Before a crowd of hundreds of business leaders on Tuesday morning, Sen. Mark Kirk offered some ideas to turn the economy around.
The Illinois Republican was the guest of a dozen chambers of commerce—including those from Montgomery, Oswego and Yorkville—who organized Tuesday’s legislative breakfast at Piper’s Banquets in Aurora. And though Kirk led off with some dire words about our current economic situation, he did come to the table with several ideas.
Kirk has already introduced one of them, the Lincoln Legacy Infrastructure Development Act, in Congress. Co-authored with Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren, from Illinois’ 14th District, the bill removes roadblocks to public/private partnerships in the rail, highway and aviation industries.
The idea, he said, is to get those projects moving with a mix of private and public money, and without all the federal restrictions that often block such partnerships. Kirk said that a National Transportation Safety Board study showed a need of $225 billion per year in transportation project funding, but only $90 billion a year in government spending in those areas.
The bill is named after Abraham Lincoln, Kirk said, in reference to that president’s support of the Transcontinental Railway Act. Kirk called that Lincoln’s third-greatest achievement, behind ending the Civil War and signing the Emancipation Proclamation, and noted that the 3,000-mile rail system was built “off the books of the federal taxpayer.”
Kirk said rather than concentrating on one large bill to help the economy, lawmakers should "cherry-pick" the ideas that will pass quickly, and approve them.
Kirk suggested a moratorium on any new federal regulations costing over $100 million. He said the federal government should wipe out all special interest provisions in the tax code. And he said the U.S. should lower the corporate tax rate to five percent, a move he said would keep the country’s top earners stateside, not setting up shop in other nations to save tax money.
“Hundreds of billions of profits would come home, and be invested in America,” he said.
Kirk spoke in support of the Keystone Pipeline, a $13 billion system that would pump oil from Canada to the United States. And he suggested that the government should buy unpaid mortgages at 80 percent of their value and offer them back to troubled homeowners at reduced rates. This, he said, would preserve the value of the home, prevent blight, and keep the neighborhoods on the road to recovery.
Kirk saved some of his sharpest words for the 2010 health care reform bill, which he said provides an incentive for companies with more than 50 employees to drop below that level, to avoid having to insure them or pay a fine. He said the bill should be repealed, but noted that President Barack Obama will veto any attempt to do so, and he has the votes to ensure such a veto would stand.
He pointed to the 2012 election as the deciding factor.
“You tell me who wins the presidency, and I will tell you whether the health care bill is law or not,” he said.