federal agencies to use American-made materials in public buildings and public works projects, unless an agency obtains a waiver.
—Permanently extend the Build America Bonds program, which supports capital projects in states and communities, and allow the bonds to be used fund levees and flood control projects.
—Create a voluntary “America Star” labeling program to identify products made in the U.S.
—Allow entrepreneurs to save up to $10,000 a year in a tax-free savings account for the purpose of creating a small business.
—Provide a 25 percent federal income tax credit for angel and venture investment in qualified small businesses, particularly in the areas of advanced manufacturing, aerospace, biotechnology, clean energy and transportation infrastructure.
“We have a real chance to bring a lot of jobs back into the U.S., and of course I believe that a lot of those jobs would come back to Arkansas,” Pryor said. “This is good for our workers, it’s good for our companies and it’s good for America.”
Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, spoke at the news conference in support of the legislation and said the AEDC worked with Pryor on the measures.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has predicted the Bring Jobs Home Act would go nowhere, calling it “designed for campaign rhetoric and failure.”
Pryor said Friday he has been “focused on manufacturing for a long time, way before election year ever rolled around.” He said he hoped the package of bills would pass with bipartisan support.
Pryor said he did not have an estimate of the cost of the proposals because the Congressional Budget Office was still studying them.
David Ray, spokesman for Cotton’s campaign, said Friday, “It’s going to take more than putting stickers on products to create jobs in America. Our economy shrank by nearly 3 percent last quarter in part because Senator Pryor has spent the last six years supporting every job-killing measure President Obama has proposed, including Obamacare.”