Communities like Leeds are feeling the challenges of a weak national business climate, but Congressman Gary Palmer told leaders gathered for the August luncheon of the Leeds Area Chamber of Commerce that improvements are being made at the federal level.
The country has lost its competitive edge globally and it’s largely because of convoluted regulations and tax rates, Palmer told nearly 100 people attending the chamber luncheon at Leeds First United Methodist Church.
Congress put into place tax reforms in December 2017, nearly a year after he took office as representative of the sixth district that includes Leeds. More streamlined regulations and tax codes and reduced taxes are expected to increase income for residents in Leeds, for instance, by $35,000 over 10 years.
“We needed to bring predictability to the tax code,” Palmer said. “It needed to be simplified. The last time we redid the codes was 1986. A lot has changed since 1986.”
Palmer mentioned a business owner in Clanton who said he saved so much money from the lowered business taxes that he gave a bonus to their staff with the money they would’ve paid to the government. Palmer says he hopes that will be an option for many businesses as tax reform continues to make a difference.
Small business owners also struggle to have access to affordable health care, and Palmer said the Department of Labor is looking at ways to help by creating a health care cooperative through departments like agriculture, where farmers come together to collectively apply for health care and could get a better monthly rate with premiums that are as much as 55 percent lower.
Leeds Schools Superintendent John J. Moore asked Palmer about federal plans to align curriculum to provide students with more job-related skills and whether funding is being allocated for it.
Palmer said educating today’s students to enter the workforce is a hot topic in Congress, and he strongly supports efforts from industry-specific companies to work with school districts and create trade programs that will give students employable skills like masonry and welding and robotics used at the Mercedes Benz plant in Vance, which is expanding to make electric cars and will need hundreds more workers for jobs that pay $80,000 to $100,000 a year.
Improving the economic development conditions in communities like Leeds could be done with road expansion projects Palmer is backing. Opening up communities to more opportunities could help convince young people to come back to live and raise a family in their hometown after school.
“I eat, sleep and breathe finding ways to solve problems (for communities),” Palmer said.
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