If you want to find a solution, go to the root of the problem. In this instance, the root lies in Washington, D.C.
Several members of the LABI team and over 20 of our member companies traveled to D.C. to visit with numerous federal policymakers and discuss issues important to Louisiana’s economy. Many of the Congressional staff and other Washington insiders we met with explained how a divided Congress would be hard-pressed to pass many impactful bills anytime soon. Despite this bleak outlook, we took the opportunity to explain our concerns that this overreaching federal government seemingly takes great pride in burdening state economies and we urged federal officials to take sensible steps to rein it all in.
We detailed several specific positions from LABI’s federal agenda for them to consider, including:
LABI supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act:
LABI opposed the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 and now actively seeks its repeal. The vast mandates, new taxes on businesses, and controversial and complex regulations 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.
LABI opposes 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. In particular, LABI is actively opposing the proposal to change the bar on National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). In sum, the EPA wants to lower the standard from 75, which parts of Louisiana only recently complied with, to as low as 60 parts per billion. LABI worked with the National Association of Manufacturers in August 2014 to produce an economic impact study, which shows the new ozone requirement alone would put more than 100,000 job equivalents at risk annually in Louisiana and cost the state’s businesses $189 billion in compliance costs. The public comment on the proposed regulations controlling carbon emissions was recently extended by 45 days to December 1, 2014.
LABI supports federal approval for the Keystone XL pipeline:
The much-anticipated Keystone XL pipeline project is a proposed 1,179-mile crude oil pipeline that begins in Canada and extends south to Steele City, Nebraska. The southern portion of the Keystone expansion is known as the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project and work has already begun, even as the State Department and the Obama administration have delayed a decision on the trans-border permit until after the 2014 mid-term Congressional elections. In 2013, the U.S. Department of State released an environmental impact statement that affirmed “no significant impacts to most resources” along the route.
LABI supports reauthorizing federal transportation funding:
In July 2014, Congress approved $10.8 billion for the nation’s Highway Trust Fund to keep it solvent through May 2015. The stopgap measure was passed just before the U.S. Department of Transportation began to slow reimbursement payments to states due to low balances in the Fund. 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 in 2015.
LABI supports maintaining a strong U.S. Army presence at Fort Polk:
In June 2014, the Department of the Army completed a study of possible reductions worldwide of as many as 70,000 personnel with 30 installations listed for maximum reductions. Fort Polk could potentially realize as many as 6,500 Army reductions out of a current military population of nearly 11,000, which experts believe will have an $864 million impact on statewide sales taxes, $567 million in income, and nearly 11,000 total jobs. LABI supports the efforts of the central Louisiana business and civic community to demonstrate the value of the military presence at Fort Polk on the state’s economy and the nation’s security before the Army makes its final decisions.
LABI opposes increasing the mandatory federal minimum wage:
Independent studies have found that employers are likely to reduce their workforces to offset the negative impact of an artificial government mandate to increase wages. Others may be forced to offset the growing costs by reducing other benefits, while still other companies may seek a higher-skilled employee to fill the position at the higher wage. In order to be competitive, companies must somehow absorb the cost of the increase, and this may include passing costs on to the consumers. In short, the ultimate impact of a minimum wage increase will neither assist the workers nor society at large.
LABI supports reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank:
The Export-Import Bank provides loans, loan guarantees, and export credit insurance to help cover financing gaps for American exporters and promote trade and jobs in Louisiana. Because the Export-Import Bank provides support to 171 Louisiana companies, including more than 100 small businesses, LABI has joined forces with hundreds of business groups across the country to urge Congress to support the Bank’s reauthorization, which was to expire in September 2014. The House passed a Continuing Resolution for all of the government on September 17 that included an extension for the Bank through June 2015.
LABI supports marketplace fairness:
The U.S. Senate has passed a bill to authorize states to require sales tax collection by out-of-state retailers, such as catalogs and websites. The bill has been pending action by the House Judiciary Committee for months. LABI supports passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act because businesses operating in Louisiana should not be forced to compete at a government-created price disadvantage.
The trip to D.C. was successful in getting our message across to policymakers, but it will have only been a true success with a change in behavior from the federal government. Louisiana is on the verge of an economic boom thanks to a manufacturing renaissance and economic diversification occurring in our great state. We are on our way to great heights, but the federal government continues to be more of an obstacle rather than a partner in this effort.
It is time for D.C. to either help us reach our goals, or simply get out of our way. They need to realize there are only two available courses to take: either choose to be a part of the solution or continue to be part of the problem. It is long past time for them to choose wisely.