One of the main reasons I ran for Congress was to bring jobs to my District. I was appointed by the House Leadership to the Small Business Committee, where I am currently the Ranking Member on the Agriculture, Energy and Trade Subcommittee, focusing on policies to expand access to capital for entrepreneurs and drive the creation of jobs. I have helped pass legislation to give tax cuts to small businesses to innovate, expand and add workers, and to make it easier for small business owners to get loans and government contracts.
Living in western Pennsylvania, I've seen the effects that unregulated free trade can have on a local economy. I remember the flood of imports that shut down our steel mills and factories. American workers are the best in the world when the playing field is level, and we must ensure that it always is. That being said, I understand that we live in a global economy and that it is vital that we provide an open, yet fair trade arena that encourages full participation by other countries. While an open economy is important, we must also consider the well being of American workers and manufacturers. Unfair and manipulative trade practices should not be the result of any trade agreement. I have sponsored and cosponsored legislation that would help maintain fairness in our trade system, promote American exports, and level the playing field for American companies that compete overseas.
In the wake of what many believe was the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression, our national debt has climbed to extraordinary levels not seen before. It is critical that we begin to control our spending by prioritizing expenses and exercising fiscal restraint. Although everyone is anxious to restore our financial stability, we must recognize that our current economic state was not created overnight. It will take time, cooperation, and a fiscally sound legislative agenda to stabilize and rebuild our economy.
At a moment when our neighbors across western Pennsylvania are making difficult sacrifices during this tough economic time, we in government must also tighten our belts and get our fiscal house in order. You may be interested to know that in the 111th Congress, I introduced H.R. 5927, the Share the Financial Burden Act, which would cut all House and Senate Members' budgets by 5%, as well as the salary for all Members of Congress. This legislation would save the nation approximately $250 million per year. While the House did not pass my legislation, I voluntarily returned five percent of my own budget to the U.S. Treasury at the end of 2010 to follow through on this commitment. I was pleased that in the 112th Congress, the House voted to implement my idea, cutting House office, Committee and leadership budgets by 5%, as one of the first votes to be taken in 2011. This legislation will save taxpayers over $30 million annually.
I believe that homeownership helps spur economic development and supports healthy, strong communities. Middle-class families not only see their homes as a dwelling, but also an investment for their future. This is why as a member of Congress, I am doing what is necessary to ensure that the housing market has the necessary tools to stay strong and viable.