U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall returned to Kansas’ first district during the House recess this week. He spoke with the Sentinel about a few major topics in the House that are affecting Kansans. 

NAFTA

A major concern for both Marshall and President Donald Trump is how current trade deals function. The 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, will be renegotiated and hopefully improve trade for American producers.

“Trade is the number one concern I have for agriculture right now. We literally have mountains of grain with nowhere to go. If we lose NAFTA, it’s a code blue,” Marshall said. “I’ve stressed that to President Trump and the secretary of agriculture. My district is the second most dependent district on NAFTA. We ship so much of our goods to Mexico and Canada.”

In regards to free trade, the administration has we’ve opened up China to beef, Korea to poultry, Columbia to rice and Venezuela to pork. In addition, Marshall explained that the administration is focusing on fair trade as well.

“China and India way to often don’t keep their share of the bargain, so what President Trump has done is insist that they don’t abuse the system,” Marshall said. “In Kansas, we export $1.2 billion worth of commodities and grain to China, but we import $3 billion worth of goods from, primarily airplane parts and shoes. President Trump is concerned with this mismatch. Wichita imports those parts and then assembles them into airplanes, so what more can we make here in this country? That’s what President Trump is working on.”

Some progress has been made. During Trump’s recent trip to Asia, the administration was able to lift China’s 90 percent tariff on ethanol.

In renegotiating NAFTA, Marshall hopes the agriculture deal will remain steady, while improving circumstances for manufacturing.

“What we’ve tried to convey to the administration is to hold agriculture harmless. Nobody is upset about the agriculture portion of NAFTA, the president is more worried about the manufacturing portion. I’d say that we’ve lost more jobs to Mexico because of technology and cheap labor. Most of the manufacturing jobs I’ve seen that are successful require a higher skill set. What you’re doing here at Pfizer and the other places around town, they require a higher skill set. President Trump is more concerned about bringing those jobs back, specifically with automobiles. A lot of the automobile guts, like electrical harnesses, are built in Mexico, so he’s trying to renegotiate NAFTA to bring those manufacturing jobs back,” Marshall said.

Tax reform

On Nov. 16, the House passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which is intended to be comprehensive tax reform that reduces taxes and stimulates the economy to create jobs. The Senate version has passed through committee and should be voted on this week.

“I believe hardworking Americans deserve tax relief, a tax code that’s fair and simpler. American’s deserve to keep more money in their pocketbooks and our tax reform does just that,” Marshall said. “One of the goals we had was to get relief for middle and lower working class Americans.”

Marshall explained that the average American family of four making a household income of $59,000 will see a $1,200 savings. The bill also reduces the C corporation rate, which is the rate taxing businesses separately from their owners.

“We wanted to make a healthier economy by lowering the C-corp rate to be competitive with the rest of the world, which will increase American ownership and we’ll have more, higher-paying jobs in these corporations. Secondly, we’ll help small businesses by reducing the rates their paying as well,” Marshall said.

Though the bill sounds similar to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax plan enacted in 2012, Marshall pointed out that there are a number of differences.

“I think Kansans understand exactly how different this is. Kansas eliminated the LLC rate by taking it to zero. Here, we’re taking it to 25 percent. That’s a big difference, and we’ll also keep the C-corp rate lower than the pass-through rate,” Marshall said. “What happened in Kansas is the reverse. When the LLC rate went to zero, 1,400 companies converted themselves from C-corps to LLCs strictly for tax purposes. That won’t be happening here. Finally, we’re eliminating a lot of lobbying and lawyer loopholes to help pay for this. Kansas was not able to follow through on that.” 

Jobs

Part of the tax reform bill is to increase job growth through a stimulated economy. Marshall explained that in Kansas, there are jobs, but a mismatch in skill sets.

“So we have 20,000 open jobs in Kansas right now, Nationally, we have 5 million open jobs. About 500,000 of those jobs are in some type of computer science, and at the same time, we have 600,000 people who quit looking for work. We don’t necessarily have a lack of laborers — we have a misfit between their skill set and what we need today,” Marshall said.

Part of Marshall’s solution is for communities to encourage computer science education and focus on building a skilled workforce.

“The federal government cannot mandate those training issues, so our local community colleges are doing a great job at resolving those issues. You could go to Cloud County and complete a two-year degree and make $40-70,000 a year in wind energy. People in Wichita technical schools are making $25 an hour as students and they have a 98 percent placement. There’s some federal programs that can incentivize it, but for the most part, it’s up to local communities to respond,” Marshall said.

Another aspect of Marshall’s solution is to simplify the worker visa program. Introduced in 2011, the American Specialty Agriculture Act proposes to create a nonimmigrant H-2C work visa program for temporary agricultural workers, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“I’m working with the dairy industry here. We have the fastest growing dairy herd in the nation and those cows need to be milked 365 days a year, two or three times a day, so the current agriculture visa does not work. We’re trying to find some long-term solutions and I think the H-2C is a step in the right direction,” Marshall said.

Next up

As congress gets back to work on Tuesday, Marshall explained that another issue will enter the ring.

“Sexual harassment is a big issue this week. There’s going to be a bill submitted in the House requiring sexual harassment training. There was always something offered, but never required.”

Marshall explained that he was surprised that training was not required in the House.

“I already require all my staff to take the training. When I first got there and found out there was no formal training required, I said, ‘We’ve got to do this,’” Marshall said. “I applaud these women coming forward now because it will help them emotionally, but more importantly, protect future women from harassment. I’m glad this issue is coming to a head.” 

Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at cderksen@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @MacSentinel.