White House council backs regulatory streamlining

The Obama administration's team of private-sector advisers on job creation recommended new infrastructure spending and streamlining of regulations in a report released on Tuesday at a meeting with President Obama in Pittsburgh.

The President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, launched last January and made up of 27 executives mostly from the corporate sector, called for a "comprehensive entrepreneurial agenda" that encourages start-up businesses, creation of a national infrastructure bank, lower corporate taxes and an easing of immigration restrictions.

The plan calls for elimination of capital gains taxes on investments of up to $25 million in privately held companies (if the investment is held for at least five years); acceleration of the (recently reformed) patent process; faster loans from the Small Business Administration; new training (especially for engineers); faster permitting on construction projects; and a new requirement that independent regulatory commissions conduct cost-benefit analyses on any "economically significant" regulatory actions with an annual impact greater than $100 million.

In a speech Tuesday, Obama urged the Senate to pass his jobs legislation and boost infrastructure spending. "People used to come to the United States and marvel at the Hoover Dam," he said. "Now people go to Beijing airport and say, 'I wish we had an airport like that.' "

Earlier on Tuesday, the White House responded to previous recommendations of the jobs council by releasing its list of 14 infrastructure projects proposed for expedited regulatory review. They are bridges, roads, urban development and energy projects under the auspices of the Transportation, Commerce, Interior and Agriculture departments.

"Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of federal permit decisions and environmental reviews is one critical step the federal government can take to accelerate job creation," the White House said in a statement. "While many of these review processes are not under the control of the federal government -- state, local, and tribal governments are partners in the effort, as well -- the Obama administration is committed to reforming the federal permitting and environmental review process to ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible while continuing to protect the health and safety of all Americans, and to preserve opportunities for public participation in federal decision-making."

Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at the nonprofit group OMB Watch, told Government Executive, "If you want to streamline the regulatory review process, you need to provide agencies the resources to the job. It takes more people."

The jobs council's proposal to require more cost-benefit analysis by independent regulatory commissions, he added, "is the last thing you want to do if you want to streamline. That's the surest way to slow down, halt or roll back" progress on regulations.

Jay Timmons, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers, welcomed the council's recommendations for "regulatory reform that eliminates unnecessary delays, duplication or complexity and encourages competitiveness and expansion. Manufacturers have long raised concerns about overregulation and its harmful impact on jobs," he said. "We are pleased that the council has made concrete recommendations that represent progress."

Timmons also said manufacturers agree that government and business "should upgrade and modernize our nation's infrastructure so that we no longer lose valuable time and capital due to failing roads and railways."

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