Weekly Columns

Our Congressional delegation is committed to improving the economies of our nation and state. Two bills the Senate recently passed will help us reach those goals.

To open new markets and create more jobs, the Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TPA strengthens the voice of Congress in trade deals and allows a more collaborative effort with the administration in trade negotiations. Seeking opportunities for new agreements in a quick and fair manner is important because the vast majority of the world’s population lives outside of our borders. When we trade our goods and services with other nations, our economy grows, creating more jobs at home. International trade already supports one in five jobs in Arkansas. That number will continue to grow with more free and fair trade agreements. 

Along with that, Congress passed legislation to ensure that funding for the highway projects currently underway in Arkansas, and throughout the country, would not lapse. Maintaining safe, secure and reliable infrastructure across the nation is one of the keys to job creation and economic growth. While a long-term solution to this ongoing problem is ideal and remains a priority for me, this short-term fix is crucial to Arkansas and other states that rely on this money to improve roads and bridges.  

The delegation and I brought that same message of economic growth to Arkansas as we traveled the state after Memorial Day.

At the Capitol in Little Rock, Lockheed Martin brought the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle it hopes to produce in East Camden. Alongside Governor Asa Hutchinson, Senator Tom Cotton and Congressman Bruce Westerman, I urged our state legislators to help make East Camden the future home for this project, which will bring with it hundreds of highly skilled, quality jobs. Securing a contract of this magnitude is important for providing a solid economic foundation for the future of our state, South Arkansas and the people who call this region home.

While the potential of new job growth in East Camden is exciting news for the entire state, economic security is also about preventing potential job losses. That was the point Congressman Rick Crawford and I made at Independence Steam Electric Station in Newark. The coal-fired plant is one of five in Arkansas threatened by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) carbon emissions mandate. Our utilities are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make these plants some of cleanest coal plants in the world, but this EPA mandate would drive up the costs even further and puts jobs in our state at risk of elimination.

Sometimes, getting local economies strong again is about rebuilding after our darkest hours. Congressman French Hill and I met with the local officials from Vilonia and Mayflower to tour these two towns that were devastated by tornados in 2014. They are working hard to attract new businesses and their efforts are impressive. As Vilonia Mayor James Firestone put it, "We're coming back. We're coming back stronger."

As we return to Washington, our focus must remain on creating jobs at home. We must continue to direct our energy toward creating policies that preserve and promote an environment that is business friendly, encourages productivity and innovation, supports educational opportunities, and affords all Americans the opportunity to achieve economic freedom.