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Senator Portman discusses President Biden’s $2.7 trillion infrastructure plan on Meet the Press

Portman warned that President Biden’s proposed tax hikes will hurt workers and families.

TERRACE PARK, Ohio — Ohio Senator Rob Portman (R) discussed President Joe Biden’s $2.7 trillion infrastructure plan on Sunday morning on Meet The Press, as well as what he says are the negative implications of proposed tax hikes to pay for the proposal.

According to a CBS News poll last week, a majority of American's approve of Biden's plan with 58% approval for the proposal. 

Sen. Portman says Biden's plan would hurt American workers when the combined federal and state corporate tax rate goes from 25.8 percent to 32.8 percent; what Portman says would be the highest rate in the developed world.

Despite reservations in raising the corporate tax rate to pay for the proposal Portman did show support for infrastructure improvements to the country's aging roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure.

Still, Portman questioned policies in the proposal that he says have never been considered to be infrastructure-related.

Portman also stressed the need for improvement in skills training and addressing the shortage of skilled workers to fill jobs in today’s economy.

Portman on the prospects for bipartisan infrastructure plan:

“Yes, I think it’s going to be a better opportunity. And frankly, if the White House is going to work with us, this is a deal we can do. Infrastructure has always been bipartisan. It is a different sort of a proposition than some of the spending that Janet Yellen just talked about. Secretary Yellen talked about the $6 trillion in new spending. Only about 20 percent of the jobs bill that the president has proposed goes to real infrastructure and that part of it can be paid for. And it can be paid for with user fees. It can be paid for with some of the COVID money that has already gone out because states would love to use it for infrastructure. And, of course, it can be paid for in different ways, as we have in the past, like PPPs, public-private partnerships, but also an infrastructure bank because these are long-term capital expenditures. So it is very possible, Chuck, that we can get a deal here if they’re willing to do it.

“You know, we’ll see. With COVID, you’re right, a bunch of us went to the White House, made a proposal, and the president indicated he wanted to negotiate, but unfortunately the next morning they changed their mind and Chuck Schumer announced we were all going to do this by reconciliation, which knocks Republicans out of the game altogether. So, let’s hope we don’t have a repeat of that because I think we can come up with a good bill that’s bipartisan and one that actually will survive over time because it’ll be more sustainable with Republican and Democrat support.”

Portman on President Biden’s proposed tax hikes:

“[The administration’s proposed tax hikes] will not make our economy more competitive. It does just the opposite. I respect [Secretary Yellen], but she’s just wrong on that. In fact, by raising the corporate taxes the way she wants to, you’re going to hurt workers. The Congressional Budget Office, which is non-partisan, says that 70 percent of the corporate tax cuts went into workers’ pockets with higher wages and benefits. And the exact same thing is going to happen if you raise these taxes. And by the way, they’re talking about raising the taxes five times higher than the taxes were cut in 2017. So, this makes America not competitive again around the world. And everybody thought that was important at the time.”

Portman on the responsibly play for a bipartisan infrastructure plan:

“I think the way to go is to depend on user fees, as we always have, and about $200 billion will come in over the next five years through the Highway Trust Fund alone, but also through the government being able to borrow at lower rates. And Secretary Yellen didn’t talk about this, but the infrastructure bank and the P3 I talked about earlier, that is essentially using the government’s ability to borrow at lower rates and, over time, to be able to pay for these projects.

“So, it’s not deficit spending, but it is, because it is a capital expenditure, paid for in a different way. And that’s one reason we can get to this. On the COVID side, these states are getting lots of money. They don’t know what to do with it in many cases. Some are talking about sending it back. Some have already done that. Others would like to use it for infrastructure. That’s a great opportunity. Normally the ratio is 20 percent local, 80 percent federal. There are plenty of states, including my own, that would love to use it for roads and bridges and other infrastructure and be willing to pay a higher percentage, maybe 50-50, some even 100 percent. That delta, the difference between the 20 percent and 50 percent or 100 percent, certainly would be used to pay for infrastructure. So, there’s lots of opportunities here, Chuck, for us to get to yes.”“Another user fee that makes a lot of sense is, as we’re moving to more and more electric cars and hybrids, and I’m a hybrid driver, myself, my hybrid truck should pay something to use, you know, roads and bridges. So, we should put something in there, the Vehicle Miles Traveled idea on electric cars or some sort of a fee. It makes a lot of sense to make sure there’s a level playing field and there’s fairness there. So, there are ways to get there. My point, Chuck, is that Democrats and Republicans alike are meeting. We’ve got some phone calls scheduled this week. I met with the White House late last week. There’s a way forward here if the White House is willing to work with us."

 Portman on President Biden’s education plan & the need for the greater skills training:

“Well, typically it’s not a federal government responsibility. As you know, the feds probably pay about 6 percent or 7 percent of K-12 education. I think we can provide some incentives for it. I think pre-K makes sense. It’s good to give kids a better start in life, there’s no question about it. That is one reason we do support Head Start at the federal level. And then with regard to community colleges, I am a big fan of what community colleges do.

“What is much more exciting to me in the proposal is the possibility that we would actually be able to use some of the federal support, including Pell grants, for worker retraining, because that’s what’s really needed, is skills training. And the opportunity for us to allow people to get a relatively short-term training session to get an industry-recognized certificate in things like welding or machining or coding in the IT sector or hospital techs. Those are the jobs we really need right now, these middle-skills jobs.

“And so, I would make more of an emphasis on that, because that is actually the reality out there, is that we have a lot of jobs going unfilled. There is something like 500,000 jobs in manufacturing right now being offered and not filled. And one of the reasons is this skills gap. So, let’s close the skills gap. To me, that would be the most effective way to use that money.”

Portman on his retirement decision:

“My decision was in large measure a personal one. I’ve been doing this for 30 years off and on, working for four administrations and working in the Congress, both in the House and the Senate. And you know, it’s time to give someone else a chance. But I’m going to stay involved. But for the next couple of years, I’ll be very engaged in trying to make sure that, on a bipartisan basis, we get some things done for the American people and not continue the partisan fights, but instead actually figure out how to find that common ground.

“And I think we can. And infrastructure is a great example of it. It’s always been bipartisan in the past. Republicans have proposed the biggest infrastructure plan in the history of Congress just last week. So, we’re ready to go. We want to roll up our sleeves and get to work and help to make America’s economy more competitive, not by raising taxes, but by doing smart things in terms of expanding our infrastructure.”