Arkansas’ senior senator said Monday that three bills he is working on in the U.S. Senate will be good for American business and jobs.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Little Rock, toured the Nucor Steel plant in Hickman Monday afternoon, touting the Keeping Jobs in America Act and the Building Jobs in America Act.

He also supports expanding the Buy American Act, a law that has been supported by the steel industry in the past several years.

According to Pryor, The Keeping Jobs in America Act would:

  • End tax breaks for American companies that move jobs overseas;
  • Help rural states attract overseas companies by creating a grant system for needs; and
  • Create tax cuts for companies that bring jobs back to the United States.

On moving jobs out of the country, Pryor said a decision involving the closing of the Whirlpool plant in Fort Smith — which shifted Arkansas production of refrigerators and ice makers to Mexico — has had a negative impact throughout the state.

“I do not like to see companies go overseas. With the Whirlpool plant in Fort Smith, they headed overseas,” Pryor said, noting that some of the steel casings from the equipment made at Fort Smith came from mills in Mississippi County.

The Building Jobs in America Act would require companies to use American made steel, iron and cement for taxpayer-funded projects, while extending the American Bonds program to support capital projects, Pryor said after touring the Nucor plant.

Last week, Nucor filed a lawsuit to halt potential competitor Big River Steel, a $1.3 billion steel mill superproject that plans to open in Mississippi County in the next two years.  The litigation was not a subject of discussion during the factory tour today.

Pryor, who faces Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Green party candidate Mark Swaney of Huntsville and Libertarian candidate Nathan LaFrance of Bella Vista on Nov. 4, said the ideas for the jobs bills fit everyday concerns.

“It’s good, it’s common sense and most of it, it comes out of Arkansas,” Pryor said.

Pryor called the overseas tax break issue “counterproductive” and called the Buy American Bill issue “common sense.”

POINT/COUNTERPOINT
Two issues that are front and center during the fall Senate campaign involve health care and jobs.

Cotton for Senate communications director David Ray said Pryor has provided a scant record on the issues.

“When it comes to jobs, Senator Pryor doesn’t have an ounce of credibility. The reason so many Americans are out of work or underemployed is because the Obama-Pryor economic policies are holding our economy back,” Ray said. “Senator Pryor insists that his votes for Obamacare, higher taxes and Dodd-Frank were the right votes, but they’re killing jobs and making life more difficult for hardworking Arkansans.”

Pryor countered that he has worked to improve the Affordable Care Act, which is commonly called Obamacare.

“When it passed, I told people that it was far from perfect. And I have always been first in line to help with it,” Pryor said, noting he has worked on supporting fixing tax issues as well as reforming the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

Ray countered that Pryor’s vote for the overall bill and parts of it have hurt the economy.

“If Senator Pryor wanted to help create jobs in America, he would apologize for voting for Obamacare’s medical device tax, which has already driven good-paying American manufacturing jobs overseas,” Ray said. “Senator Pryor doesn’t realize that his votes for the Obama agenda are costing American jobs and that it’s going to take more than a sticker and label program to fix the damage he’s created.”

Cotton was in Northeast Arkansas over the weekend touting his positions on the Farm Bill, Social Security and Medicare.

UPDATE: At a Tuesday event discussing the bills, Arkansas Economic Development Commission executive director Grant Tennille and Delta Regional Authority federal co-chairman Chris Masingill both said the bills were needed.

Tennille said for the most part, the American South has won the manufacturing battle in the United States. Meanwhile, Tennille said the state’s biggest competitors are not Arkansas’ surrounding states but Mexico, China and other Pacific countries.

“The competition between the United States and Mexico on manufacturing is fierce,” Tennille said of the battle for jobs.

Tennille said the bills sponsored by Pryor are not “window dressing or a political trick,” but a plan to bring manufacturing jobs to the United States.

“This is not a partisan issue. I work with Republican legislators and Democratic legislators all the time. Jobs and the economy are important and I encourage Congress to pass these bills,” Tennille said.

Masingill said the DRA, which covers eight states and over 230 counties in the Mississippi Delta, has worked to invest taxpayer money in needed projects. The building where the event was held – the Fowler Family Hospitality Services building – was a DRA project, Masingill said.

The teachers at the campus teach culinary arts to students, who can work at restaurants throughout the region.

Masingill said the work overall in the state can help other areas as well.

“If you build more in Arkansas, you build more families. You build more in the state and you build more in the community,” Masingill said.

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Michael Wilkey

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