Expanding Job & Business Opportunities
Believing that the ability of Missourians to find good-paying jobs is the key to economic success for the state, Claire has made private sector job growth and better business opportunities a top priority in the Senate. She helped win approval of the first boost in the federal minimum wage in more than a decade, passed critical investments in infrastructure and targeted tax cuts, and strongly supported job-creating projects from road and bridge construction to the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Claire believes that if Missouri employers are able to compete on a level playing field, they will win. That's why she has organized and hosted numerous small business workshops, roundtables, and procurement conferences, putting Missouri small businesses directly in touch with officials from a variety of agencies. That's also why Claire has targeted unfair trade practices on the part of foreign countries like China, personally testifying on behalf of Missouri employers in trade disputes before the International Trade Commission.
And Claire has successfully shielded Missouri's businesses from unreasonable federal regulations, preventing burdensome rules on St. Louis-based manufacturer Unico Systems, as well as leading a successful fight against unnecessary environmental regulations on Ste. Genevieve-based manufacturer Holcim. She also intervened on behalf of Missouri homebuilders to ensure safety standards were applied more reasonably, and scored a win with bipartisan legislation to protect Missouri consumers and American jobs from a European Union tax on U.S. airlines.
In recognition of her efforts to support job-creation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce honored Claire with their annual "Spirit of Enterprise" award.
Economic Crisis and Recovery
In 2008, the United States and countries around the world were facing the most severe global economic crisis since the Great Depression - caused mainly by the reckless behavior of big Wall Street banks, combined with a damaging credit crisis. Upwards of 800,000 American jobs were disappearing each month, and the U.S. housing and auto industries were cratering. Economists now estimate the damage to the U.S. economy from the crisis totals at least $14 trillion, roughly a full year's U.S. gross domestic product.
In the face of this crisis, Claire supported emergency measures to bring the U.S. economy back from the brink of collapse and reverse the massive tide of job losses. In February 2009, Claire supported passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). While the Recovery Act was not perfect, it included critical tax cuts, emergency resources for states, and investments in areas such as infrastructure and health care that created and saved millions of private sector jobs and helped spur the ongoing economic recovery. Within months of enactment of the Recovery Act, the tide of massive job losses was reversed, leading to positive job creation in early 2010, and a steady decline in the unemployment rate over the following years. Claire also successfully helped pass a Wall Street Reform bill to crack down on reckless behavior by big banks that brought about the financial crisis. The reform bill created an independent consumer protection bureau to go after "bad actors" and to require all players to play by the same set of rules. It also ended taxpayer-funded bailouts by forcing Wall Street banks to pay for their own liquidation should they fail, and eliminated loopholes that had allowed risky and abusive practices.
As a former prosecutor and State Auditor, Claire was determined to ensure oversight and accountability in the emergency economic packages. She won passage of a bill to strengthen the power of the Special Inspector General overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the program that served to keep America's system of banking from collapsing. Taxpayers were ultimately fully reimbursed for the cost of TARP, paid back more from the banks than the total cost of the program.
At the time, Claire also said: "In Missouri, you get what you earn." She argued that failure shouldn't still lead to huge paychecks for CEOs who needed taxpayer funds just to keep their businesses afloat. When it came to light that Wall Street executives were doling out enormous bonuses despite their reliance on government money, Claire introduced an amendment to limit the compensation of executives at banks receiving taxpayer funds under the TARP program, giving those executives every incentive to pay back the taxpayers and keeping them from getting huge paychecks after leading their companies into disarray.
Tax Relief for Missourians
Claire believes our tax policy should be fair and simple, and aimed at helping working Missouri families and businesses, instead of special interests such as big oil companies, whose huge tax giveaways Claire has fought to end. And she has worked to achieve bipartisan comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates. She supports reform of the Alternative Minimum Tax, the extension of the child tax credit, and providing targeted veterans and military tax benefits. Claire has voted repeatedly to extend such benefits.
During the final hours of New Year's Eve 2012, Claire supported and helped pass the American Taxpayer Relief Act. Claire believed the legislation was essential to protecting middle class Americans from higher taxes, and giving certainty back to employers. She said at the time, "This deal isn't perfect, but it achieves what's most important here by protecting middle class families, and it's a down-payment toward a more realistic economic policy...we need to put an end to these eleventh-hour stalemates that do nothing but endanger our economy." The bill made permanent the tax rates for approximately 98 percent of Missourians - all those earning income under $400,000 annually, or $450,000 for couples filing jointly.
