THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Chuck Goodrich. Thank you for putting on a tie. (Laughter.) Thanks for that wonderful introduction and for your friendship of so many years. And I'm just so proud of Chuck Goodrich and his leadership role in this great organization. From one Hoosier to another, thank you for your leadership, my friend. And thank you for your friendship of so many years. (Applause.)
And let me also pay a debt of gratitude to another old friend who I worked with back in my days in Congress and when I was Governor of Indiana. He came to be President of ABC Indiana/Kentucky, and is just an inspiring and tenacious leader for everything everyone here fights for -- JR Gaylor. I don't know where you're sitting, but, JR, thank you so much.
And it is great to be back to ABC. (Applause.) This is an organization of red-blooded American patriots who I did, over 10 years ago, proudly call the "Marine Corps of American politics" -- (applause) -- first on the beach for freedom in the workplace -- the Associated Builders and Contractors of America. Give yourselves a round of applause. (Applause.)
It really is an honor to be with all of you today and a privilege for me to bring you greetings from my friend and a builder who is now the 45th President of the United States of America -- President Donald Trump. (Applause.) And on the President's behalf, let me welcome you to a new era for American builders.
I know you enjoyed hearing from some of our great allies in the Congress -- Congressman Rick Allen, Congressman Francis Rooney, and Congressman Lloyd Smucker. Give them another round of applause. (Applause.) They are great, great champions and we appreciate their support.
But I do appreciate the invitation to join you for the ABC 2017 Legislative Conference. As you all know, I have a little bit of history with ABC in Indiana. I first ran for Congress when I was a little bit younger than I am today. (Laughter.) It was back in 1988 -- I was 29 years old. Back when I had dark hair and -- okay, there was a little less of me. (Laughter.)
But I have to tell you, ABC was there. When I stepped forward to take on an entrenched incumbent in the Congress, ABC didn't hesitate to give me the support. Well, I came up short the first two times I tried for Congress. And by the time I would be elected to Congress a little more than 10 years later, ABC was there every step of the way. So, on behalf of my little family and the opportunities that we've had to serve in the Congress, to serve as governor, and now to serve as 48th Vice President of the United States of America, let me just say thank you. (Applause.) Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
The truth is that the members of ABC fight for a stronger and more prosperous America, for coming alongside men and women like me and my family each and every day. And I'm going to make you a promise: President Donald Trump is fighting every day for all of you and the values of this great organization. (Applause.)
This President knows that builders and contractors are the cornerstone of American communities, large and small. And that's especially true of this group. It's amazing to think, for more than 65 years, Associated Builders and Contractors have stood without apology for the time-honored principles of open competition and free enterprise. Your 70 chapters and 21,000 members drive our nation's growth every time you break ground. And just as important, you make sure taxpayers and consumers get the best bang for their buck when it comes to construction. (Applause.)
Thanks in large part to businesses represented here, the construction industry has contributed nearly $800 billion to our economy last year and employed some 6.8 million Americans. But your impact on America extends so much deeper, into the very foundation of our national life. Independent-minded entrepreneurs like you have literally built America from the ground up, from our homes to our hotels, from our restaurants, our retail malls, our stadiums, and our skyscrapers.
The truth is Associated Builders and Contractors have the best interests of your workers, the best interests of your communities, and really, you have the best interests of America at heart. You champion fiscal responsibility and individual freedom. And I promise you, the American people are grateful that you are a champion for American values. (Applause.)
And make no mistake about it, President Donald Trump is the best friend American builders and contractors will ever have. (Applause.) This President has promised, simply put, in his words, to rebuild America. And it's businesses like yours that are going to play such a leading role in doing that. Ahead of schedule and under budget, right?
Since the outset of this administration, businesses, large and small, have been responding to the President's leadership, to that America First agenda. More than 600,000 new, good-paying jobs have been created since the first day of 2017, including 100,000 construction jobs created under this administration. (Applause.)
And business confidence is soaring. In fact, a stunning 97 percent of commercial contractors in America are confident about their prospects this year. And we're on the phone with the remaining 3 percent. (Laughter.) And they should be. Since day one of this administration, President Trump has been fighting tirelessly to get our economy moving again, and it's working, to get your businesses like yours building like never before.
