If U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, can win the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Mark Kirk, she said she will have a chance to put into motion bipartisan plans that will support the economy, help make education affordable and support women in business.

The challenger in next Tuesday's general election laid out her plans at an economic roundtable held Tuesday at Laborers Local 309 in Rock Island, that included U.S. Rep, Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois, and 14 women in business and education.

 Duckworth said if elected she would like to see that federal dollars going to Illinois for infrastructure building and repairs have a stipulation that a certain number of women- and minority-owned businesses must be included in the contracts.

Small companies may not be able to bid on a multi-million contract, she said, but they can bid on $500,000 contracts. And, she added, there are plenty of ways to include those businesses in the mix.

While many people think of infrastructure as roadways and bridges, Duckworth said it should include renovating the locks and dams on the Mississippi River, which would help farmers lower shipping costs and stay competitive worldwide.

“That’s something that will take bipartisan action,” Duckworth said. In addition to the locks and dams, she said there are hundreds of bridges that need repair in the state, as well as water and sewage systems that require upgrading. Women- and minority-owned businesses should be able to share in that, she added.

Among the ways to pay for the work is to lower the nation’s corporate income tax rate, “a proposition that I support,” Duckworth said.

Many American corporations are keeping billions of dollars overseas because they would be taxed heavily if they brought that money home, she said.

According to the website taxfoundation.org, the current U.S. corporate tax rate is 38.9 percent, among the top three in the world.

Dropping the corporate income tax rate would aid in bringing that money home where it can be used, she said.

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“I would rather have 15 percent of $1 billion than 38 percent of nothing,” Duckworth said. “But if the big boys get that kind of a break then it should be given to the small-business owners on Main Street.”

It also is imperative that the U.S. make higher education affordable for everyone, she said, including making community college as close to free as possible.

One way is to provide funds so students can get paid tuition money for performing community service such as in AmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity, or Teach For America, she said.

“We could phase this in over a 10-year period and it will mean closing some tax loopholes for the nation’s top 1 percent, but we need to invest in higher education,” Duckworth said. “We are depressing our economy when we don’t support education and make it affordable. We’re hurting our country."