RACINE — Congress is dedicated to passing tax reform before the end of the year and is working on other priorities despite “distractions” from an often-frenetic news cycle, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday.
Ryan, R-Wis., took questions from employees of Burlington Graphics Systems as part of an event celebrating a recent expansion at the business, 2600 Chicory Road. He also got a tour of the facility and participated in a ribbon-cutting event.
Tax reform is one of a number of measures the Republican-controlled Congress hopes to get to President Donald Trump’s desk this term. Any reform of the tax code needs to cut tax rates for businesses and simplify tax returns for families, Ryan said, adding businesses like Burlington Graphics are at a competitive disadvantage with its high tax rate.
Allowing businesses to immediately write off major costs like equipment purchases would lead to more investment and economic growth, Ryan said.
“Our job and our goal is to get tax reform done in 2017,” said Ryan, who represents Racine County in Congress, “so that when we roll into a new year in 2018, we roll into having a new tax code.”
In addition to taxes, Ryan promoted reforms related to workforce training, welfare, Social Security and health care and pushed more domestic production of oil and gas.
Noting new reserves found in the United States, Ryan said he wants to ensure the United States has the right policies to become the world’s greatest producer of oil and gas.
“That is something we are dedicated to getting right for good so that we have more energy jobs in America, stabilize prices of energy and get rid of our dependence on foreign oil,” Ryan said.
The oil and gas comments caught the attention of Mark Edwards, president of Burlington Graphics, a company whose biggest clients include the likes of Harley Davidson and recreational vehicle makers.
“It was really interesting to hear his thoughts on energy,” said Edwards, who said he supported Ryan’s statements. “That’s what we do. Everything we sell, you need gas for.”
Ryan: Progress under radar
Ryan, who did not take questions from reporters, argued Congress has made progress on several issues, but it has gone under the radar given other stories dominating the news cycle.
He noted, for example, the House passed a repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations. But it went relatively unnoticed as it came on the same day of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to a Senate committee.
“We passed that big landmark bill; nobody knows we did it,” Ryan said.
Liberal groups, though, continued attacking Ryan for not holding a town hall open to the public. Ryan’s last public listening session in Racine County came in October 2015.
Thursday’s event shows “how scared he must be of real interaction with his own constituents,” said Wisconsin Working Families Party Director Marina Dimitrijevic, who posted a video on Facebook of herself getting turned away. Dimitrijevic is also a member of the Milwaukee County Board.
“Ryan’s constituents deserve to know why he wants to kick millions of Americans off their health care insurance while giving millionaires, billionaires, and huge corporations massive tax giveaways,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning said in a statement to The Journal Times. “The people of the First Congressional District deserve to be able to speak to their representative in person — they deserve better than Speaker Ryan.”