CONTRIBUTORS

Regulatory time-out is common sense

Posted Oct. 30, 2011, at 8:25 p.m.

In the BDN’s Oct. 4 edition, Nate Libby of the Maine Small Business Coalition wrote an OpEd column asserting that the Regulatory Time-Out Act introduced by Sen. Susan Collins would be a “free-for-all” for big corporations at the expense of small businesses and consumers.

That assessment is hugely mistaken. I represent nearly 4,000 small-business owners in Maine that are part of the nation’s leading small-business advocacy group, the National Federation of Independent Business. What these members in Maine tell me directly contradicts the points that Mr. Libby asserts.

The small-business owners that I talk with ask what can be done about the “flood” of federal regulations coming out of Washington, D.C. These entrepreneurs are worried about their ability to keep Maine people employed and they tell me about the need for relief from onerous new regulations. Their financial resources are limited, and they would prefer to invest in good jobs and strengthen their business rather than dump money into costly government red tape.

Sen. Collins’ Time-Out Act is an excellent example of a common-sense idea to help small businesses grow and put people back to work. It was carefully crafted to ensure that the most necessary rules would be exempt from the moratorium: those that are needed in emergencies, such as to respond to imminent threats to public health or safety, and those affecting crime and national security. The bill would also exclude rules that would reduce the regulatory burden on the private sector and help create jobs.

The Time-Out Act would temporarily stop misguided regulations that arguably reach too far. Take for example the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent rule on boiler emissions. The EPA set emissions levels at such a high standard that virtually no new boilers are able to meet it, and retrofitting an existing boiler is impossible at any reasonable cost. If, as a business owner, you are reliant on a boiler for the basic operation of your facility, how can you possibly stay in business?

Furthermore, small-business owners need protection from costly new regulations because they are disproportionately affected by them. At most small businesses in Maine, the “regulatory compliance officer” is the small-business owner. These owners are trying to keep their business up to date with technical, time-consuming and expensive regulations while at the same time they are trying to take care of customers, get a handle on business costs, keep people employed, manage the workday and survive tough economic conditions.

In fact, businesses with 20 or fewer employees spend 36 percent more per employee per year complying with all federal regulations than their larger counterparts – and 364 percent more complying with just environmental regulations – according to a 2010 study for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

To suggest, as Mr. Libby does, that small-business owners need more regulations, to have an even playing field with larger businesses, is simply misguided. More regulations would only serve to give big businesses, with their vast compliance resources, more leverage over small businesses.

This lopsided effect of regulations on small businesses is one reason that the Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations ( sensibleregulations.org) coalition was formed, which is headed by former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas.

Small-business owners recognize the need for government intervention to protect important safety and health concerns of the public. And small-business owners also recognize that a carefully crafted “Regulatory Time-Out” from certain new federal regulations will give small employers extra time and money to focus on economic recovery, generate cash flow that can be used to make their companies strong and successful, and create jobs for thousands of unemployed workers in Maine, and millions across the nation.

As everyone knows, “time out” means a pause to regroup, re-energize and reassess ways to successfully move forward.

David R. Clough is state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He lives in Yarmouth.

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