Small businesses are the backbone of America, and they are especially important to Rhode Island's economy. In Rhode Island, small business owners employ a majority of the state's private sector workers, and account for the greater part of newly created jobs every year. Further, they bring new and innovative services and products to the marketplace and provide business ownership opportunities to diverse and traditionally underrepresented groups. Now more than ever, Congress must support the growth of America's small businesses and help stimulate the real engine of this nation's economy.
Adequately Funding Loan Programs
To help reach this goal, I support full funding for critical small business loan and technical assistance programs. The key to economic growth is providing stimulus that is fair, fast-acting, and fiscally responsible. Unfortunately, several programs critical to the small business community have been inadequately funded and even eliminated. For this reason, I am a staunch advocate for the Small Business Administration's 7(a) loan program. By providing loan guarantees to eligible small businesses that would otherwise be unable to secure financing, 7(a) loans fill the gap left by traditional private lenders and supply necessary capital for America's small businesses to expand and create jobs.
Encouraging Research and Development
Tax incentives play a critical role in generating business investment and jobs. Research and development is the lifeblood of technological innovation, which serves as an engine for long-term economic growth. I strongly support extension of the R&D tax credit, which encourages investment today in the products and technologies that will lead to a stronger economy in the future. I also support the reauthorization of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These programs are designed to improve the competitiveness of small businesses in the fields of technology training and technology information exchange. They also assist small businesses in competing for federal research and development grants and contracts.
Making Health Coverage More Affordable
Equally important to spurring economic growth is helping our hardworking small business owners retain their most talented employees. With employees in small firms accounting for a majority of the 46 million uninsured Americans, clearly many small businesses are unable to provide health care for their employees. To address this growing crisis, I have proposed a universal health care system modeled after the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. My plan would give business owners a choice between continuing to contribute to their employee's total premium costs or contributing a fixed percentage of their payroll to the funding stream for the government contributions. Under my plan, every American would have the benefit of a basic health coverage plan, thereby eliminating the excessive spending on the uninsured, which can drive up the cost of health care. Further, employers would be spared the burden of negotiating and administering health benefits, freeing them up to focus on the success of their business.
Comprehensive Energy Solution
Our nation needs a comprehensive energy strategy that includes the development of clean and renewable energy sources, as well as new initiatives to encourage conservation and energy efficiency in order to protect hard working families and small business from skyrocketing oil and gas prices. While big oil companies pull in record profits, our consumers are paying the price.
I voted in support of legislation to increase domestic oil and gas development, in addition to providing tax credits for clean and renewable energy technology, such as wind, solar, biofuels, and hybrid vehicles. Together, these tools will help move us towards energy independence, strengthen national security, improve the economy, lower energy prices and begin to combat global warming. Just as the United States rallied around President Kennedy's call to put a man on the moon, so too must our nation harness its creativity and energy to create new technologies that help us achieve energy independence. Small businesses have already taken on this challenge, and I am proud of the many Rhode Island businesses that are leading the way with innovative solutions to best meet the energy needs of local communities.
I am committed to the small business community and will continue working to provide opportunities and assistance to this important sector of our economy. I will work with my colleagues in Congress, advocates, industry leaders and government officials to create an atmosphere where small business can flourish throughout Rhode Island and our entire nation.