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Great Lakes, military and more

Krystle Wagner • Aug 10, 2017 at 1:00 PM

SPRING LAKE — With Congress currently on recess, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said he’s using the opportunity to check in with his district.

Huizenga gave an update about efforts in Washington during the Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg’s 2017 annual Legislative Breakfast on Wednesday at the Spring Lake Country Club.

Earlier in the week, Huizenga visited with a couple to better understand the woman’s challenge as she battles cancer and uses home health care. The congressman also toured Woodward Inc. in Zeeland, which makes a part for the afterburner on the F-35 fighter jet.

Huizenga said he’s also checking in with people such as school administrators and manufacturers.

Great Lakes

The House and Senate has agreed to a $300 million funding level for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Huizenga said. 

The initiative and Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will have local impacts such as fighting Asian carp and invasive species, and Grand Haven’s pier head. Although there are delays for the Grand Haven work, Huizenga said he plans on checking in with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and watching it closely.

One man in the audience said he grew up along Lake Michigan and wondered why invasive species can’t be stopped or ballast water be better regulated.

Huizenga said that although Michigan passed stringent regulations, Ohio and Canada haven’t adopted similar standards. Huizenga serves on the U.S.-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Group and said he is “pushing Great Lakes issues all the time.”

“It’s international boundaries. It’s international waters,” he said. “We have to be working with our co-habitants on the Great Lakes.”

Military

Huizenga said there is bipartisan work happening, which includes Great Lakes issues and veterans.

“We have done some significant work, bipartisan work, on trying to ensure that we’re taking care of our men and women in uniform,” he said.

Huizenga said military personnel need to have the resources to do their mission and return home safely.

The House Committee on Appropriations approved a 2.5 percent raise for sailors and soldiers. They previously had been seeing half-percent raises, which didn’t keep up with the cost of living, Huizenga said.

In addition to while they’re actively serving in the military, Huizenga said taking care of armed forces members when they return home must be a priority.

In June, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 was approved in the House, 368-55. Huizenga said they found that, previously, whistleblowers were either afraid to come forward or were being punished.

In July, the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act was unanimously approved in the House. Huizenga said it allows veterans to use the GI Bill at anytime.

Health care

Although there are people on both sides of the aisle who don’t believe the Affordable Care Act is functioning as it should, Huizenga said the problem is finding a solution.

He said there are two philosophies — moving on to other issues such as tax reform, and infrastructure or other issues, or the Affordable Care Act isn’t working and a response is needed.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but there’s definitely a shift toward tax reform,” he said.

Tax reform

To remain a competitive country, Huizenga said tax reform needs to be addressed.

Huizenga said he’s bothered that large companies that have “carved out tax codes over decades to give themselves advantages” will have the corporate rate lowered, yet small business owners trying to grow a business might see their rate increased.

“That’s bothersome to me,” he said.

Huizenga said they need to figure out how to treat the entities equally and fairly, but it won’t be easy. There will likely be a streamline for tax rates, deductions and maybe limits placed on charitable and mortgage interest, the congressman added.

Huizenga said they’ve been told there will be an outline on the plan this month, and they’ll go to companies and see how it will impact them with the notion of getting the country to be more competitive.

Financial Services Committee

Huizenga serves on the House Financial Services Committee and is the chairman of the Capital Markets, Securities and Investment subcommittee.

Although Wall Street is doing well and investors have options, people with IRA accounts have fewer options and less return on their investment, he said. Noting that the number of IPOs has plunged, he said multi-billion-dollar companies are remaining private because it costs about $2 million to $3 million a year to be a public traded company.

“That has been a concern on both sides of the aisle,” Huizenga said.

Maintaining safety and security for investors and giving them options has been the focus of the group’s work with the Security and Exchange Commission, but there has been a slowdown on getting appointments, Huizenga said. By not having the SEC or Federal Trade Commission and other agencies fully staffed, Huizenga said Americans have been put at a disadvantage.

Sam Nelson, of the Ottawa County Democratic Party, said it’s troubling to him that Huizenga and Congress have to work “with a continually failing administration.” Nelson said it seems like there’s a new scandal every day.

Nelson asked Huizenga how he reconciles his personal agenda and the Republican Caucus’ agenda.

Huizenga said he’s received positive and negative feedback in regards to the work he’s doing. He said there are 715,000 people who live in Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District, and they give him a public job review — the election — every two years.

Regardless of who is president, Huizenga said he always keeps his duties to the district in mind, which is why he has “cross swords” with the present administration about the Great Lakes Initiative and other issues. Huizenga said there will be times of agreement and times when he pushes back when he believes policies are off-base.

Huizenga said he doesn’t like the tone President Donald Trump takes at times and sees it as “unhelpful.” He said it’s “New Jersey-New York moxie” that comes out, and that doesn’t fit with West Michigan residents.

Huizenga said his personal agenda is to pay attention to his constituents and dive into his committee work. Ultimately, voters hold him responsible, he said.

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