January 16, 2012

Opportunity For Progress

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Halfway into the 112 th Congress, we have work yet to do to get America on a more productive path.  However, we have every opportunity to work together to make progress.  As the Senate begins this month, I will continue to press for the following priorities.

Getting our nation's fiscal house in order remains our most critical challenge.  With our national debt exceeding $15 trillion, our country can no longer mortgage our future with out-of-control deficit spending.  We mustcontrol unsustainable healthcare and entitlementspending, including tackling Medicare's unfunded liabilities and repealing the health care law.  As a member of the National Commission on Fiscal Reform and Responsibility, and as a member of the Gang of Six whose ongoing efforts strive to reduce the deficit by at least $3.7 trillion, I recognize that a multifaceted approach of discretionary and mandatory spending cuts with comprehensive tax reform promoting fiscal stability and economic growth must be advanced. 

We would be hard pressed to create a more expensive to comply with, complex, unfair, burdensome, inefficient and anti-competitive tax code than our current code.  Proposals, such as the Gang of Six proposal, have called for pro-growth tax reform that lowers all tax rates, simplifies the tax code and reforms our corporate tax code to make U.S. businesses more competitive.  Tax reform, such as this, focused on growth, through lowering rates and compliance costs, will better enable job creation. 

New jobs come from turning ideas into successful businesses.  To encourage job growth and innovation, barriers impeding businesses from obtaining capital, rather than imposing new mandates, such as the flawed health care law and Dodd-Frank and Environmental Protection Agency overreach, must be removed.  We can do more to expand economic activity by removing unnecessary restrictions on capital formation to promote investment in American job growth while protecting investors. Reducing over-regulation will also decrease spending and restore the constitutionally-established balance of power. 

Enactment of the trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea are important steps for job creation, but expanding market opportunities for U.S. industries and ensuring trading partners adhere to trade commitments must be a continual focus to improve our nation's global competitiveness.  Maintaining technical manpower through access to high-quality education and addressing development and infrastructure needs is also crucial to compete successfully.  Preserving Idaho's priorities in the comprehensive transportation reauthorization will help maintain the transportation infrastructure necessary for shipping Idaho products and accessing markets.

Many challenges, especially environment and public lands issues, are best addressed through collaboration to achieve locally-driven solutions that are better than the status quo for all stakeholders.  The Owyhee Initiative, started by the Owyhee County Commissioners, utilized a collaborative model to address challenges in Owyhee County.  The result was a landmark legislative compromise, and work continues to implement all facets of the agreement.  Work also continues to advance efforts of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) Work Group, an advisory group I helped establish to find solutions to contentious land management and wildlife issues in Idaho's Clearwater Basin.  The CBC has spawned new discussions of job creation through timber harvesting and landscape improvements, which could benefit habitat for wildlife.

Additional critical issues include Secure Rural Schools and Farm Bill reauthorizations; border security and immigration reform; renewable energy promotion; Endangered Species Act improvements; wolves and other species concerns; fire management; water, timber and mining complexities; 2nd Amendment rights; domestic violence prevention; addressing veterans' needs; housing finance reform; education improvements; and more.  I will continue to advocate for Idahoans and their priorities on these and other issues that come before the Senate.  We can make progress, and I look forward to the work ahead.

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