A Mississippi man was among several guests joining President and Mrs. Trump at the recent State of the Union address. Though not referred to by name during the President's 80-minute speech, Vicksburg resident Roy James was seated in the gallery with the First Lady and a number of other Americans to help highlight the economic progress made during the past two years.
Mr. James had worked at a local sawmill for 26 years when he was told the facility would close. Last year, a portion of Warren County that included the sawmill was declared a Qualified Opportunity Zone. The sawmill was then purchased and reopened. Instead of losing his job, Mr. James was promoted to oversee the entire facility.
The Opportunity Zone program was created by the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in December 2017. Tax credits incentivize investment in these communities where jobs and economic growth are needed most. More than 100 communities in Mississippi received this advantageous designation.
Job Numbers and Wages Continue to Grow
Mr. James’s story is just one example of how Republican policies have expanded opportunities for individuals and families of all walks of life. As the President noted during his speech, the economy has surged under Republican leadership. Since November 2016, there are 5.3 million new American jobs including 600,000 new manufacturing jobs. Overall unemployment has reached historic lows and a higher percentage of women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Americans with disabilities are working than ever before.
Wages are also increasing at the fastest rate in a decade. The January jobs report by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics found that wages and salaries for American workers rose more than three percent over the past year, the highest level since 2008.
Opportunities for Bipartisan Cooperation
More jobs, bigger paychecks, lower taxes, and streamlined regulations are among the promises made and kept by Republicans during the 115th Congress. The President also reminded the nation of the many bipartisan bills he has signed over the last two years. Among these are legislation to confront the opioid crisis, a new Farm Bill, reforms to the Veterans Health Administration, criminal justice and sentencing reform, regulatory relief for community banks, and two National Defense Authorization Acts to rebuild our military.
Acknowledging a return to divided government following the most recent elections, the President stressed the need for even greater bipartisan cooperation to continue delivering for the American people.
Improving America’s infrastructure is one area the President identified as a goal of both parties. We need better transportation networks, broadband access, and other essential elements for economic growth in Mississippi and across the country. As chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, this issue is among my top priorities. To kick-start the legislative process, the focus of the next Commerce Committee hearing will be infrastructure improvement.
On these and other challenges facing our nation, the President had a clear and welcome message, “we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution – and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.” I hope we will follow the spirit of the President’s words by continuing to work together in the best interests of the American people.