Tillis, Rouzer discuss tax reform bill with Wilmington business owners

Tillis, Rouzer discuss tax reform bill with Wilmington business owners
Sen. Thom Tillis and Rep. David Rouzer are in Wilmington to discuss the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act with local business owners.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC7) joined Wilmington business owners Wednesday to discuss the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

"We've seen minimum wage increases in terms of what the private sector and retail and banking wants to do," Tillis said following a policy roundtable at the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. "We've seen thousands of bonuses given out that the businesses have attributed to additional resources as a result of tax reform."

Businesses expect big breaks

The bill is supposed to cut taxes for small business and incentivize companies to hire more employees.

New Hanover County Commissioner Pat Kusek runs a financial planning business. She said with expected tax cuts in the next fiscal year she's going to hire another part-time employee and do more outreach in the community.

"I started my business 20 years ago, knocking on doors in downtown Wilmington," Kusek said. "We're going to go out and start knocking on doors again to let people know that we're open for business."

Kusek's customers are typically families looking to invest money. Since the reform bill passed in December 2017, Kusek said her customers' hesitancy to invest has been replaced by a newfound willingness to spend.

"It makes people more positive about doing business," Kusek said. "I think a lot of times, just the emotion and the fear of what regulation and taxes do stops people dead in their tracks, and makes them not invest in their business and not move forward."

Attracting big business to the Cape Fear

The Wilmington economy is boosted by the tourism industry. While the tax reform bill could save beach businesses money, the pressure to scale back staff in the winter months may outweigh the benefits.

Tillis said with help from lawmakers Wilmington can become a destination for year-round businesses.

"Additional access to broadband, additional access to roads so that you have the corridors that a major employer needs to be able to position a plant of about 5,000 people in a manufacturing facility," Tillis said.

A workforce stuck 'on the sidelines'

Rouzer said the tax cuts come at a "critical time" when businesses can hire from an expanding talent pool of workers. He is pushing for passage of the farm bill which deals with agricultural affairs and the funding of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Millions of people receive food stamps from SNAP, but may be under a new set of regulations if they hope to keep their food aid.

"If you are able-bodied and fully capable of work, in order to receive the food stamps, you should be required to work 20 hours a week," Rouzer said.

Rouzer added any food stamp beneficiaries who are pregnant, disabled, or have children under 6 years old should be exempt from the 20-hour work requirement. If the beneficiaries can't find work, the federal government would pay for job training.

"This is going to enable those who are on the sidelines, who are able-bodied, to get the training they need to move on and have a meaningful career," Rouzer said.

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