VERSAILLES — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) toured a Darke County manufacturer Friday, discussing his work on tax and regulatory reform, job training, and his efforts to ensure a level playing field for Ohio workers.
Portman visited the Midmark Corporation’s manufacturing facilities in Versailles and held a town hall meeting with company staffers. Midmark, a producer of medical, dental and veterinary products, is one of the largest employers in the county.
Saying that Washington, D.C., is not always helpful to businesses, and is sometimes an “impediment” to success, Portman told the group, “You are not a heavily regulated industry compared to some, but you are regulated, and there are better and easier ways to do that. We’re pushing for more cost-benefit analysis, more transparency.”
He added, “I have gotten a couple of things passed that I’m proud of, but frankly most of it has not gotten passed, because in this current [presidential] administration, there’s no interest in looking at the broader regulatory relief issues. In fact they’ve added a lot of new regulations, including regulations that have made it more difficult to create jobs.”
One piece of federal legislation which could have adversely affected Midmark was a provision under the Affordable Care Act that would have required a 2.3 percent excise tax on many of the products that Midmark makes.
Republican lawmakers, including Portman, were able to successfully push for a two-year moratorium on the tax in the 2016 “Omnibus” budget bill signed by President Barack Obama in December.
“Why would you want to put [a tax] on medical device companies?” he asked. “It’s one of the great advantages we have globally right now. We’re a cutting-edge country in terms of innovation and creating medical devices that the rest of the world wants.”
Portman also decried federal tax policy on American corporations in general.
“Our tax code not only has the highest rate in the world now, for these companies, our ‘C’ corporation rate, but we tax companies in a way that is totally noncompetitive to the point that companies are getting gobbled up here in America every week,” the senator said. “So, every week there’s another company we’re losing, and sometimes you don’t hear about it, sometimes it’s a big company and you hear about it.”
“You are a mainstay of Darke County,” Portman said. “You’re going to stay here — I’m not worried about you leaving, but there are other companies that are part of our broader economy that are leaving, and again, about one a week.”
In response to a question about job training and worker skills, Portman said that according to the Ohio Means Jobs website (www.ohiomeansjobs.com), there are 236,000 Ohioans currently unemployed, not including people who have left the workforce, and 182,000 job openings.
“Think about that,” he said. “182,000 jobs out there, including jobs at this plant you guys are advertising for right now. Yet you’ve got all these people who are out of work. And if you look at the jobs, a lot of them require skills that people are just not been getting trained for. So there is a skills gap.”
“There are jobs that are open, yet we’re not training people for those jobs. So I think there’s a great opportunity here to help people and also to help our economy.”
“I’m a big proponent of what’s called ‘career technical education’,” he said, noting efforts by Darke County leaders and educators to encourage high school students to learn tech skills.
Portman, nearing the end of his first term as senator, is expected to be renominated by GOP voters in the March 15 primary. He will likely face off against former Ohio governor, and presumptive Democratic Senate nominee Ted Strickland in November.
Looking beyond the Buckeye State, Portman offered his thoughts to The Daily Advocate regarding national issues, namely, the 2016 presidential race and the current Supreme Court vacancy.
Calling himself a “big supporter” of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Portman said, “I believe Washington needs someone who can fix things, get things done, and he’s shown that here in Ohio, having taken our economy from being at the bottom of the heap, we were 48th in the country in job creation when he took over, and now we’re top 10 and on the way up.”
Asked if he intends to support businessman Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination for president, Portman said, “You know, I intend to support the Republican nominee, unless something crazy happens. I do think the country’s in trouble. I don’t think another four or eight years of the Obama administration policies would be good for the country. So I intend to support the Republican nominee.”
Regarding the opening on the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Portman said, “I think it would be better to allow the presidential election to take that up and have the American people weigh in. And you know that is not unusual.”
“We call that the ‘Biden Rule’ now,” he added, laughing, referencing statements made by Vice President Joe Biden, who, as a Democratic senator in 1992, argued for delaying a Supreme Court nomination during the last year of the President George H.W. Bush administration.
Midmark Corp. Vice President of Manufacturing Karl Weidner said he and others in the company enjoyed Sen. Portman’s visit.
“We always appreciate it when our representatives take the time to come see what we’re doing with our business,” he said. “It means a lot to us. We’re very happy to have him here. He spent about an hour and a half here with us today, and we certainly enjoyed that time.”