CONTRIBUTORS

Olympia Snowe: Why I voted against the jobs bill

Posted Oct. 25, 2011, at 5:02 p.m.

I was greatly disappointed to read in a recent Bangor Daily News column the comments of a fellow Mainer who mischaracterized my position on President Obama’s jobs bill package. Unfortunately, one of the problems in today’s world is that it’s far too easy to attack first and leave the facts for someone else to discover.

As Mainers know, I have always been willing to work across the political aisle to achieve responsible solutions. Yet increasingly, we have been precluded from forging bipartisan consensus in Congress because one side or the other is more interested in scoring political points than arriving at sound policy.

In the instance of the president’s jobs bill, let me be clear: I would have welcomed proceeding to a full debate on the president’s proposal. The problem is, the majority leadership in the Senate made no commitment whatsoever to allowing even one amendment to improve the 360-page bill. Shouldn’t all ideas be on the table in pursuit of better policy?

Regarding the author’s criticism that I want tax reform but fail to “elaborate” further: I have repeatedly enumerated specific principles and even urged the president to undertake overhaul of the code during a White House economic summit held February 23, 2009. Among those principles are that the code must be pro-growth with the fewest number of economic distortions. It must reduce the existing enormous burden of compliance. A new tax code must contain permanent provisions to facilitate long-term planning by individuals and businesses.

The tax code should promote savings and investment and remove barriers to our competitiveness in the global economy. And lastly, the code must distribute the tax burden fairly.

With respect to the author’s claim that “There was a lot of [tax reform] in the [president’s] bill,” what’s regrettable about the president’s revenue proposal is that it threatened to take dollars that could be used for job creation and use them for temporary government programs. Under the U.S. Treasury Department’s own definitions, four out of five taxpayers who would be affected by the administration’s tax increase are business owners — America’s job generators.

Moreover, selectively raising taxes on a permanent basis is putting the cart before the horse, as it undermines our ability to comprehensively restructure our tax code for the future to ensure economic growth.

With respect to the author’s comments that I’ve not been specific on regulatory reform: I have brought specific legislation to the Senate floor for debate not once but twice this year, first in May and then most recently in June, garnering the bipartisan votes of 53 colleagues. Yet surprisingly, it was blocked from further consideration because of parliamentary maneuvers by the majority leadership.

My legislation, the FREEDOM act (S. 1030), seeks regulatory relief for small-business owners who currently suffer an annual compliance cost of roughly $10,585 per employee, which is 36 percent higher than the regulatory cost borne by large firms. In fact, we learned in one Senate hearing that if we leveled the regulatory playing field between large and small companies, meaning a 30 percent reduction in regulatory costs for small business, each ten-person firm would save nearly $32,000 a year, enough to hire one additional person.

Ultimately, my positions aren’t without foundation but derive from the people I represent. Indeed, as ranking member of the Senate’s Small Business Committee, I consistently hear that Congress must relieve the burden of government if job creation is to take place. In fact, 32 major organizations representing small businesses have endorsed my reform bill.

Lastly, I’ve supported a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget since my first days in the Congress. Year after year, critics say it is unnecessary, as Congress can balance the budget on its own. But if that were true, how is it that our national debt has almost tripled from $5.3 trillion to $14.7 trillion since the Senate fell just one vote shy of passing a balanced budget amendment in 1997? Furthermore, it is simply wrong to suggest this measure wouldn’t include a mechanism to override the balancing requirement in times of true national emergency.

The founders intended that the Senate be the institutional check that ensures all voices are heard and considered. While our constitutional democracy is premised on majority rule, it is also grounded in a commitment to minority rights. And now, to return our country to its place where innovation, ideas, competition and job creation are welcome and prevalent, we must act in a coordinated, bipartisan fashion — and reject the tired pattern of partisan and baseless attacks that are not founded in fact.

Olympia Snowe, a Republican, is Maine’s senior senator.

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