Rep. Michelle Brooks Brings Power to the People the Old Fashioned Way…Jobs
For Rep. Michelle Brooks (R-Crawford, Lawrence, Mercer), there is a lot in a name; at least when it comes to the Washington Redskins. She called the recent cancellation of the NFL team’s trademarks by the United States Patent and Trademark Office a "scary" display of a few people in government deciding what the general public would find offensive.
"I haven’t read or heard of any Native Americans having a problem with the name," Brooks said. "And if the general public found it offensive they would respond by not going to games and buying merchandise. That’s where the decision should be made." (As an aside, her passion for the on-the-field battle lies with the Pittsburgh Steelers.)
Brooks tackles her legislative duties in the same common sense manner; an approach focused on helping, "people get back control over their lives". The best path to that end, she says, is a business environment conducive to creating jobs. She has a personal stake in that mission. "I love this area. I want my children, my grandchild to have a reason to stay here," she said. "They have no reason to (stay) if they can’t find good jobs."
Brooks often finds herself in the thick of fights for legislative and regulatory changes in Harrisburg, but mostly enjoys the challenge of enticing businesses to bring their jobs to the northwest region of the commonwealth.
A career highlight: She worked with the local development group, Penn-Northwest Development Corporation, and the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to create the incentives for a Texas supplier of nickel billets to move into her district. The bid was successful and 80 high paying jobs followed.
"We had to work with DCED to create a tax structure and overall business environment that was competitive with Texas," said Randy P. Seitz, executive director of the Penn-Northwest Development Corporation. "It took us countless hours of calls and negotiations and Michelle was right in the middle of it working both in Harrisburg and locally."
Brooks also helped convince a Canadian firm that manufactures noise suppression equipment for the drilling industry to choose the northwest region over neighboring Ohio. The company brought 150 new jobs to the area. She is currently amidst another project that will create over 100 STEM (science/technology/engineering/math-related) jobs that Seitz says will pay between $60,000 and $100,000 a year, and a brownfields project that will create more manufacturing jobs in the area – more than 100.
"I have a passion for manufacturing, for the producers," Brooks said. "Pennsylvania is getting back to being a leader again in that area, and it’s a great trend."
PMA Executive Director, David N. Taylor, called Brooks one of the state’s top lawmakers for working to support the economic engine that drives Pennsylvania and the entire country. "Manufacturing jobs produce the highest salaries, the highest tax revenues and the overall greatest benefit to a free society," Taylor said. "Michelle is one of our greatest allies in the General Assembly."
In Harrisburg, the legislation Brooks supports reflects her mission of giving people more control. She supported legislation that eliminated the inheritance tax — the death tax — on small business and farmers. Now she is the prime sponsor of two bills that will end the tax on siblings and lineal heirs. "The tax not only amounts to double taxation but it’s levied on people because they die," Brooks said. "That money is much better invested locally by the heirs than in Harrisburg."
Her legislation, HB 2232, which would eliminate the 12 percent death tax paid by siblings cleared the House Finance Committee in May. Another bill, HB 2231, would abolish the 4.5 percent lineal inheritance tax rate. Lineal heirs are considered a grandparent, parent, child or child’s spouse.
She’s also working to lessen regulatory burden. She’s become more than tired of hearing stories of businesses leaving the state and even the country because of the cost of compliance. "One of the smaller companies in my area had to pay $80,000 for a storm water management plan. That’s just ridiculous," she said.
She’s supported Governor Tom Corbett’s restrained budgets, which included no tax increases, keeping in mind what she says should be obvious but is often overlooked – that the money they’re disbursing in Harrisburg is not government’s, but the taxes of hard working men and women.
"I always think about those people working two and sometimes three jobs, who fund what we do here," she said. "It keeps everything in perspective."
Before being elected to the state House in 2006, Brooks served as vice chairman of the Mercer County Board of Commissioners. She also served as an executive board member of the Penn-Northwest Development Corporation. Her work also entailed activity as liaison commissioner to the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mercer County Area Agency on Aging, Mercer County Cooperative Extension Office and Mercer County Regional Planning Commission.
Brooks is a graduate of the Anne Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series. She is a past president with the United Way in northern Mercer County, and is a member of the Greenville Rotary. She also serves as executive committee member of the Mercer County Republican Committee and is a past officer of the Mercer County Council of Republican Women.
Brooks is married to Guy Brooks, and they have two children — a son Brandin and a daughter Taylor.