Economic Opportunity

The Blue Dog Coalition is focused on creating a positive economic climate geared toward bolstering growth and promoting innovation by working to advance policies that accelerate the economic recovery, create opportunities for middle class Americans to rejoin the workforce and assist small business owners grow their companies.
 
113th Congress:
 
Blue Dogs to President: ‘Time to Approve Keystone XL Pipeline Has Come’ 

Members of the fiscally conservative, Democratic Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to President Obama on June 13, 2013 to express their strong support for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline . The letter highlighted the positive economic and national security effects of constructing the pipeline, most notably increased job creation and decreased American dependence on foreign sources of oil.

“Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline will provide a positive impact to a broad spectrum of the American economy,” the Blue Dogs wrote. “An estimated 13,000 direct jobs will be created, with an additional 7,000 direct jobs needed to keep it operational. If the recent jobs report shows us anything, it’s that Americans are still in need of the highly-skilled, good-paying jobs that are created by a project of this magnitude. 

“The security risks we will avoid by construction of this pipeline are notable… Construction of this pipeline gives us the opportunity to displace a significant portion of the oil we import from these less-than-friendly nations, whose instability causes severe fluctuations in our gas prices here at home.

“The Blue Dog Coalition agrees with the broad alliance of business, labor, and community leaders that the time for this pipeline has come. The economic impact and national security benefits indicate that this project is clearly in the national interest. We urge the Administration to move swiftly to approve the construction of this pipeline for the benefit of the entire country.”

112th Congress:
 
H.R. 1325, The AMERICA Works Act
 
Despite the nation’s continued high unemployment rate, access to skilled labor is a repeated concern of manufacturers nationwide. Additionally, workers with certain skills or who are seeking to acquire new skills want a more efficient way to be recognized for these skills to help get matched with a prospective employer. In response, the Blue Dogs endorsed H.R. 1325, The AMERICA Works Act, legislation introduced by former Rep. Joe Donnelly of Indiana to help better connect skilled workers with manufacturers and employers who need to hire people with those skills. The AMERICAWorks Act would:
 
    - Require the U.S. Department of Labor to create a registry of skill credentials. These would include credentials required by federal or state laws for certain occupations, would be from the Manufacturing Institute’s Manufacturing Skills Certification System, and be industry-recognized and nationally portable credentials. This registry would constantly be updated and validated by a third party to reflect evolving industry requirements.
 
    - Prioritize existing federal resources under the Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, and Trade Adjustment Assistance workforce training programs so that they are better supporting education and training for in-demand skills and these industry-recognized, nationally portable credentials. By having more emphasis at the national level to help streamline and organize nationally recognized skills credentials, we can help ensure that job seekers or students can train for those skills that are in demand, gain current and future marketability, and know that their skills and training will be recognized by prospective employers both locally and across state lines. Beyond helping workers, this will also help manufacturers recognize, find, and trust the skills gained by a worker who has earned one of these nationally recognized credentials.
 
The Blue Dog Small Business Package
 
The Blue Dogs believe in fostering a pro-growth environment that allows small businesses to thrive.  The Blue Dog Small Business Package consists of three bills aimed at providing small business owners the resources they need to grow their businesses and hire new workers.
  1.  
    The SBAExpress program gives small business borrowers an accelerated turnaround time for SBA's review.  Small businesses receive a response to their application within 36 hours. In addition, lower interest rates are often available to borrowers when they apply through an Express program.
     
    Unlike traditional 7(a) loans, SBA Express loans carry a 50 percent guarantee and can be used as revolving lines of credit – to help restock inventories and support larger revenue sales – which are particularly critical for small businesses as they emerge out of the recession.
     
    Maximum loan amount is $350,000.  The Small Business Jobs Act temporarily increased the maximum to $1 million so more small businesses could take advantage of the streamlined approval process for working lines of credit and other capital they need.  That increase ends on 9/26/2011
     
    PROPOSAL:  Extend the $1 million max until Dec 31, 2012.
          
  2.  
    Market research shows that a large percentage of commercial mortgages outstanding are set to mature within the next few years, particularly those held by community banks.  As real estate values have declined, however, even small businesses that are performing well and making their payments on time can have a hard time refinancing these loans and may need to restructure their debt.
     
    Under the Small Business Jobs Act, the SBA authorized a temporary program—until Sept. 27, 2012—allowing small businesses to refinance eligible fixed assets in its 504 program without requirement of an expansion, as is the case with typical 504 loans. This program provides small businesses the opportunity to lock in long-term, stable financing, as well as protect jobs.
     
    PROPOSAL:  Extend program for 1 year.
     
     
  3.  
    It is the policy of the United States, as stated in the Small Business Act, that all small businesses have the maximum practicable opportunity to participate in providing goods and services to the government.
     
    To ensure that small businesses get their fair share, the SBA negotiates annual procurement preference goals with each federal agency and reviews each agency's results. The SBA is responsible for ensuring that the statutory government wide goals are met:
    < >23 percent of prime contracts for small businesses; (actual was 20.3% in 2010)5 percent of prime and subcontracts for small disadvantaged businesses; (actual was 7% in 2010)5 percent of prime and subcontracts for women-owned small businesses; (actual was 4.4% in 2010)3 percent of prime and subcontracts for HUBZone businesses; (actual was 2.4% in 2010)3 percent of prime and subcontracts for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (actual was 2.2% in 2010)There are no punitive consequences for not meeting the procurement goals.  However, the SBA’s Small Business Goaling Report is distributed widely & receives media attention.
     
    PROPOSAL:  Amend Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 644) to increase the small business procurement goals by 1% each.

BLUE DOG COALITION ANNOUNCES AGENDA FOR RURAL AMERICA

Today, the Blue Dog Coalition released A Strong Rural America, an agenda that outlines the path to prosperity and restoring the American Dream in rural communities across the country. Last weekend marked the 10-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which began a global financial crisis and an economic recession—a period of time that fundamentally changed the American economy and brought about a recovery that has left behind much of rural America.

ICYMI: Blue Dog Special Task Force on Rural America Hosts Panel Discussion on Strengthening the Rural Economy

Yesterday, the Blue Dog Coalition’s Special Task Force on Rural America held its second panel discussion on rural issues. The Task Force met with representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Midco, and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC of America) to discuss ways we can strengthen our nation’s rural economy.