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Published: Tuesday, 1/10/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Sen. Portman tours region to push for growth in jobs

Lawmaker praises Toledo transportation hub

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
U.S. Senator Rob Portman speaks to the media during a news conference at One Maritime Plaza in Toledo, Tuesday. U.S. Senator Rob Portman speaks to the media during a news conference at One Maritime Plaza in Toledo, Tuesday.
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U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) made several stops in northwest Ohio Tuesday in what he said is an effort to promote job growth.

He met with business and city government leaders in Findlay during the morning and in the afternoon met with BX Solutions, which in November replaced BAX Global Inc. handling freight intermodal operations at Toledo Express Airport.

“I’m excited that they’ve made a decision to invest, and invest big in the airport, and want to talk about how we can help them get more freight traffic,” Mr. Portman said.

“Toledo’s got a lot going for it in terms of transportation,” Mr. Portman said.

He met with officials of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and Mayor Mike Bell about increasing activity in the port. He said he has introduced legislation to help reduce the harbor maintenance tax for shippers within the Great Lakes.

“These shippers do not benefit from some of the dredging they have to pay for so it makes sense for some tax relief for them. That’s going to help to increase commerce here and create jobs here in the Toledo area,” he said.

He also met Tuesday with a group of business leaders at the Toledo Club.

Mr. Portman hailed the announcement Friday of a reduction in the unemployment rate, which accompanied news about the creation of 200,000 private-sector jobs in the previous month. But he criticized the pace of the recovery as slower than four previous recessions, saying the economy is still down 6 million jobs from before the recession began.

“This recovery has been the weakest recovery in recent history. The last four recessions by this point we already had a lot of jobs created,” Mr. Portman said.

He said the downturn is not a normal business cycle, and he advocated tax reform, regulatory relief, expanded trade, and lower energy and health-care costs to “reboot the economy.”

On Friday, the Obama Administration said the economy is healing from “the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

President Obama called on Congress to extend the payroll tax cut and to continue to provide emergency unemployment benefits through the end of this year and to pass other parts of his proposed American Jobs Act.

Mr. Portman said he expects the temporary cut in the payroll tax for Social Security on workers from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent to be extended through the rest of the year once a congressional conference committee gets together. Congress approved a two-month extension before the Christmas break.

“The question is how do you pay for it? I think they’ll figure out a way,” Mr. Portman said. He predicted as a measure to pay for the tax cuts a one-year freeze in federal pay, or a reduced increase.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the unemployment rate in December fell 0.2 percentage point to 8.5 percent, the lowest level since February, 2009. The White House statement said that in the last 12 months, 1.9 million private sector jobs have been added on net in 2011, more than in any year since 2005.

Asked about the Republican presidential nominating contest, Mr. Portman offered no predictions or endorsements, but said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appeared to be “the strongest candidate.”

“I’ve thought for some time this is going to be a drawn-out process. All these major candidates are going to have some delegates. That means Ohio’s going to be a player because our primary is in early March,” Mr. Portman said.

Mr. Portman said he also toured the CSX intermodal terminal in North Baltimore, which he said is on the cutting edge for intermodal operations worldwide.

“It’s a big deal. A lot of jobs have been created and more to come,” Mr. Portman said.

Mr. Portman said he held a business roundtable meeting in Findlay with leaders representing Marathon Petroleum Corp., U.S. Steel, and at least 15 other area businesses, as well as with the mayor of Findlay, Lydia Mihalik. He said business leaders wanted government support of “fracking,” a controversial method of extracting oil from shale deep underground.

Mr. Portman said he supports fracking, but with appropriate regulation.

“It could be a real boon for all of Ohio including, frankly, for this part of Ohio because it will result in more stable and lower energy prices, but I also said it needs to be properly regulated,” Mr. Portman said.

He acknowledged one concern was a recent series of earthquakes in eastern Ohio that critics have attributed to fracking. He said Gov. John Kasich appropriately stopped the continued use of some disposal wells in the Youngstown area for more study.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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