Elected officials, business operators and citizens told a congressional panel Monday it is difficult to create new jobs in Tennessee — and everywhere else in the United States.
Some suggested at a congressional field hearing held at Middle Tennessee State University that scrapping more than three years worth of new federal regulations, including the Dodd-Frank Act and Affordable Care Act, as well as implementing changes to the Environmental Protection Agency, is the answer.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said, however, that changing the federal budget process might be a start.
“An avalanche of regulations from (President Barack) Obama and his administration have thrown a big wet blanket over the American economy,” Alexander said. “We have all these pressures for more regulations.”
Alexander said members of Congress often wind up forgetting what regulations have been implemented in previous years, and subsequently, more laws pile on more potentially unnecessary regulatory acts.
“I think the best structural way to defeat that process is to develop a two-year budget,” he said. “In the odd year, we would devote the entire time to oversight of the budget and repealing unnecessary laws. If we had that pressure going every other year, it would be a great force for regulatory reform.”
Conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the hearing drew more than 150 spectators to the State Farm Room inside the Business and Aerospace Building on campus.
Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and Bill Hagerty, commissioner of Tennessee Economic and Community Development, were among state leaders who testified at the hearing. In addition, several business owners and corporate executives also discussed the impact of federal regulations on job creation.
Three members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation also participated in the hearing: U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Jasper, U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood.
“Americans have a right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well-spent,” said Chairman U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California. “Our responsibility is to deliver facts to people and bring genuine reform to government. In the Volunteer State, we see many successful job-creation stories here.
Issa said he understands that government has to be reined in and good laws have to be protected, but “at the same time, we cannot regulate ourselves into unemployment.”
After Haslam and Hagerty commented on the state’s relative economic success, despite the financial crisis, Issa asked Corker whether he would start a company given the current business climate.
“Well, I like swimming upstream,” Corker responded, “but many of my friends say it is very difficult. We build up a lot of bureaucratic levels as a country, and we need to be moving in exactly the opposite direction.”
Mark Faulkner, owner of Vireo Systems, outlined the company’s struggles with regulatory agencies in recent years. He said he could add six new jobs to the current 22-member operation if he were not waiting for a final determination — and possible fine — from an Occupational Safety and Health Administration audit.
“Our current interaction with a regulatory agency boils down to audit, review, and fine and then a potential for some combination of hindrance, threats and seizing of property, all in an adversarial manner,” Faulkner said. “The agencies succeed because most business owners are scared of the authorities.”
He said while a couple of jobs at my Madison, Tenn., business “might be small potatoes, if that is multiplied across the nation by thousands of small businesses, it adds up to a serious squelching of the economic, job-creating activity that the government says it is counting on to lead us out of recession."
For in-depth coverage of this story, pick up a copy of the Thursday, June 21, 2012, print edition of The Murfreesboro Post.