Business & Economy
Patt Englander Appointed Quad City BBB Leader PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Laura Chavez   
Monday, 01 August 2011 09:34

The Better Business Bureau is pleased to announce that Patt Englander has accepted the position of Quad City BBB Community Representative.  Patt will be responsible for implementing a new vision and strategic direction for the BBB in the Quad Cities.  She will lead a decade-old office by reenergizing the local BBB brand and promoting the 450 Quad City BBB Accredited Businesses.  

“We are thrilled to have Patt serving the BBB.  We are a 99 year old organization and Patt’s skills will propel us in to our second century of work.  She is a proven and recognized Quad City leader,” stated Chris Coleman, President of the BBB serving Greater Iowa, Quad Cities and Siouxland Region. 

Former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, Patt has also served in leadership positions at the American Red Cross of the Quad Cities and Center for Active Seniors.    She has a MBA from St. Ambrose University and recently helped create a local Dress for Success affiliate.

In recent years, the BBB system has embraced the benefits of technology with consolidation of services.   The new vision for the Quad Cities reverses that trend by reopening the Bettendorf office and focusing exclusively on the Quad Cities and surrounding areas.  The BBB will still provide state-of-the-art online and phone services to residents of the Quad Cities.  The re-tooled office will add a local flavor and enable the BBB to effectively promote its Accredited Businesses, warn consumers of pending scams, and provide tips and advice to the community.

Englander stated, “The mission to advance trust– right here in the Quad Cities is why I was attracted to this position.  In tough economic times like we are in today, I know the BBB is needed more now than ever.   I look forward to building our brand and our membership.”

The BBB’s mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. The BBB accomplishes this mission by creating a community of trustworthy businesses; setting standards for marketplace trust; encouraging and supporting best practices; celebrating marketplace role models, and denouncing substandard marketplace behavior.  The BBB is the resource to turn to for objective, unbiased information on businesses. Our network of national and local BBB operations allows us to monitor and take action on thousands of business issues affecting consumers at any given time.

 
The Impact of Immigration Reform on Americans Seeking Jobs PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 13:54

Prepared Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley  

Senate Committee on the Judiciary  

Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security  

“The Economic Imperative for Enacting Immigration Reform”  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011    

For years, our country has struggled to find a way forward on immigration reform.  Since the debate reached its peak in 2007, our economy has experienced turmoil comparable to the Great Depression.  Americans are out of work, families are being foreclosed on, and businesses are suffering.  I agree we must do all we can to improve our economic situation.  However, I have concerns with the notion that increasing immigration levels and enacting legalization programs is the answer to the current economic downturn.  

We know it’s unlikely that this Administration will push immigration reform in the next year and half.  However, it’s my firm belief that we can find agreement on reforms for high skilled workers – and this hearing is a good first step in starting the discussion. 

I’ve spent a lot of time and effort into rooting out fraud and abuse in our visa programs, specifically the H-1B and L visa programs.  I have always said these programs can and should serve as a benefit to our country, our economy and our U.S. employers.   However, it is clear they are not working as intended, and the programs are having a detrimental effect on American workers.  Thankfully, the H-1B visa program has an annual cap as a stop-gap measure. But frankly, we need to act immediately to enact true reforms.  For this reason, and for many years, Senator Durbin and I have worked on legislation to close the loopholes in the programs.  Our legislation would ensure that American workers are afforded the first chance to obtain the available high paying and high skilled jobs.  We have worked together to make sure visa holders know their rights.  We have worked to increase oversight by the executive branch and have advocated for the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to implement tighter controls.  The bill we have written would strengthen the wage requirements, ridding the incentives for companies to hire cheap, foreign labor.  Our bill would require companies to attest that they have tried to hire an American before they hire a foreign worker.  

The attention that Senator Durbin, I and others have put on H-1B visas has had an impact.  Our efforts have increased scrutiny and have forced bad actors to find other ways to enter, live and work in the United States under false pretenses.   The increased oversight of the H-1B program, for example, has caused businesses to “think creatively” to get around the program, using both the L and B-1 visa to bypass the requirements and protections under the H-1B visa program.  