Just look at this President's decisive action when it comes to federal red tape. This President has signed more laws cutting red tape Washington, D.C. already than any President in American history. (Applause.) The President Trump has actually signed 14 bills under the Congressional Review Act to roll back burdensome regulations from the last administration that have already saved businesses $18 billion a year in regulatory costs. One of my favorites is he actually ordered every agency in Washington, D.C. to find two regulations to get rid of before issuing any new federal red tape on America's job creators. (Applause.)
Under this President's leadership, specifically, we've repealed the Stream Buffer Rule, we're rolling back the Clean Power Plan, and the Waters of the United States Rule earlier this month is a thing of the past. (Applause.) And President Donald Trump put America first just a few short days ago when he made the decision to withdraw the United States of America from the Paris Climate Accord. (Applause.)
You know, according to one independent study, the Paris Accord would have cost the U.S. economy more than 6.5 million jobs in the next 25 years while giving countries like China and India virtually a free pass. As the President said, our administration was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris. (Laughter.) And be assured, the President put America first, and this President always will. (Applause.)
President Trump is fighting every single day for American industry and American workers. And as you saw last week, during what we called "Workforce Development Week" at the White House, President Trump is committed to ensuring that men and women in America have the opportunity to pursue careers in the building trades, vocational education becomes more available for more Americans so your businesses and their futures will grow. (Applause.)
I mean, we know, at this very moment, the construction industry in particular is facing a workforce shortage of nearly half a million workers in this country. Skilled tradesmen, in particular, are increasingly hard to come by. Carpenters, masons, plumbers, and electricians are all in high demand, but too few Americans these days pursue these valuable careers.
I know you're already doing your part to address the crisis. ABC's local chapters and centers provide, I'm told, more than 800 apprenticeship and training programs across the country. I saw them firsthand back in the Hoosier State -- the difference that they're making in opening professional doors of opportunities to people for good-paying jobs and great careers.
But we must do more -- much more. That's why, just last Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order to, in his words, expand apprenticeships and vocational training to help all Americans find rewarding careers in our building trades, in construction, and in every form of vocation in America. (Applause.)
This President truly believes that we need to get back to a time when our students see the skilled trades for what they are, which is a foundation for a great life and a boundless future. An amazing 90 percent of apprentices get jobs after they finish their program, and the average salary is an impressive $60,000 a year. And under this President's leadership, I'm confident we'll train the students of today to meet the jobs of tomorrow, and working families and American businesses are going to be stronger for it.
It really is remarkable to think of the changes that we need in this area. The President and I have talked at great length about the changes that we made back in the state of Indiana. We actually reformed funding in our public high schools in the Hoosier State to ensure that there was an incentive -- a financial incentive for schools to offer career-aligned and vocationally aligned education for our high school kids.
And I always would tell people, you know, it's not about plan A and plan B, right? It's about two plan A's. It's about getting back to an America where we have an educational system that gives our sons and daughters the opportunity to develop the background and the skills and the education so that they can start their lives where they want to start their life.
You know, it's fundamental to this President's belief that success begets success. When we let our young people start their lives in the careers that they want, they can pursue a boundless future as they discover new aspects of their life.
I look around this room and I see men and women who I know for a fact, because I've heard it, actually started your educational careers in vocational education. You got out there, you worked on a job site, and now you employ hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of people in good-paying jobs. That's the kind of future we want once again in America, where we honor -- we honor every future and every workplace in America equally. (Applause.)
You know, it really is remarkable to think about everything President Trump has accomplished in the past few months. It's been awful busy. From rolling back regulation, to energy, to workforce, and more. But at this White House, that's what my boss calls just a good start, right? (Laughter.) And it's builders like you who elected this President of the United States, and I promise you, straight out of the gate here, we've rolled our sleeves up and we're going to work. We are going to rebuild the infrastructure of the United States of America. (Applause.)
