The Mandan Refinery will be the backdrop Wednesday as President Donald Trump discusses the need for tax reform, a message several area business leaders are eagerly awaiting.
“We pay too much tax in this country, and I believe it restricts the free enterprise system,” said Steve Herman, owner of AAction Movers in Bismarck.
Herman and his wife, Marcia, are among the small business owners Rep. Kevin Cramer invited to hear Trump speak. About 700 people are expected to attend the invite-only event, according to a senior White House official.
Herman, a Bismarck native whose moving company has been in business for 42 years, said he’s honored to attend and interested to hear what Trump has to say.
“Any tax relief would be a benefit to everyone, I believe,” Herman said.
Trump is expected to highlight personal stories from North Dakotans about the need for tax reform, including talking about Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and a fourth-generation cattle rancher in Morton County.
Ellingson said a repeal of what’s known as the death tax is important to the agriculture industry.
“It really creates an obstacle in keeping family-owned ranches and farms intact following the death of a loved one,” Ellingson said.
Scott Meske, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce, said he’s particularly interested to hear how Trump’s tax reform plan would affect small businesses, which represent 85 percent of the chamber’s members.
“Our small businesses are the ones that continue to get hammered,” said Meske, who plans to attend the speech. “We need to see if we can do better.”
Kathy Neset, a geologist and owner of Neset Consulting in Tioga, said she was asked to be part of a small group to greet Trump at the refinery on behalf of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
“I’m absolutely thrilled, impressed and am looking forward to meeting him,” Neset said. “I’m happy to see he’s putting North Dakota so high on his list of places to go as president.”
Neset said she’s in favor of a simplified tax plan.
“I would love to see some lower corporate tax rates and a simplified plan for all Americans,” Neset said.
Gov. Doug Burgum, who will greet Trump at the Bismarck airport, said he’s looking forward to discussing how tax reform can benefit workers, farmers, ranchers, businesses and families.
“The U.S. tax code is bloated, cumbersome and long overdue for reform,” Burgum said in a statement. “Fortunately, President Trump recognizes that he and this Congress have a once-in-a-generation chance to simplify the tax code and cut taxes in a way that allows American workers and families to keep more of their hard-earned income.”
Cramer said the refinery will be a good backdrop for Trump to highlight why tax reform is needed and how it will affect Middle America.
“People want to get a sense of what’s in it for the average worker,” Cramer said.
Kylie Oversen, chairwoman of North Dakota’s Democratic-NPL Party, said in a statement the tax code is broken and does not work for businesses or families.
“Fixing it requires ideas from both sides of the aisle and a genuine commitment to working together,” Oversen said. “We’re eager to hear the president’s ideas, but North Dakotans don’t just want to hear a political stump speech, either.”
Attendees were invited through federal and state elected officials and organizations from the state that have been focused on tax reform and tax relief, according to a senior White House official.
Carson Klosterman, president of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, was invited to attend by Sen. John Hoeven and said he hopes to get a chance to bring up issues affecting farmers.
“Hopefully, he remembers the biofuels and the heartland and all that agriculture has to offer,” Klosterman said.
Trump is expected to acknowledge the drought affecting much of North Dakota, according to the White House official.
It was unknown whether Burgum would have the opportunity to talk to Trump about the governor’s request for a presidential drought declaration, Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.