On February 23, 2010, an employee of Infosys filed a complaint alleging that his employer was “sending lower level and unskilled foreigners to the United States to work in full-time positions at Infoysys’ customer sites in direct violation of immigration laws.”  The complaint further states “Infosys was paying these employees in India for full-time work in the United States without withholding federal or state income taxes.”  Infosys, one of the top ten H-1B petitioning companies, has worked to “creatively” get around the H-1B program by using the B-1 business visitor visa in order to bring in low-skilled and low-wage workers.  However, B-1 visa holders are not able to receive salary or income from a U.S. based company and thus, Infosys is being accused of visa fraud. That plaintiff, Jay Palmer, has written a statement to be placed into the record.  The courts will decide if the activities of Infosys were illegal.  But I can definitely say that their actions don’t comport with the spirit of the law.  

In addition to using the B-1 visa to get around the H-1B, companies are looking at ways to increase their use of the L intercompany transfer visa.  The L visa program has no annual cap.  It does not hold employers to wage requirements.  It provides flexibility and allows businesses to bypass the red tape that comes with other work programs.  On March 29, 2011, I wrote to the Acting Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security with my concerns on the L intracompany transferee visa program and requested the office investigate the fraud and abuse.  The last review of the program was completed over five and a half years ago with recommendations that have yet to be implemented.  Serious loopholes continue to exist and be exploited to the detriment of the system. 

That brings me to another program that is undermining American workers, and one that gets very little attention from bureaucrats and investigators.  The Optional Practical Training – known as OPT – is a program that was created entirely through regulation.  There’s nothing in the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows the executive branch to run the OPT program.   

But, it’s high time that we start taking a closer look at the impact this program has on American students and workers.  Originally, OPT was created to give foreign students the ability to further their knowledge before returning to their home country.  However, today it is being used as a bridge to an employment visa or other immigration status.  Students are allowed to work in any field for an extra 12 to 29 months.  There is no limit on how many can apply for OPT, and more importantly, it is the schools and universities that principally administers the program.  There are very few checks and balances when it comes to the schools and employers.  The Department of Homeland Security may not even know where the student is being employed, creating a substantial national security risk.  More scrutiny must be placed on this program.  This past January, Senator Durbin and I wrote to Secretary Napolitano in regards to this, and other immigration issues.  The Secretary in response provided figures which were quite surprising.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved 95,259 OPT petitions in fiscal year 2010 alone.  She did not, however, give any reassurances that the Department would add any safeguards nor will they commit in this economy to reduce the amount of time these foreign students are working in the U.S.  I will continue to press the Department for this much needed reform to protect American students and workers.    

Finally, I’d like to address the idea being pushed by many immigration advocates and some members in the House of Representatives.  As part of the solution to America’s immigration problem, some policy makers have proposed the idea of giving immigrants a green card upon graduation.  In their opinion, this would prevent the loss of all the resources put into these students if they are forced to return home.  While it is important to keep the best and the brightest, getting a degree from a U.S. institution should not equate to a fast track to citizenship for all.  Should this happen, the demand for enrollment in U.S. universities by international students would only increase and further erode the opportunities for American students.  

America should continue to be the land of opportunity for those who wish to seek it.  We have a rich history of multiculturalism which has helped us become the strong, proud country we are today.  Our excellent system of higher education boasts many of the best scholars and researchers in their fields.  This system is one of our best resources and should be made available to all American students.  For more and more students, this resource is often not available to them.  As the amount of international students continues to rise, access to this precious resource for American students is lost.  Attaching a green card to each international student’s diploma would only accelerate this process and crowd more and more American students out of a chance to achieve their dreams.      

I will continue to push for more reforms in our immigration system to ensure Americans are the number one priority and are not displaced.  I thank the Chairman and Ranking Member for their courtesies in scheduling this hearing and I look forward to the testimony from our panels of witnesses.    

 

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Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Support Innovation in Illinois and Create Jobs PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Laurel White   
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 13:29

New Laws Will Boost Emerging Technologies and Create Illinois Jobs in Technology-Based Fields

CHICAGO – July 25, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to support the development of the technology industry in Illinois and create jobs. Senate Bill 107 strengthens Illinois’ position to attract technology-based businesses by boosting the state's investment in them. The new law was one of the Governor’s priorities during the spring legislative session, and it represents a major component of his aggressive agenda to support emerging technologies in Illinois, creating the jobs of today and tomorrow.

“Creating jobs throughout Illinois is one of my top priorities, and targeted investments in the technology industry will create jobs today while strengthening our role in the global economy of tomorrow,” Governor Quinn said. “This important new law allows us to invest in the companies that invest in Illinois, creating high-paying jobs for our skilled workforce.” 

