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Public Statements

Small Business Lending Fund Act of 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. VOINOVICH. Madam President, I rise today to express my support for the passage of H.R. 5297, the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. I am pleased that we got cloture on this legislation earlier this week, so we can get a final vote on the bill before the Senate completes its work for the week.

Things are more challenging now for our Nation than at any time during my life. Americans are worried about our Nation's future and their own personal well-being, and this uncertainty reveals itself in the answers to two questions I often ask when I speak to people. The two questions I ask are, one, do you have a better standard of living than your parents had? To which I always hear yes. And two, do you believe your children will have a better standard of living than the one you have? To which I almost always hear no.

To recover from this recession, we need to restore the faith of the American people in their future. We need to convince them that the glass is half full, and not half empty. And until we stabilize and repair our broken economy, and restore the flow of credit to businesses and individuals, the uncertainty and pessimism will remain.

This small business bill gives us one opportunity to address our economic challenges. The small business bill will improve the environment for small businesses by, among other things, including a number of small business tax breaks, expanding Small Business Administration loan programs, providing tax incentives for new small business investment, and expanding small business access to credit.

The bill will increase the guarantee of SBA's most popular loan program, which provides credit for small businesses that cannot otherwise obtain favorable loan terms, and it would provide higher maximum loan amounts for investments in major fixed assets, such as land, buildings, equipment, and machinery. It would also provide a variety of export assistance tools to help our small businesses expand their reach into world markets and compete better in the global economy. These include a new grant program, counseling and education, redirecting SBA personnel, and improving export financing programs. Finally, this bill will extend tax incentives, such as section 179 expensing and bonus depreciation, which will generate new investment.

I have heard from many Ohio businesses regarding this small business bill, especially manufacturing businesses, which are the backbone of Ohio's economy. These small business owners have asked me to work with my colleagues and finish work on this legislation. A number of manufacturing organizations, which represent small businesses in Ohio and around the country, have written to me in support of the bill, including the Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Precision Machined Products Association, PMPA, the Precision Metalforming Association, PMA, the National Tooling and Machining Association, NTMA, and the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association. They share many of the same concerns; they are worried about their member companies' ability to obtain credit and keep afloat long enough to get out of this recession.

Many small businesses have been unable to obtain credit from their traditional lenders, which has led to less spending and more layoffs. For example, I was told that a Cleveland-based PMPA manufacturer that has been in business for over 50 years, and whose owner has served on the board of directors of several major banks, could not find sufficient credit in the United States. As a result, the company had to seek offshore lending, which it eventually found in Germany. I have heard similar stories from a number of small business owners. They complain that they cannot get loans or their lines of credit are being reduced or withdrawn despite their company's creditworthiness.

These groups, which represent thousands of small businesses and their employees, have sent me letters in support of this legislation, and I will ask that these letters be printed in the Record. I wanted to share one comment from a longtime friend of mine, James B. McGregor, Sr., vice chairman of McGregor Metalworking Companies in Springfield, OH, who said that this bill would ``help to jumpstart manufacturing in America by improving the credit market for small businesses.'' Jim is the owner of a family-owned manufacturing company, and he knows as well as anyone how tough things are out there for manufacturers.

In addition to small manufacturers, others organizations also support this small business bill. Many community banks say it would allow them more latitude to lend to small businesses. The Independent Community Bankers Association, which represents 5,000 of the Nation's 8,000 community banks,
said in a letter to the two Senate leaders that of all the provisions in this bill, the Small Business Lending Fund, SBLF, ``holds the most promise for small business creation in the near term. Failure to even consider the SBLF in the Senate would be a missed opportunity that our struggling economy cannot afford ..... [i]t would provide another option for community banks to leverage capital and expand credit to small business.''

The American Bankers Association, ABA, has expressed support for the bill because it would allow ``community banks to find new sources of capital ..... [and] provides an option for banks to ..... continue meeting the needs of their communities.'' The ABA also supports the bill because it would enhance SBA loan programs, which it says is ``critically important and will help lenders provide loans so that small businesses can create jobs in their communities.''

Other business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and Financial Services Roundtable support the bill because they know it contains important tax provisions, strengthens existing SBA programs, and helps our economy.

So, my support for the small business legislation is based upon the many calls of support I heard from Ohio's small and medium manufacturers, most of whom are still struggling to recover from this recession. At the same time, these manufacturers are experiencing the fiercest competition I have seen in my lifetime.

