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Sunday, 20 December 2015 22:28

Q&A: Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich.

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Sen. Gary Peters Sen. Gary Peters

Nearly one year into his first term, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters has spent considerable time working on legislation geared toward small business as a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. Peters spoke with MiBiz regarding a number of pieces of legislation he’s worked on that he hopes will improve the small business climate.


What’s the legislative landscape from your perspective sitting on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee in the Senate?

Making sure that there’s money available for small businesses. The committee has responsibilities over the Small Business Administration, and I have been working to expand the cap on the 7(a) loan program, which has been very successful — which is why we need to expand the cap to allow for more loans to be made.


What’s the status of those changes?

That legislation has passed the Senate. We’re waiting for House action. I’ll be working with some of my House colleagues to get that passed and get it signed into law. There doesn’t seem to be really any opposition to it. People realize it’s been a successful program providing essential help to small business. So hopefully we can get that done early next year.


What else do you hope to work on in the New Year?

The state’s small business credit initiative — so far, it’s been estimated that over 9,000 Michigan jobs were created as a result of this lending. This lending is done through the MEDC. They’re provided the money and then use that money to provide small businesses with loans, usually working with existing, private banks through loan guarantees or collateral support. It leverages private-sector money. That money is basically coming to an end.

But because of its success in Michigan, … I’ve introduced legislation to do a second tranche of money to continue to fund the initiative, which would help small business efforts around the country. We also believe that if we can pass the second round, it could be evergreen. The money comes back from these loans, and they could re-loan and there would be a constant pool of money available.


What’s the impact of the recent reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank?

That’s now part of a transportation bill that passed, and it was critical. There were so many small businesses in Michigan that utilized the bank’s services to open up (foreign) markets. When I was in Grand Rapids (earlier this year), we did an event … with Mill Steel. That was an example where without the Ex-Im Bank, (the company) wouldn’t be able to continue its business, primarily into Mexico. Here’s a business where they were clear: This business wouldn’t grow, it would be hurt and he may even have to lay folks off. Now that won’t be a problem.


You’ve probably heard the debate about granting tax breaks to a large Nevada cloud data center that wants to open a facility near Grand Rapids. There’s a lot of concern from existing data centers that the tax breaks won’t apply to them. Where do you stand on that issue?

I’ve followed it tangentially because it is a state issue. I’m personally of the belief that we need to have a good business environment for every business, including the ones that are currently here. When you set up a program like that, it’s not unusual but you’d expect businesses that are already here to wonder why they don’t get tax breaks or help to grow their businesses as well. So it does create some potential inequities in the tax code, which is not a good thing.

Unfortunately, the situation we’re in is that other states use those tools. So if you don’t use them, someone else will and it’s difficult to grow your business. It’d be better if we had comprehensive tax reform. We’re dealing with those issues nationally. But when you have states competing with each other, it’s difficult to disarm one state if the states next to you are using that tool.


What is the status of your bill looking at oil pipeline safety?

We all know the recreational value of the Great Lakes, but the Great Lakes provide drinking water for 40 million people. It’s something that is absolutely critical that we do all we can to prevent oil contamination. My hope is that the analysis of pipelines — and particularly aging pipelines — will be helpful to the state of Michigan as they look at strategies. … I’m happy to say (the bill) passed the Senate Commerce Committee on a unanimous basis, so there was broad bipartisan support. That increases the odds significantly we will be able to put it on the Senate floor.

Interview conducted and condensed by Nick Manes.

Read 1552 times Last modified on Monday, 28 December 2015 10:31

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