Senate Bill 107, sponsored by Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) and Rep. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), allows the state to build upon the success of its Technology Development Account (TDA I). The TDA I allowed the state to invest up to 1 percent of its investment portfolio in venture capital firms that invest in technology-based businesses – those providing computer, IT, laboratory or experimental services and products – that are interested in locating or expanding in Illinois.

The new law allows the state to invest up to 2 percent of its portfolio in venture capital firms. This allows to state to invest an estimated $150 million into venture capital funds, generating an estimated $300 million of venture capital investment into Illinois companies. Companies may use the funding for activities such as research and development, marketing new products and workforce expansion.

“The highest priority in Illinois is putting people back to work,” Sen. Kotowski said. “Senate Bill 107 will help create a healthy business climate that ensures economic vitality and spurs job growth. Encouraging the development of innovative Illinois‐based businesses will truly benefit our state. I have been pushing for this legislation for the last three years because I believe these businesses can lead to a stronger Illinois economy.”

“I am proud to be the Chief House Sponsor of Senate Bill 107,” Rep. Biss said. “It is not often that we have the opportunity to pass legislation which simultaneously earns money for the taxpayers and creates good high wage jobs. But this legislation does just that by creating an excellent investment opportunity for the state, while filling a critical venture capital gap that will allow Illinois entrepreneurs to start successful high-tech businesses.”

According to the Illinois Venture Capital Association, the state’s investments into Illinois venture capital firms under the original TDA I, starting in 2002, allowed those firms to invest $115 million in 37 Illinois companies. That in turn attracted more than $450 million in additional private investment. Companies that received TDA I investments created approximately 1,200 direct jobs and around 2,700 indirect jobs in Illinois.

Governor Quinn today also signed legislation that builds upon his commitment to supporting Illinois’ technology-focused entrepreneurs. House Bill 1876, sponsored by House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) creates the Higher Education Technology Entrepreneur Center Act. The law enables the board of trustees at the state’s public universities and community colleges to start a technology entrepreneur center. The centers must provide students with the resources to allow them to develop innovative concepts into goods or services they can market. The new law builds on a successful program that was established at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“It is so important to encourage entrepreneurs and innovation in our state,” Rep. Cross said. “We have to constantly be working on legislation that will help our residents explore, cultivate and invent ideas that will grow new businesses and jobs in Illinois.”

Both new laws go into effect immediately.

Today’s bill signing ceremony took place at Chicago TechWeek 2011, a week-long conference and trade show that celebrates the technology, web and interactive communities. The event gathers 2,000 entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovators from across the nation to connect with the latest web and mobile technologies.

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Red Tape Keeps Economy Running on Empty PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 22 July 2011 22:58

Getting the U.S. economy back on track can be achieved by unleashing America’s “vibrant entrepreneurialism,” according to the President.  Taking him at his word, I agree the United States’ free enterprise system has been “the greatest force for prosperity the world has ever known.”

Yet, for the last two years, joblessness and deficits have climbed under the flawed theory that taking money away from the private sector grows jobs and creates wealth.  In 2009, the White House threw taxpayers under the bus with a failed effort to spend tax dollars and boost the U.S. economy.  The government stimulus package added hundreds of billions to the taxpayer’s tab for what the President called shovel-ready projects that would save and create jobs and keep the unemployment rate below eight percent.  Yet, today, nine-percent unemployment persists.  And, an irresponsible pattern of reckless spending and excess has put the full faith and credit of the United States on the line.

Washington cannot borrow-and-spend our way to prosperity.  It creates a chilling effect on the free enterprise system.  Like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, it makes an illusion.  The trouble is, the other hand is reaching for your wallet because government doesn’t create wealth.  It only consumes wealth.  In the real world, we can’t out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world if we are drowning in debt.  When the federal government borrows money, it siphons money out of the economy, crowding out affordable capital for start-ups and increasing the future burden on taxpayers.

That’s why it’s so important to cut back on government spending, keep Washington living within its means and let the American people create, earn and enjoy their prosperity.  Just after the new year began, and with a lot of fanfare, the President ordered a top-to-bottom regulatory review.  He ordered every federal agency to examine the red tape that chokes job growth and stifles risk-takers.  Just imagine if red tape were keeping the next American success story from launching a business, finding a cure or inventing the next-generation biofuel.  Revenue-hungry policymakers need to appreciate that burdensome regulations shrink the economic pie, stunt job creation and harm U.S. competitiveness.  Clearing the way for individuals and businesses to succeed and thrive will expand the economic pie and help Uncle Sam pay down the debt and pay the nation’s bills.

