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Katko business roundtable

U.S. Rep. John Katko, center, listens during a business roundtable Monday in Syracuse. 

SYRACUSE — At a roundtable discussion Monday, a group of central New York business leaders explained to U.S. Rep. John Katko how tax reform would benefit them — and their employees. 

The meeting, held at Progressive Expert Consulting in Syracuse, featured 20 business leaders from the Syracuse area. Two panelists were from Cayuga County: Joanne Cross, owner of Cross Filtration in Moravia, and Drew Wilcox, vice president and general manager of Nucor Steel in Auburn. 

Cross believes tax reform will help her company, which produces wet filtration press cloths for manufacturers, mining operations and water treatment systems. She said the tax plan would allow Cross Filtration to continue to pay for employees' health insurance coverage and increase wages for her employees. 

"This is a good way to put more money in their pockets and keep our workforce happy," she said. 

While Nucor Steel is a larger company than Cross Filtration, Wilcox sees similar benefits for his business and workforce. 

Nucor, he said, has invested more than $7 billion since 2009 despite economic challenges for the steel industry. If tax reform is adopted, he said it would allow Nucor to continue investing in its plants, including the mill in Auburn. 

What separates Nucor from some companies represented at Katko's roundtable is it is a major player in the global market. Wilcox noted one way the tax plan would help is by lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. 

"All we ask for is a level playing field," he said. "To have a similar tax rate as a lot of these other companies that we are competing with it just gives us a chance to keep our people working and busy and making a good wage." 

Steve Wells, co-founder of American Food & Vending Corp., a company based in Liverpool, said tax reform would benefit his employees because the food service industry tends to pay low wages. 

With the possibility that many in the working class will receive a tax cut, Wells said it would be "great" for his business and staff. 

"In every way, this tax plan advances the economy as a whole and in particular, upstate New York," he said. 

The comments at the roundtable echo statements Katko, R-Camillus, has heard at similar events. He cited business support for the proposal when he decided to support the House GOP tax reform plan earlier this month. 

The House passed its tax reform measure and now it awaits action by the Senate on its own plan. It's unclear when the Senate will vote on its bill, which is still working its way through the committee process. 

If the Senate passes its bill, a conference committee will be formed to reach an agreement on a final tax reform plan. 

There's a possibility that the final bill could be different than the proposal Katko supported. But based on the House plan, he said a vast majority of his constituents will pay a lower tax bill. He also believes that it would benefit businesses in his district, including the companies represented at the roundtable. 

"It's going to unlock manufacturers' and businesses' potential to not only stay here but to flourish and maybe bring jobs back," he said. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.