Growing the workforce
Brady said the U.S. and Greater Houston area are experiencing job growth and that businesses are having trouble filling job availabilities.
“We’ve moved from a country that’s asking ‘Where are the jobs’ to the nation asking ‘Where are the workers?’” Brady said. “We need workers in, it seems like, every business of every size in every community in the country. … It’s really becoming, in my view, the No. 1 economic challenge facing Americans: finding the workers we need to grow.”
In Montgomery County specifically, Brady encouraged business owners to lean on local school districts and community colleges to help build the workforce with workforce programs.
“We’ve got to work with our school districts, our community colleges, our private schools and our industries,” he said. “We have to develop tenfold [and] scale up the types of workers we have here in Montgomery County and in Texas, in the country if we're going to meet our demands.”
Impact of tax code reform
Additionally, Brady discussed the effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which went into effect in February 2018. He said there have been reports of tax rebates being less this year under the new tax code; however, he said tax rebates vary annually, and it is too early to judge whether residents' tax rebates will be less than in previous years.
“Refunds have zero to do with your tax bill—that’s simply what you overpaid the [Internal Revenue Service] last year,” Brady said. “Most business people and accountants will tell you to get to a zero [tax refund], use all your money because most families live paycheck to paycheck.”
Then an attendee asked Brady to address recent reports stating Amazon did not pay any federal income taxes in 2018, despite the company earning $11.2 billion in revenue.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a report in mid-February analyzing Amazon's corporate filings, showing that the company was able to pay no taxes in 2018 partially due to "various unspecified 'tax credits' as well as a tax break for executive stock options."
Brady said he had not seen it to be the case, but that he would pay attention to it.
"Honestly, these companies that have worldwide income that are taxed differently, in the past I think the tax code let them move their dollars around … [to] get their tax rate to not much—the new tax code doesn't allow them to do that," Brady said. "[It] encourages them to bring money back, invest in here in the U.S. ... to bring the manufacturers, research and patents back—that’s also a good thing. But it also, if they try to park their money into low-tax countries … we now have a global minimum tax. So no longer are they rewarded to try to hide those dollars in those zero-tax countries."
Priorities for the legislative session
Brady also talked about his priorities for the 2019 legislative session, one of which is the cost of prescription medicines.
As the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, Brady said he plans to work with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, who serves as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to reduce the out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs.
"We think that we can lower our out-of-pocket costs by focusing on really cracking down on overpriced drugs, [or] medicines," Brady said. "Second, [we're focusing on] giving patients far more power to choose the right medicines for them, that, you know, fit their pocketbook and what's right for their health. Then thirdly, we've got a lot of incentives that are ... wrong in health care that actually drive up the cost of medicines."