The President’s executive order sure sounded like a refreshing change.  But six months later, scant progress seems to have been made to remove outdated regulations that make our economy less competitive.  In fact, right after the President’s order, officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were quoted in news stories stating that they were confident that none of the current or pending rules would need to be modified. 

The attitude of the EPA makes it difficult to believe in the administration’s ability to strike the proper balance between protecting public health and safety and protecting small business owners, farmers and entrepreneurs from burdensome regulations and paperwork.  For years I’ve been fighting the EPA’s proposed rule that would apply absurd federal regulations on the amount of field dust kicked up by a farmer’s combine during the busy harvest season.  The cost and inconvenience to a farmer to comply with such a ridiculous regulatory burden – not to mention the potential for a neighbor’s lawsuit, should “coarse particulate matter” blow across the property line – is inconceivable.  What’s next?  Malpractice insurance for farmers to protect against the risk of dust floating through the countryside during harvest?

Iowans can be sure I will continue to try and knock some common sense into the EPA.  It is possible.  After an outcry, the EPA in April exempted dairy farmers from complying with a federal rule aimed at preventing oil from spilling into U.S. waterways.  Sounds puzzling because it was a real head-scratcher.  The EPA rule originally included milk containers under the “Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Rule.”

Simplifying restrictive regulations would help refuel the U.S. economy without adding to the national debt.  Thousands of rules infiltrate every nook and cranny of American life and commerce.  Injecting common sense into the regulatory process can help wipe out job-killing rules that are preventing the U.S. economy from finding the on ramp.

During the economic downturn, the Obama administration has issued hundreds of new rules that add even more uncertainty to job creators in the private sector with thousands more still in the pipeline to implement overhauls of the U.S. health care and financial systems.

Let’s hope the President makes good on his call for a regulatory system that strikes a better balance between protecting the public good and promoting America’s prosperity.

Friday, July 22, 2011

 
Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 22 July 2011 22:50

Mr. President, on August 2nd, our nation will be unable to borrow money to meet our current obligations.  We’ve known for a while that this time was coming.  Our annual deficits have been near $1.5 trillion for the past two years, and will be that large this year.  With deficits of that size, no one should be surprised that we’ve hit the debt ceiling. 

Which raises the question:  What has the President offered to confront this looming crisis?  What has the Senate Democratic Majority done to address our deficit crisis?  Well, the answer is simple.  Not much.  Last year, President Obama virtually ignored his own deficit-reduction commission.  This year, he offered a budget for 2012 that would increase spending, increase taxes and add trillions to our debt.  His budget was so ill-conceived and out of touch that it was defeated here in the Senate by a vote of 97-0.  Not a single Senator voted for President Obama’s budget.  Every member of the President’s party said no to his budget.

For most of this year, President Obama said we should raise the debt ceiling without taking any measures to address our long-term deficits and debt.  It was the position of this administration that Congress should simply rubber stamp another debt ceiling hike with no plan in place to reduce our deficits.  That plan was voted on in the House and was soundly rejected.  All Republicans and nearly half of the Democrats in the House voted against increasing the debt ceiling without deficit reduction.

The President then gave a budget speech in April.  I presume he recognized the inadequacy of his budget proposal.   He outlined a budget framework that would reduce budget deficits by $4 trillion over 12 years. But he still hasn’t presented an actual budget to go with it.  The Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Mr. Elmendorf, was asked if he could estimate the budget impact of this new framework.  The CBO director state clearly, “We don’t estimate speeches.  We need much more specificity than was provided in that speech for us to do our analysis.”

We’ve heard a lot from the White House about the need to come up with a plan, but the White House itself has never offered a single debt-ceiling proposal for a vote.  And the Senate Democratic Leadership has also seriously shirked its responsibility.  They haven’t put forward a budget for more than 800 days.  Every family in America that works hard and sacrifices to pay their bills ought to be ashamed at the failure of the U.S. Senate to offer a budget.

