Sen. Coats tours U.S. Steel, touts reduced government spending
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent September 24, 2012 5:20PM
U.S. Senator Dan Coats, with gloves at left, stands with sheet division manager Bill Coe, left, and general manager Matt Perkins, right while watching production on screens along with employee George Swartzell during during a visit to the North Sheel Mill at U.S. Steel Gary Works Monday Sept. 24, 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 26, 2012 6:13AM
GARY — While touring U.S. Steel Gary Works on Monday, Indiana Sen. Dan Coats said Congress needs to grow the economy and put people back to work through a four-prong approach: institute a more sensible regulatory system, cut corporate taxes, end excessive spending in Washington and stop doing nothing.
The Republican said when he returns to Washington, he will propose to both Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration they stop excessive spending, which he said has left the federal government in debt to other countries and without the money needed to do needed infrastructure work and get the economy growing.
“We need to grow the economy so we can build bridges and use steel,” said Coats, who took U.S. Steel officials up on an earlier offer to tour the Gary mill while making other stops in northern Indiana.
Coats also said Congress needs to make sure no foreign countries are illegally dumping their steel and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t go overboard with regulations.
“This company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the environment, yet the EPA says you need to do more,” Coats said.
He said there should be a median point that would both protect the environment and help businesses.
Coats praised the steelmaker for what it has done in Gary to improve its effect on the environment, including the $220 million carbon alloy synthesis plant still being constructed and $60 million in maintenance work being done on its No. 14 blast furnace.
“This company is building a $220 million plant with the sole purpose of reducing its carbon emissions. That’s an amazing accomplishment,” Coats said.
Coats said as a manufacturer, U.S. Steel is part of the nation’s backbone.
“We’re seeing a resurgence in manufacturing in the U.S. I want to make sure we keep it going,” Coats said.
When asked by one steel worker what Washington could do to improve innovation, Coats responded the government should stop overtaxing corporations as well as enforce rules against foreign companies dumping their steel in the market.
U.S. Steel spokeswoman Jill Ritchie said she doesn’t know how much the company pays in corporate taxes, but added that improvements in state and local taxes encouraged the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker to put money into its largest facility in Gary and bolster jobs for the 6,000 workers the company employs at its Gary steel mill, tin mill in East Chicago and finishing facility in Portage.
“The senator and U.S. Steel are on the same page regarding regulations and creating a business climate that allows businesses here to compete world-wide, “Ritchie said. “Nations like China have some advantages over us, such as government subsidies in general and fewer regulations.”
She said U.S. Steel is building the new carbon alloy synthesis plant on its own, not under an U.S. EPA mandate.
Matthew Perkins, general manager at Gary Works, said there are hundreds of outside contract employees working 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the blast furnace and carbon alloy plant projects. He said the sprawling mill has the capability of making more than 7 million tons of steel — used for automotive, container and construction purposes — annually.
Ritchie said U.S. Steel likes having elected officials visit its facilities.
“Nothing has more of an impact than them seeing our hard work making quality steel here,” she said.