WAGUESPACK: Time To Deliver

“What do we do now?”

This question was the final line in the 1972 classic, “The Candidate.” In the movie, Robert Redford plays a young candidate thrown into the race against a popular incumbent without any real chance of winning. Late in the campaign, Redford’s candidate connects with the electorate and rallies for a dramatic upset victory. On election night, as the party draws to a close and the press closes in, the candidate turns to his campaign manager and asks the question he should have asked before he ever ran in the first place.

Coming fresh off the heels of the conclusion of the 2014 election cycle, many of Louisiana’s recent electoral victors may be asking themselves the same question:  “What do we do now?”

The best strategy to answer that question would be to simply listen to the people that just elected them, because the voters seem to be speaking with an especially high degree of clarity these days.

As I travel around Louisiana visiting our members, employers are greatly concerned with the numerous questionable actions being taken in D.C. that clearly prioritize bureaucratic control over the liberty of citizens.

While other presidents have issued executive orders, no president has issued so many runaway regulations, mandates, restrictions, taxes and requirements that stretch the Constitution to its breaking point. If this year’s elections taught us anything, it is that these positions are obviously alarming to a large majority of Americans. This situation of unchecked federal power demands a strong response from the newly-elected Congress, especially on a few critical issues.

The EPA’s Aggressive Overregulation 
Policies designed to protect the health and welfare of our environment and society are necessary and should be created and enforced through their proper channels – not independently created, regulated and enforced by one single entity.

This is especially troubling when taken into account with the Environmental Protection Agency’s aggressive rulemaking over the last decade or so. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has found that between 2000 and 2013, there have been 30 federal regulations issued that represented over $1 billion in annual cost. Of these 30 costly rules, the EPA issued 17. The other 13 spread out over the remaining executive branch agencies.

Simultaneously, the EPA is taking unprecedented steps to regulate carbon emissions from the 6,500 existing power plants that are currently operating around the United States. With a proposal to cut emissions by as much as 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, this rule would cost the U.S. economy an average of $50 billion a year during the next 16 years, according to a study by the U.S. Chamber.

The National Association of Manufacturers recently commissioned a study by NERA Economic Consulting to assess, on both a national and state-by-state basis, the economic impacts arising from the new ozone standard being lowered from the current standard of 75 parts per billion to 60 parts per billion. This standard would place the entire state of Louisiana, including rural areas without any industrial plants, under non-attainment, negatively affecting virtually every individual and business in the state at some level. Even the best area for attainment in Louisiana, which is near Monroe, has an ambient level of around 62 parts per billion.

The costs to Louisiana are staggering to consider, and our state would most likely be the hardest hit by such a decrease. Louisiana’s economy would lose $53 billion in Gross Domestic Product. The new ozone requirement alone would put more than 100,000 job equivalents at risk annually and cost our state’s businesses $189 billion in compliance costs.

This is in addition to the agency’s “waters of the United States” plan to give the EPA unprecedented regulatory authority over state and local waters that could extend federal oversight to event ditches, ponds and temporary creeks.

The EPA’s lack of discretion in issuing unnecessary costly rules, duplicative mandates, impediments to innovation, and barriers to our global competiveness has and will continue to negatively impact jobs and energy costs. The agency’s independent authority to create and then consequently unilaterally enforce these rules must be reined in.

Obamacare’s Impact
In addition to runaway environmental regulations, the true detrimental impact to our economy caused by Obamacare will be broadly felt starting next year. The vast mandates, new taxes on businesses, and controversial and complex regulations outlined in Obamacare are unprecedented, and businesses need to be prepared for the next phase of its implementation in 2015.

In 2016, the “audit net” for employers will be cast far and wide by the IRS and U.S. Department of Labor. In fact, to prepare for this audit invasion, the Department of Labor recently hired over 1,800 new auditors to review employers’ health and welfare benefits. This means, if a business is not in complete compliance with the new health care requirements, federal auditors could fine the business anywhere from $110 a day to $1,100 a day.

Complying with the maze of mandates and regulations will prove difficult for businesses, especially for those trying to do the right thing and grow their companies next year. Rather than penalizing growth and new hires, Congress needs to block implementation wherever possible and pursue market-based reforms that will utilize the strength, diversity and talents of our health care markets.

Pipeline Gridlock 
The United States is on the cusp of an energy revolution that could create a stronger economy and a stronger America. Yet, the delay in the evaluation of the much-anticipated Keystone XL pipeline project is another example of the administration’s unrestrained executive overreach and obstruction to economic growth.

The 1,179-mile crude oil pipeline that begins in Canada and extends south to Steele City, Nebraska, would empower the private sector to create good-paying jobs and spur economic growth by harnessing our nation’s energy resources.

This critical infrastructure project would be capable of delivering more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day and support 42,000 American jobs. The construction phase alone would pay American workers $2 billion to build it, and by 2030, the pipeline could produce twice the oil the United States buys today from the Persian Gulf.

Yet, after five years of reviewing the Keystone project, the president is somehow not convinced of its merits arguing for additional environmental studies despite the fact that his own people cleared it environmentally.

In 2013, the Department of the State released an environmental impact statement that affirmed “no significant impacts to most resources” along the route. The president’s former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined the organized labor community, along with countless employers, manufacturers, producers, and policymakers, in support of the project, saying he also thought the pipeline should be built.

The decision to repeatedly delay the Keystone XL project is irresponsible and unacceptable. It is time for Congress to step in and deliver this important project to American workers.

Reining in the EPA, preventing Obamacare’s assault on the economy and approving job-creating projects like Keystone are only a few of the many pressing issues that await the new Congress. They demand prompt attention and warrant immediate action.

The voters have spoken. The answer to the all-important question should be crystal clear. Congress should know exactly what to do now.

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