In sharp contrast, members of the House fulfilled their responsibility and passed a budget earlier this year.  The Democrats have done nothing with it but demagogue it.  While they can’t find time to compile their own budget, they’ve sure found time to make speeches about the House budget.  While members on the other side come to the floor to oppose and demagogue the Cut, Cap and Balance plan, they’ve offered no plan of their own.  While there is now a framework from the so-called gang of six, their plan also lacks any specificity.

Perhaps that’s the political strategy the other side has chosen.  Voters and the American people can’t be upset with a position you’ve taken if you haven’t taken any.  This strategy may be politically expedient, but it will drive our economy and our country off a cliff.  The strategy of placing a higher priority on the next election rather than the economic and fiscal situation facing our county is how we got in this mess. 

Based on the lack of proposals put forth by the other side, one could assume that they’re perfectly content borrowing 40 cents for every dollar we spend.  Are they pleased with deficits of $1.5 trillion annually?  They must be, because they haven’t offered a plan to reduce these deficits.

On top of that, they have argued for tax increases.  They must believe we have a revenue problem.  According to their arguments, the American people are not handing over enough of their money to satisfy the needs of Washington to spend.  The reason the economy isn’t growing and jobs aren’t being created is because Washington isn’t spending enough money.  Remember, just two years ago they passed the $800 billion so-called stimulus as a means to keep unemployment below 8 percent.  So, we borrowed the money and spent it on government programs. 

And where is the U.S. economy today?  Unemployment is at 9.2 percent.  More than 14 million Americans are out of work.  And now the national debt is more than $14.3 trillion.  This experiment proved that government spending does not stimulate private sector job growth.  Government doesn’t create wealth.  Government consumes wealth.  The only jobs created by the government are government jobs. They don’t add value to the economy; they are a cost to the economy.

The fact is, we’re in this hole today because of our spending problem.  Historically, spending has averaged about 20 percent of our gross domestic product.  Today, and in recent years, spending has been near 25 percent of gross domestic product.  This level of spending cannot be sustained, particularly when revenue has historically been around 18 percent of gross domestic product.

For my colleagues who think we can reduce deficits by increasing taxes, you need to understand that it doesn’t work.  Professor Vedder of Ohio University has studied tax increases and spending for more than two decades.  In the late 1980s, he co-authored, with Lowell Galloway also of Ohio University, a research paper for the congressional Joint Economic Committee that found that every new dollar of new taxes led to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress.  Professor Vedder has now updated his study.  Specifically, he found that “Over the entire post World War II era through 2009, each dollar of new tax revenue was associated with $1.17 in new spending.”

History proves tax increases result in spending increases.  We know that increasing taxes is not going to reduce the deficit.  Instead of going to the bottom line, tax increases are a license for Washington to spend even more.

History also shows that tax increases don’t increase revenues.  Everybody thinks that if you raise the marginal tax rates, you will bring in more revenue. But the taxpayers, workers, and investors of this country are smarter than we are.  Regardless of the rate, over the past 40 years, revenue has averaged about 18 percent of gross domestic product.  Higher tax rates just provide incentives for taxpayers to invest and earn money in ways that reduce their tax liability. 

You cannot tax your way out of this problem.  We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.  That’s why I’m supporting the only plan that has been put forth to address our deficit and debt problem.  The Cut, Cap and Balance plan passed the House with bipartisan support from 234 members.  This plan is the only plan offered to cut spending in the near term.  We need to halt and reverse the trend of the last two years when government spending increased by 22 percent, not even counting the failed stimulus program.  It will also impose budget caps to get our spending down to a manageable level compared to our gross domestic product.  Finally, it would impose a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution.  It only makes sense to impose a requirement that we live within in our means.  Washington proves again and again that it needs this kind of discipline.

I’d say to my colleagues, if you don’t support this plan, then offer your own plan.  You know the debt limit must be increased. But you also know we must take action to reduce the future levels of deficits and begin to bring our debt down.  Where is your plan to do that?  Where is your budget resolution?  How will you meet these responsibilities of elected office? 

The trajectory of our debt is alarming.  It will soon undermine our economy and our economic growth.  If we do nothing, our children and grandchildren will have fewer economic opportunities than we have had.  This is a moral issue.  Without a plan to put our fiscal situation on a better path, the next generations will have a lower quality of life than the one we’ve experienced.  We can’t let that happen. 

We must take action to correct our course.  I urge my colleagues to support the Cut, Cap and Balance plan.

 
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