This President knows that roads mean jobs. And I'm not just talking about road jobs I'm talking about -- you have the right infrastructure and it supports economic growth and prosperity and opportunity for all the American people. In partnership with all of you, this President is committed to make historic investments in our national infrastructure. And we're going to do it fast and we're going to do it in a fiscally responsible way.
But I'll make this promise to you: This President and our administration will not rest or relent until America has the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports, and the best infrastructure in the world once again. So get ready to get busy. (Applause.)
And today, I want to assure you, before this summer's out, working with the Congress, President Donald Trump is going to keep our promise to the American people, and we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare. (Applause.)
In fact, a little bit later today, the United States Senate and Republican leadership is going to release a repeal-and-replace bill this morning. You know, the President and I are truly grateful to Leader Mitch McConnell and all the Senate Republicans for their deliberative efforts over the past month.
It really is remarkable when you think about it that as Obamacare is collapsing all across this country -- with news in my home state, even yesterday, that I'll talk about in a minute -- that the people that gave us Obamacare have refused to even lift a finger to fix and to clean up the mess that they created. But we're moving forward. And this President and I remain determined that we'll repeal and replace Obamacare before this summer is out.
This is the moment. Now is the time. As all of you head to Capitol Hill to talk with your elected representatives, I want you to convey that to each one of them. I want you to tell them the stories of the burden that Obamacare has placed on your businesses and on families in your communities.
I mean, you all know the grim reality that businesses have been facing under Obamacare. I've heard it from companies large and small as I've traveled all across this country. It really is remarkable. I've traveled on behalf of the President -- the same story everywhere I go. Obamacare stifles your growth. It harms your workers through its mandates, its taxes, its endlessly rising costs of health insurance premiums. And not only is it a burden on your business, it's, most importantly, weighing heavily on the American people.
Last month, our administration issued a study showing the exact numbers of how Obamacare has led to skyrocketing premiums all across America. We found that health insurance premiums have more than doubled since Obamacare was signed into law. And in many states, they've more than tripled.
I mean, remember all the broken promises of Obamacare? I was actually in the Congress at the time we were stopping -- trying to stop this thing and -- just was amazing. They said, if you like your doctor you can keep them -- not true. They said, if you like your health insurance you could keep it -- not true. They said that the cost of health insurance would go down -- remember that one? Not true.
I mean, the last administration actually promised that Obamacare would lower premiums in the individual marketplace by up to $2,500 for American families. Instead, the real numbers -- premiums have increased by nearly $3,000 for families under Obamacare. At this very moment, millions of Americans are facing double-digit premium hikes heading into 2018. And while costs are soaring, choices are plummeting, because insurance companies are pulling out of Obamacare left and right.
Right now, here's your number -- a third of American counties, including five whole states, have only one choice of Obamacare coverage -– meaning they essentially have no choice at all. And in the past few weeks, health insurers have announced exits from Obamacare markets all across the country. Just yesterday, the last two statewide insurance companies announced they're pulling out of my home state of Indiana in 2018. Nearly 80,000 Hoosiers will need to find a new plan.
And across America, tens of thousands of Americans will have no Obamacare coverage whatsoever next year. In Ohio, more than 13,000 will have no health insurance in 2018. In Missouri, 25 counties won't have any coverage at all. And while the last insurer in 94 of Iowa's 99 counties has said that they're going to stay through next year, two days ago they said the cost of them staying next year is a 43 percent increase in premiums on 72,000 Iowans.
Look, as the President has said, Obamacare is a disaster, and Obamacare must go. (Applause.) I'll tell you, the President will never stop fighting to give American businesses and the American people the kind of healthcare reform that you need and deserve. And we have confidence that with his leadership, with this Congress, and with your help, we will end the Obamacare nightmare once and for all, and give the American people the kind of world-class healthcare that's built on individual responsibility, free markets, and state-based innovation and reform. That's the American way to lowering costs and healthcare solutions. (Applause.)
And after we repeal and replace Obamacare, I'll make you another promise. This President is going to keep working with the Congress and we're going to cut taxes across the board for working families, small businesses and family farms. (Applause.)