My support of Ohio's manufacturers is not new, and my support of this bill is a part of my longstanding concern for and support of Ohio's manufacturing companies. As Governor of Ohio, I am proud that we gave high priority to manufacturing and that it grew for the first time in many years during my administration. We instituted several incentives for manufacturing, including a job-creation tax credit, a manufacturing and equipment investment tax credit, and the technology investment tax credit. As Governor, I went on nine business, trade, and investment missions, with the intention of helping open new markets for Ohio products, and I am hopeful that the export promotion efforts in this legislation will help Ohio's manufacturers take advantage of selling in the global market.

When I came to the Senate, I continued to support manufacturing, making it a key priority of my legislative efforts. For example, during President Bush's first term, I worked with the administration, when it filed the section 201 action, to support the U.S. steel industry at a time when imports were coming in at an increasing rate and threatening the industry's existence. And after a painful period of adjustment, the steel industry came back. I am afraid of what might have been the fate of this important industry had President Bush not taken action. I am also proud that I was the chief advocate to the President and Secretary of Commerce Don Evans of the need for an Assistant Secretary of Manufacturing as well as a plan to support manufacturing. From 2006 to 2008, I worked closely with Senator BAYH, who is also from a manufacturing State, to pass legislation to improve our Nation's intellectual property theft enforcement efforts. These efforts were rewarded when the PRO-IP Act became law in October 2008. Our efforts to pass this legislation may have surprised some who view IP theft as something related to knockoff purses and software, but IP theft has such a damaging effect on our manufacturers, we both viewed this as an important way to help our manufacturers compete on a level playing field in the global economy.

Most recently, I have worked to protect manufacturing from onerous cap-and-trade legislation that would have a devastating effect on manufacturing, while doing little to improve emissions from countries such as China and India. I have also worked on a bipartisan basis to reauthorize the surface transportation act. This is another must-pass bill that would provide certainty to a number of industries and would help our manufacturers recover from this recession. I have spoken to the President about the need to pass a highway bill, and I was encouraged that he has promised to take a leading role in getting it done.

I know that my Republican colleagues have concerns with the lending facility and what it means for the role of government in the private sector. I have heard their concerns, but based on the feedback I have heard, mostly from Ohio's small businesses, I reached the conclusion that this $30 billion Small Business Lending Fund will help banks that serve local communities to expand their lending at a time when credit to small businesses has tightened for a variety of reasons. These are the community banks that make the small but necessary loans to restaurants, small manufacturers, home improvement contractors and the like to keep their businesses afloat and hopefully begin to expand as the economy recovers. In addition, the program is voluntary for these banks, and the lending fund is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to save money. In other words, the lending fund will not add to the budget deficit or the national debt, and it will not increase taxes. So this fund amounts to a relatively modest, voluntary, revenue-neutral financial tool for small community banks helping to restore the flow of credit small businesses desperately need.

Finally, for those who are trying to make this a partisan bill, I will say there is enough blame to go around. The Democrats in Congress delayed passing this bill for many weeks. They denied Republicans the opportunity to amend the bill for many weeks, while we held political votes on a number of issues. The President then went on to politicize the bill, ignoring legitimate complaints about the lack of amendments from my side of the aisle. It is worth remembering the Senate moved to the bill on June 29, then abandoned it repeatedly to vote on unemployment benefits multiple times, financial regulation, supplemental appropriations, executive nominations, the DISCLOSE Act, and the teacher bailout, which took us into the August recess. Then when discussions about Republican amendments were finally starting to receive serious consideration, these amendments were countered by Democratic amendments, leading to an amendment tit for tat, which is too often the case.

But while I am disappointed that my colleagues were unable to offer amendments to this bill, which is one of the traditions of the Senate, I felt we could no longer wait to pass this legislation. We needed to do something now to help the economy get going, and hopefully we will get back to the Senate tradition of offering amendments and having votes. Finally, I am pleased that there was a vote on at least one Republican amendment, the amendment offered by Senator JOHANNS, which would repeal an extremely burdensome reporting requirement for small businesses included in the health care reform bill. While I am disappointed that it failed and small businesses continued to be threatened by this burden, I am hopeful that this amendment process has brought enough attention to the problem and it can be fixed before the end of this year.

Finally, Mr. President, I will continue to work to pass a robust highway reauthorization bill this year, which I strongly believe would help improve our economy, and once again, I ask President Obama and Majority Leader Reid, to work with the relevant committees to complete work on a multiyear, paid for, reauthorization of the highway bill before the 111th Congress adjourns.

Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the letters to which I referred.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD,


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