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Representative’s View: Northland benefits if Trump embraces tax, trade, other reforms

2017 will be all about creating good-paying, middle-class American jobs, and I’m ready to work with the new Congress and president-elect to put American workers first. To be successful, Democrats and Republicans need to get going on a multifaceted, living-wage jobs agenda that charts a new course, reforming and rethinking our spending, tax, trade and infrastructure policies.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan

Spending reform starts with an end to wars of choice and so-called “nation building” abroad. With the $3 trillion we already have spent in Iraq alone, we could have substantially rebuilt our transportation infrastructure, extended broadband to every citizen in rural America, graduated every college and postsecondary student debt-free and given middle-class Americans a pay raise and a substantial tax cut.

Tax reform must benefit the middle class, ensure that Wall Street millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share, and stop incentivizing multinational corporations from moving their jobs overseas. We can create millions of good-paying jobs by restoring a fair distribution of wealth. With more money in their pockets, working families boost our economy by buying homes, taking vacations, helping kids through college and saving for secure retirements.

Trade reform must ensure “fair trade” with tariffs and countervailing duties that acknowledge and compensate for differences in wages, benefits, environmental protections, and health and safety standards. American workers can compete with anyone in the world on a level playing field. The new higher tariffs we persuaded the Obama administration to impose on steel from China and other trade-cheater nations for at least the next five years already have put 1,000 Iron Range miners back to work. Those measures also have resulted in substantial investments in new, 21st-century mining technology on the Range.

Infrastructure reform requires massive new investments to meet our urgent national needs, creating millions of good-paying jobs in the process. Rest assured, I’ll be reintroducing my “Buy American” legislation and amendments into the 115th Congress to ensure that all infrastructure projects are constructed with 100 percent American iron ore and steel. The $1 trillion the president-elect has pledged to infrastructure will lay the foundation for safer, more prosperous communities sustained by rapid business expansion. We’re already seeing the job-creating results of transportation and infrastructure grants our office helped obtain for Duluth and the job-generating ripple effect across our entire region.

A case in point: In addition to supporting some 1,000 good-paying jobs at the 148th Fighter Wing and another 350 good jobs at AAR, $11.4 million in federal money for the Duluth airport runway expansion project will translate into an annual economic impact of $41.5 million from greater business and commerce throughout the Northland. A variety of engineering and support services and related businesses also will benefit as Duluth continues to become a national and international powerhouse for aviation.

The port of Duluth is another infrastructure case in point. The port already supports some 11,500 good-paying jobs and $1.5 billion in local revenue. Remember, 40 percent of the cargo leaving the port is Range taconite. With taconite tonnage up 60 percent over last year, the $10 million TIGER transportation grant we helped secure to complete the brand new Intermodal “Clure Expansion” at the port will improve capacity and boost shipping jobs in 2017.

Of course, port shipments depend on keeping the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., secure and in good repair. And the $1.35 million study the Office of Management and Budget approved at our request will begin the process of $600 million in major improvements — greatly facilitating the movement of Range iron ore and other goods and services up the Great Lakes.

The Soo Locks are the linchpin of the Great Lakes navigational system, connecting Lake Superior with the Great Lakes chain and the St. Lawrence Seaway. An estimated 13 percent of our nation’s gross national product must clear the locks, including some 4,000 ships annually, most originating in Duluth. The Soo Locks project ultimately will create some 13,000 good-paying jobs with an overall economic impact of some $2.1 billion from Duluth to the Atlantic.

The renovation also will help avoid a potential national disaster. The Department of Homeland Security has concluded that a catastrophic failure at the Soo Locks due to a military attack or obsolescence would cost some 7 million good-paying jobs and throw us into another great depression even worse than what we experienced in 2008.

I’m hopeful President-elect Donald Trump will embrace our agenda of spending, tax, trade and infrastructure reform and work with us to turn America toward a more positive and productive direction.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan represents Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He wrote this at the request of the News Tribune Opinion page.