A little over a month ago, the President laid out a plan that will lower taxes all across this country and get this economy moving again. We're going to simplify the tax code by cutting seven brackets down to three -- 10, 25, 35 percent. You know, there's that old saying that the Internal Revenue code is twice as long as the Bible with none of the good news. (Laughter.) We're going to have some good news this year.
We're not only going to lower rates and simplify the tax code, we're going to eliminate the alternative minimum tax, make the code flatter and fairer for everyone. And under President Donald Trump, we're going to repeal the death tax once and for all. (Applause.)
And when it comes to making sure American businesses are competitive, our tax plan is going to put American companies, including our builders and contractors, back on the road to compete. We're going to slash the business tax in this country to 15 percent so American companies can compete with companies all around the world. (Applause.) And when we lower the business taxes, we're going to make sure that small businesses can enjoy the same benefits of big corporations and pass-throughs are going to get tax relief as well. (Applause.)
We're going to end the broken system that penalizes companies for calling America home. We're going to cut taxes on trillions of dollars locked away overseas so that American companies can bring those dollars home and invest in America's future.
The bottom line is that President Trump's tax cut plan is going to empower your companies to compete on a level playing field with businesses anywhere in the world. And as we all know, when the playing field is level, American businesses will win every single time. (Applause.)
We do want to commend Speaker Paul Ryan and Leader Mitch McConnell for their diligent efforts working with this administration to craft tax reform, get this economy rolling again. So let me tell you, discussions will continue. Details are being worked out, but with your support, the support of leaders in Congress, and the leadership of President Donald Trump we will pass historic tax relief and we will pass it this year. (Applause.)
Before I leave, let me just continue to urge you, urge you to stand with our President and to partner with this administration as we work to keep our promises to the American people and move our agenda forward. As you meet with your elected representatives this week, all I ask is that you tell them the truth, tell them your story. You know, whether it be about the enormous burden that Obamacare places on your business, about the need to heed the President's call for workforce and vocational education reform, the need for tax reform, the need to rebuild our military to have America standing tall in the world. You are the voices of the American people. Come and let them hear from you. Tell them that you're counting -- you're counting on them to support the President's agenda this year in the Congress.
Tell them we need less regulation and less red tape, lower taxes, better infrastructure, and a better trained workforce. And tell them the time is now, right now, to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
You know, President Trump is fighting for each one of you every single day. The man is a fighter -- like nobody I ever met. (Laughter.) I got to tell you, he knows that your success is America's success and every community, large and small, is a testament to your facts. Your businesses have built a firm foundation that has served our nation and our communities for generations, and that forms the basis of everything that's great about America -- opportunities, generosity.
I do want to commend members of ABC for the corporate citizens that you are in your communities. Having represented a lot of small towns in the Congress, I know you about can't go to a Little League baseball game and you can't go to a local charitable function without seeing the ABC banner hanging on a fence. You folks are always there, and not just when it comes to electoral politics, but you're just always there when the need arises in your communities. So give yourselves a round of applause. You make a difference every day. (Applause.)
But you know when I think of these times in which we live and the challenges that lie ahead I'm grateful for the leadership of President Trump. I'm grateful for the support of our allies in Congress and all of you -- all of you who understand the building blocks of policies that will turn this country around and are turning this country around.
It gives me great confidence, it does, as I travel this country and have the extraordinary privilege of coming to work every day in the White House. But I also take confidence in timeless wisdom to which Americans have turned throughout our history that speaks particularly of our future and language the builders would appreciate. And its language that we might embrace and remember in these all too divided times in America. As we seek to rebuild this country, let's remember "unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain."
So as you work to build your businesses, as ABC stands for freedom in the workplace and the reforms that will rebuild America -- if you're of a mind -- I encourage you to repair to those ancient truths. Pray for America. Pray for this country. This one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all -- because America matters far beyond our shores.
And I know with your help, and with God's help, and with that builder in the Oval Office, we will succeed. We will make America safe again. We will make America prosperous again. And, to borrow a phrase, we will make America great again. (Applause.)
Thank you, ABC. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)