Claire supported the $287 billion of tax relief included in the Recovery Act, including the Making Work Pay Credit, which increased the take-home pay of 95 percent of working Americans in 2009. The Small Business Jobs Act, which became law in 2010 with Claire's strong support, helped bolster job-creation by cutting taxes for small businesses by more than $12 billion without adding to the national deficit. And tax credits through the HIRE Act were aimed at small businesses to hire unemployed workers, and help put Missourians back to work.
Claire worked with Republican colleagues like Senator Susan Collins of Maine to write the Bipartisan Jobs Creation Act, which would create jobs by cutting taxes for businesses, investing in the nation's critical infrastructure, and extending the payroll tax cut included in the Recovery Act - and Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to write the Federal Permitting Improvement Act, to cut through federal red tape and expedite job-creating projects.
Missourians lost $6 billion in housing wealth as a result of the financial crisis. Claire has consistently worked to help families and businesses access the tools they need to make smart housing decisions, and stay out of foreclosure, a threat facing too many Missourians. Claire organized five foreclosure clinics across Missouri, bringing together representatives from banks, credit counselors, and community organizations to provide homeowners with information and answers to questions on their financial options.
Claire also strongly supports efforts to stabilize the housing market and prevent foreclosures, such as the Making Home Affordable program, designed to help responsible homeowners refinance or modify their loans to achieve more affordable terms (For more information about the program, go to the Making Home Affordable website).
Claire believes that international trade can help boost Missouri jobs and businesses. She knows that Missouri is home to some of the most creative and innovate entrepreneurs in the country - but also knows that Missourians should have the chance to compete against foreign competitors on a level playing field. That's why Claire introduced legislation that aims to close loopholes that enable fraud, and to give law enforcement officials better tools to find and prosecute foreign shippers who are using unscrupulous and illegal tactics to avoid paying penalties they owe for illegal trade practices.
Claire teamed up with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to introduce legislation which would simplify trade processes for America's manufacturers and guard against the return of Congressional earmarks.
She reached out to the leader of Brazil to express her support for the sale of the Boeing F/A-18 - largely produced in St. Louis - to Brazil's military, and to praise the strong working relationship between the two nations.
And Claire has stood with Missouri's farmers and ranchers - urging the Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S.'s top trade representative to help American consumers make informed choices by allowing Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on meat products, and successfully urging the Japanese government to relax its current restrictions on U.S. beef imports.
Hiring our Heroes
A founding member of the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus, Claire recognizes the urgent need to expand job opportunities for veterans returning home - and believes that unemployment and homelessness among veterans is a stain on our nation.
Claire cosponsored and helped to pass the 21st Century GI Bill - one of the most important new benefits passed for veterans in decades. The bill provides an important financial benefit to those who have served in the military since September 11, 2001, to assist them in pursuing a college degree or vocational training, and gives a unique transfer option for veterans to pass the benefits to family members. Claire also helped to pass the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which provides tax credits to employers to hire veterans, extends educational opportunities to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and takes steps to help veterans translate their military experience into relevant skills sought by civilian employers.
Claire believes more work must be done to ensure that the skills mastered by military veterans are recognized by civilian employers back home, and has pledged to continue working to address this critical challenge.
Jobs in Rural Communities
As a daughter of rural Missouri, Claire believes that agriculture is a crucial component of the state's economic health, and has consistently worked across the aisle to pass bipartisan renewals of the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill supports agriculture jobs, renews essential disaster assistance programs, and strengthens resources for family farms and ranches. The most recent Farm Bill passed the Senate by a vote of 66-27. Unfortunately, in recent years, the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to approve a comprehensive Farm Bill renewal.
Claire also personally recognizes the importance of post offices to rural jobs and businesses. When dozens of small towns across rural Missouri were threatened with post office closures, Claire waged a successful battle to protect those post offices - saying: "What will we lose in these communities if we shut down these post offices? Senior citizens would lose a place where they can depend on getting their prescription medicines. Many of these communities have no pharmacies - in fact, most of them don't. And they rely on the mail for their drugs. Small business owners would lose a shipping location. The small business owners in these rural communities, they depend on that post office to take packages to and to receive packages from. I think this is a sacrifice we should not make. I think that these post offices are worth fighting to save."
Claire supports investing in renewable energy, which she believes currently offers perhaps the greatest potential for economic growth and new jobs, in addition to reducing our dependence on foreign oil. In 2006, renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies generated 8.5 million new jobs and nearly $970 billion in industry revenue. Claire has supported tax and other incentives to spur investment in renewable energy technology and create "green jobs" that will expand and strengthen our economy.
For more information:
On economic development in Missouri, go to http://www.ded.mo.gov/
On small businesses, go to http://www.sba.gov
On resources for your business, go to http://www.irs.gov/businesses/index.html
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