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Rep. LaHood calls for manufacturing sector revival as national security measure

U.S. Representative Darin LaHood briefed a McLean County Chamber of Commerce audience at the Chateau in Bloomington on recent legislative activity.
Charlie Schlenker
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood briefed a McLean County Chamber of Commerce audience Wednesday at the Chateau in Bloomington on recent legislative activity.

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood is calling for tax credits to boost manufacturing, and a drop in government spending, except for dollars that benefit local projects.

The Republican congressman said the U.S. needs to revive its manufacturing sector as a matter of national security. During a McLean County Chamber of Commerce briefing on Wednesday, he said one example is from the pandemic: masks, COVID testing reagents, and personal protective equipment, 95% of which comes from China.

LaHood said there will be another pandemic some day and the country needs to be ready.

He also mentioned this summer's federal CHIPS Act, providing a 25% tax cut to producers of semiconductors to make them in the U.S. instead of China. LaHood said he's reluctant to subsidize because that is not consistent with free trade and has no tariff value. But he said the nation needs to find a way to level the playing field with China and its state-owned businesses.

"You got to look sector by sector. Listen, not every sector is going to be justifiable in terms of that. But I think you got to think long and hard about that," said LaHood.

In other areas, LaHood is less willing to spend government money. He said current high inflation partly comes from government spending during the pandemic. He said the government spent $8 trillion to keep businesses going, people hale and fed, and schools and other institutions functioning. Pandemic relief money has to wash out of the economy, he said, before inflation subsides.

"The bottom line is we got to quit spending federal money," said LaHood.

At the same time, LaHood is more in favor of government spending on community projects that benefit the Town of Normal underpass, Heartland Community College workforce development, the Illinois State University Mennonite College of Nursing, and West College Avenue reconstruction in Normal. He was taking a victory lap before the business audience for passage in the House, as some of those funding items are still pending in the Senate.

"Getting that money flowing, that ought to be our goal by the end of the year," said LaHood, who sits on the Ways and Means Committee that oversees a lot of federal spending.

On another front, LaHood said he knows of no reason why former President Trump should have kept classified documents after he left office. Reporters asked LaHood, a former federal prosecutor, whether any former president should have documents in his possession marked top secret or secret.

"Under our current laws, unless there's some justified reason for having that, no," said LaHood.

"And is there in this case," asked WGLT?

"Well I, listen, I don't want to get involved in a legal case. I have not seen any justifiable reason for that," he said, adding he will wait for the court process to play out.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.