Joyce talks about taxes, health care at chamber event

March 20, 2019

As an ode to former U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, many who attended the Somerset County chamber’s congressional update Tuesday had “219” written on their forehead or face.

It was a message that Shuster’s successor, U.S. Rep. John Joyce, said that he already supported.

“We need (Route) 219 to be completed,” he told a crowd of about 60 at the Somerset Country Club Tuesday.

Joyce said that instead of talking about the road project, he wanted to spend time Tuesday discussing other ideas for bolstering the Somerset County economy.

“I’ve signed both the front and the back of paychecks,” he said. “Washington may be new to me, but my knowledge of the business climate in our region and your unique needs as job creators are not new to me.”

Joyce said that in the past two years Somerset County unemployment dropped by 31 percent, which he attributed to a commitment to lowering taxes and reducing regulations. He vowed to make the federal tax cuts from December 2017 permanent.

“There is no doubt the federal tax cuts have been a huge win for our area,” he said.

He said that next week he will co-sponsor a bill to make the individual and small-business tax cuts permanent like the corporate tax cuts. The former are set to expire after 2025.

“As someone who has had to engage in long-term planning for a small business, I know how important this legislation would be for your piece of mind and your decisions down the road,” he told the audience.

He also questioned the fairness of the cuts being permanent for large corporations but not small businesses.

“Last Congress a similar bill made it out of the House with Democratic support, including Congressman Conor Lamb,” he said.

He also discussed the importance of broadband internet and skilled labor.

“You will also see me visiting many schools and apprenticeship organizations because I understand we have many skilled labor jobs that need to be filled in our region and I want to figure out how we can get more of our students trained to do them,” he said.

Joyce said he is also working for more rehabilitation services for those addicted to opioids. He said that he will be co-sponsoring several pieces of legislation to address the epidemic, and he encouraged the community to work together to tackle the crisis.

“Physicians have to share the responsibility for the opioid crisis,” said Joyce, who worked as a dermatologist in Altoona before being elected in November.

Joyce said that he is also looking for ways to make health care more affordable, which is the main reason he ran for office. He talked about associate health plans, which allow small businesses to band together to purchase coverage. He said that while they are not popular in Pennsylvania, he is working with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to bring them to the state. He said they are often started through chambers of commerce.

“We have to be open to additional ideas,” he said.