By: Stephen Waguespack
A visit to the nation’s capital can be inspiring and discouraging at the same time.
Last week, more than twenty members of the LABI Board of Directors traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with our Congressional delegation, as well as with policy and political experts from groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Tax Foundation and the Heritage Foundation. This was our second annual D.C. Fly-in, a new initiative we started at LABI to respond to the growing concerns our members have with the escalating, intrusive regulatory approach of the federal government.
The members of our Congressional delegation were gracious with their time and attention and generally seem to share our collective frustration with many of the actions being taken by the executive branch.
It was a very productive visit, despite the fact that D.C. is now recognized more for what it cannot accomplish rather than for the greatness it is capable of achieving. Traditional and new media are filled each and every day with the angst, political divide and cyclical debates that seem to dominate our modern-day government, leaving us all discouraged and disillusioned that change will not happen anytime soon.
While true, that sense of disappointment stands in stark contrast to the feeling one gets driving around D.C. Take a visit to the Lincoln Memorial or Jefferson Memorial, and it is easy to be reminded of the greatness of this country and the strong leadership with which we once were blessed that helped us become the model for the rest of the world. Stroll by the Korean Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial or the Memorials for WWI and WWII and you are driven to pause out of respect for the great sacrifices made by countless fellow Americans to keep us safe.
Walk through the hallways of the U.S. Capitol as you enter the great Rotunda, whose walls are dominated by paintings that tell the story of some of the most critical moments in our nation’s earliest years – the moments that set us on the course to greatness that we still pursue today.
For all its warts and frustrations, Washington D.C. remains one of the most inspiring places on earth because it so effective at reminding us what we once were, reiterating to us how lucky we are to live in America and reinforcing to us that we can continue to be a beacon for liberty and freedom if we put our mind and efforts to making that a reality.
The city’s very buildings and streets tell a compelling story of a great nation and how it came to be, even if the federal government currently occupying that zip code doesn’t always live up to that strong national legacy.
For this reason, it is critical that Americans periodically travel to Washington D.C. to be inspired and remind our elected officials of the issues most important to us folks back home.
For LABI, we visited with our Congressional delegation on a host of issues, including the following:
One of the primary obstacles to growth identified by LABI member companies are ever-increasing governmental mandates and regulations – many at the federal level. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the proposed water and energy rules of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the draft Department of Labor rule to re-define overtime are just a few examples of the costly burden imposed on job creators across the country with little regard to the impact. LABI believes that federal regulations must be narrowly tailored and supported by strong and credible data. The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015 is now pending in the U.S. Senate after passage in the House on a vote of 250-175 earlier this year. LABI supports the legislation, which will modernize the rule-making process to increase public participation and require agencies to choose the least costly option that still protects the public.
A long-term re-authorization of federal transportation funding
With economic growth, Louisiana’s infrastructure needs are more urgent than ever, but state and federal funding remains insufficient. In July 2015, Congress approved $8 billion for the nation’s Highway Trust Fund to fund projects through October 29, 2015. The stop-gap measure was passed one day before expiration of the country’s road spending legislation. The U.S. Highway Trust Fund is sustained by the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax, but revenues are not able to cover expenditures in recent years, forcing Congress to use general revenue to cover transportation spending. These funds too have been exhausted, and Congress faces a looming crisis. LABI urges the Louisiana delegation to work toward a sustainable solution to highway funding.
Free trade and Trade Promotion Authority
Many factors have contributed to Louisiana’s impressive economic growth, but perhaps chief among them is the state’s robust export economy. The state ranked #1 in export growth and intensity just last year. Trade agreements between the U.S. and foreign countries are necessary in order to lower legal hurdles, get rid of tariffs, open up new markets for Louisiana exports, and lower the cost of raw imported goods for our manufacturers. LABI supported the passage of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 to grant Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as “fast-track authority” for the administration to negotiate free trade agreements. Congress passed TPA in June, and LABI urges Congressional support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should a favorable agreement be negotiated.
Opposition to over-regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA is proposing sweeping new regulations on ozone levels, carbon, and water that would have a devastating effect on Louisiana’s economy. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the agency in June because the EPA failed to undertake a cost-benefit analysis in deciding whether to set limits on emissions from power plants, sending the agency back to the drawing board to revise the rule. Meanwhile, a federal judge enjoined the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule in August, which expands the EPA’s jurisdiction and federal enforcement action over ditches, tributaries, and small waterways.However, within days of the court’s injunction, the agency put the regulations into effect anyway in most states, including Louisiana.In addition to fighting the Waters of the U.S. rule, LABI is actively opposing the proposal to change the bar on National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which is defined by sum as the costliest regulation ever issued by the federal government.In sum, the EPA wants to lower the standard from 75 parts per billion, which areas of Louisiana only recently complied with, to as low as 65. LABI worked with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to produce an economic impact study in 2014, which shows the new ozone requirement alone could cost Louisiana $43 billion to comply resulting in more than 30,000 lost jobs and $11 billion in lost Gross State Product between 2017 and 2040. LABI urges Congress to take action to rein in the EPA’s aggressive campaign.
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act
LABI opposed the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. The vast mandates, new taxes on businesses, controversial and complex regulations, and entitlement expansion are unprecedented. LABI has historically opposed new and expanded mandatory benefits under employer health plans. Instead, LABI supports market-driven insurance, the rights of employers and employees to choose their own health plans, technology and innovation in health care delivery, and federal legislation to reduce frivolous lawsuits. LABI urges Congress to block implementation where possible and stop or delay key provisions from going into effect. For example, a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that one in four employers offering health benefits could be subject to the ACA’s 40 percent tax on high-cost health plans in 2018 unless they reduce or modify employee benefits. ACA is pushing costs higher and higher on employers and individuals alike, and LABI urges Congress to pass the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2015 and repeal this 40 percent tax as a start.
The endless debates and dysfunctional efforts that dominate Washington D.C. can be annoying and frustrating to us all, but it is important to not lose faith in our government. Complaining to your friends or venting to your computer screen about the approach taken by our federal government won’t change a thing.
If you can swing it, go to D.C. every now and then. Get educated on the issues and get to know your leaders. Take the time to visit them and share your concerns, while asking them to explain theirs. While you’re there, take a stroll around your nation’s capitol if you want to be reminded why we live in a country worth fighting for.