U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson

NFIB Small Business Owners Meet with Rep. Johnson

YOUNGSTOWN – U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson addressed the concerns of small business owners on the eve of the possible vote on a bill that is not too popular in the room.

Johnson, R-6 Ohio, spoke Thursday before a handful of members of the National Federation of Independent Business at an event held at City Machine Technologies. But mostly he just opened up the floor to hear the concerns of NFIB members.

One of the big concerns mentioned is the Inflation Reduction Act, which Johnson said he was heading back to Washington D.C. to oppose during the vote slated for Friday.

Johnson notes the current economy, particularly high Inflation, is affecting small businesses in many ways, their employees, their raw materials, their energy costs and their customers.

He points out the Inflation Reduction Act is borrowed money and the roughly 87,000 new IRS employees for which the bill allocates funding are enough to fill a pro football stadium.

“What are they going to be doing,” Johnson said. “Do you think they are going to be there twiddling their thumbs? No. They are going to be coming after small business owners. They are going to be coming after everybody. This is crazy.”

Johnson said he believes we are in a recession and says bad policy is to blame for how the country went from the best economy in 50 years to now in such a short time.

“It’s going to get worse before it’s gets better,” Johnson said, “because the policies that led us into this mess are not changing and we can’t seem to get President Biden to understand that the policies that he’s implementing has trashed the economy.”

In response to questions, Johnson addressed the inability of legislators to address the national debt, which is more than $30 trillion, and the lack of “teeth” in requirements to balance the budget. He notes that the 25% of funding that Congress debates is discretionary.

“You can’t spend the way that we are spending and expect things to turn around,” Johnson said.

Although he said he is not a climate change denier, Johnson believes there are other ways to address the climate issue than what Democrats are trying to do, which he said is more about controlling people than the climate.

He cited a study by the American Exploration and Production Council, which he said found if the U.S. just quadrupled the amount of clean natural gas being exported, there would be more of a reduction in carbon than if every car was electrified, if we put a solar farm on every home and built 54,000 industrial wind farms all combined.

“I’m not against market driven innovation. But I am against innovation that is one, paid for by the tax payers with no consult with them and number two, innovation that doesn’t have an end goal,” Johnson said.

Additionally, Johnson said the U.S. already exceeded it’s Paris Climate Accord requirements and the countries in Europe are now backpedaling due to Russia.

While he is not against electric vehicles, Johnson said he is concerned by the cost of replacing the batteries, the inability to recycle the materials in them and the added strain on an already stressed electric grid.

“We’re very grateful to Congressman Johnson for taking the time to meet with our members,” said Anthony Lagunzad, grassroots manager with NFIB. “Because as we call ourselves NFIB, the voice of small business, there is nothing more impactful than when we can get our small business owner members in front of their representatives to talk directly about their issues.”

One of those who expressed concerns was Mike Kovach, president and general manager of City Machine Technologies Inc. He questioned job development grant programs that are not getting to those who need them and the push toward legalization of marijuana when he struggles to find applicants able to pass a drug test.

Johnson talked about the oversight he has been involved with to limit and evaluate more government programs. He also noted he remembers classmates who became involved in the drug culture and never became viable members of society. But he said now that some states have made it legal, he does not want to see it become an under the table cash business. 

In response to another question about the possibility of a constitutional convention, Johnson said he does not see it happening in his lifetime. Instead he suggests people vote, attend local meetings and consider running for office.

Johnson said he is concerned about the rights of every American, considering the unprecedented “raid” on former President Donald Trump’s home by the FBI in Mar-a-Lago. He believes the divide in the country is only growing and the beginning of American culture reinventing itself as it did following the American Revolution, at the time of the Civil War and in the 60’s.

“We’re getting squeezed,” Johnson said of the people with common sense between the far left and far right. “There are getting to be fewer and fewer of us.”

Johnson has represented parts of the Mahoning County for nearly 12 years and said even those in the northern parts of Mahoning County are familiar with him although they have not been able to vote for him. He is getting to know voters in Stark and Tuscarawas counties recently added to his district, which he will defend against challenger Lou Lyras, D-Youngstown.

“The NFIB, I go to their lunches anytime they ask me to, because I’m a big supporter of small business, it doesn’t matter where they are at,” Johnson said.

“It was a very engaging, robust discussion, as the congressman opened up by saying 60% of jobs are created by small business,” the NFIB’s Lagunzad said. “We’ve got a lot of great congressmen and congresswomen. But not all of them know that top of mind and it’s very helpful to us when we have representation that keeps that top of mind.”

Claudia Kovach, corporate secretary and vice president of marketing at City Machine Technologies, agrees small businesses want candidates that understand them, regardless of political party.

“We just want those people to support small business and understand where we are coming from,” Kovach said “It’s a rough road these days with the cost of everything and prices and finding associates to work.”

One of her concerns is finding people interested in work with too many people interested in working from home, taking gig jobs or using drugs instead of working.

“I feel like Bill Johnson has a good grasp of Youngstown and the hardworking people here and in the steel valley,” she said

She noted that Johnson makes his home in Marietta, a blue-collar community also.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.