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Mr. BURRIS. Mr. President, I am impressed by the distinguished Senator from Delaware. Not only has he outlined the information in the small business legislation which we are in the process of debating, but he so eloquently expounded on what we have done in health care to respond to the second opinion of our distinguished colleague from Wyoming. The Senator from Delaware did a tremendous job of covering the health care issue and what is actually in the bill. It has to be on the record. I thank the Senator for being eloquent in that regard.
I am here to speak about the small business legislation. I must also commend the Senator from Delaware, as he covered some key points. Being a former banker myself, an individual who actually financed companies--when I was in the banking business, I financed small businesses, even startup businesses--I have a great knowledge of what it takes to make sure those businesses have the necessary capital and resources in order to survive and provide jobs across the respective communities they serve. The legislation before us is crucial to the recovery of our respective communities with this recession.
As a public servant, I have been a strong advocate for American small businesses, especially disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses, because they are the engine of the economy. Before I was a public official, I was a banker. I worked hard every day to spur investments on Main Street. I worked to make capital available for small businesses so entrepreneurs and innovators could create jobs and bring prosperity to local communities. Today, as a result of the harsh economic reality in which we are existing, many of these businesses are finding it tougher than ever to survive. Credit is largely dried up. Capital investment is difficult to come by. Even as our economy begins to move forward toward recovery, small and disadvantaged businesses continue to lag behind. I believe we need to place small businesses at the heart of our response to this crisis. More needs to be done. Passing the Small Business Lending Act would be a step in the right direction. This incentive will create jobs for struggling Americans by providing increased lending to small businesses so they can support and expand their operations.
Small businesses are in a position to create well-paying jobs and produce growth at the local level. It is time to make them a priority again. If we fail to act today, if we fail to pass the Small Business Lending Act and fall short of our commitment to America's innovators and entrepreneurs, I fear our Nation will fall into a jobless recovery, and small businesses across the country will continue to suffer the detrimental effects of this recession.
I recognize government cannot directly create jobs in the same way the private sector can but few can deny that government has an integral role in getting America back on track. Our job as public officials is to support and
promote responsible practices, implement sensible regulations, and help direct investments to the areas that need it most. Under current law, the Small Business Administration provides key support to small businesses through its 8(a) program. This program offers technical assistance, training, and contract opportunities to small businesses that meet specific criteria. I am a strong advocate of this initiative which has helped to keep small and disadvantaged businesses viable and make sure everyone has a chance to share in the economic prosperity.
Mr. President, 8(a) has made a difference in numerous communities. It has eased some of the worst effects of the crisis for those entities that are most vulnerable. Yet despite its success, this program's impact and reach has been restricted because only a small number of businesses are eligible for this kind of support. That is why I introduced an amendment during the debate that would expand the 8(a) program.
My measure would have increased the continued eligibility amount from $750,000 to $2.5 million, so more small businesses could benefit from this assistance. But, unfortunately, my amendment was not included in the final package.
While it did not make the cut this time, I hope my colleagues will join me in giving further consideration and attention to the 8(a) program in the near future. What this will do is allow those individuals who may have reached a net worth of $1.1 million or $1.2 million or $1.5 million or even $2 million to say they are still small. In this economy, if you have $2 million, people say you are rich. Well, that is not the case if you are a small businessperson. That is the reason why I am saying in order to still be able to qualify for the 8(a) program, we should increase the eligibility amount to $2.5 million, and thereby they can continue to compete and continue to have a chance to be in the small and disadvantaged minority category.
Expansion of this program would afford our small businesses the assistance they need and create jobs for Americans amid this rough economic climate.
With the Small Business Lending Act before us today, we have an opportunity to renew our investment in America's small businesses. I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this legislation so we can foster economic growth on the local level and generate much needed jobs.
I wish to reiterate what the distinguished Senator from Delaware said in terms of how we can expand these businesses by giving tax incentives to these companies, by eliminating the capital gains tax that would come about for any transaction they would make, by allowing them to write off the depreciation for their capital purchases.
We have this legislation before us now, which we must pass before we adjourn for our summer recess, and get this legislation over to the House so the House can pass it before they adjourn, a week before we adjourn. We need to make sure we get this legislation passed.
We saw the Senator from Louisiana fight gallantly to pass the amendment to allow the banks to have $30 billion which they could put out for small businesses. That amendment had been stricken, and the Senator did not yield to that deduction from that piece of this package. She fought to get that amendment into this legislation. Now what we must do is get the 60 votes needed to pass the Small Business Lending Act so we can get about the business of saying, yes, we are concerned about Main Street as much as we are about Wall Street. When we do that, we can go back to our constituents and say we have done something that is beneficial to our communities which will help us to get this economy moving again to help those people who need it the most.
Mr. President, I see the distinguished Senator from New Hampshire on the floor. I yield the floor.
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