Industry Experts Provide Preview of Big DC Changes

by

Cathy Bennett, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, The Chamber

December 2, 2010

Written by: Cathy Bennett, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber and its Federal Affairs Committee today hosted noted issue experts for thumbnail briefings on five key federal issues likely to be handled during the 112th Congress. Below is a summary of what these experts said we might expect and watch for in each of these important business areas. One thing is clear: change is in the air.

Healthcare: Dr. Marcia Nielsen, Vice Chancellor, KU Medical Center
Among the many proposals for how to deal with the new healthcare Act (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), Marci said the most referred to options include:
1. Repeal (highly unlikely with the President’s looming veto),
2. Replace (some portions may be replaced or retooled), and
3. “Rut-Ro” (get the reference to the forlorn Jetson’s dog Astro)

The 3 strongest options for addressing the new healthcare reform package include:
• Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Road Map”
• Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission proposal
• Rivlin-Domencini “Restoring America’s Future Debt Reduction Task Force.”
All three of these plans include a significant reform of malpractice liability and varying major modifications to Medicare.

Transportation: Bob Cook, Vice President of Government Relations, HNTB
Bob’s presentation was perhaps the most alarming of the day. Four pages of notes on the needs, obstacles reduced support for transit. Below are the highlights.
• The current transportation bill expired in September 2009 and has had five short term extensions since then. The current extension expires December 31. We will likely see another short term extension before the year’s end.
• If we keep using the existing transportation plan (Highway Bill), and current gas tax funding mechanism, we will run out of funds by 2013.
• What to watch for in a new transportation bill:

  • No gas tax increase
  • Focus on public-private partnerships
  • Emphasize state flexibility
  • Decrease emphasis on quality of life enhancements
  • Transit funding is in jeopardy with possible exception of the northeast
  • Decreased support for passenger rail
  • Possible increase or no change on support for freight rail

When asked what are the likely revenue streams for a new transportation plan, Cook said Congress will be more likely to allow expansion of tolling than to allow an increase in the gas tax.

Economic Security: Brian Klippenstein, Chief of Staff, Senator Kit Bond
As Klippenstein moves over to Senator-Elect Roy Blunt’s staff it is reassuring to have his knowledge and experience working for our region.
• The lame duck session is essentially the last opportunity for earmarks which will see a two year sabbatical while many learn the value that can be derived from these key appropriations that fund roads, revitalization, job training, and more.
• Bush Tax Cuts will likely see a 1 or 2 year extension voted on December 16, the last night before 2010 adjournment.
• The debt ceiling will go up again in early 2011 and has been increased about 11 times since 1996.

Energy: Mike Poling, Government Affairs Manager, KCP&L
Click here for link to Energy presentation
• Cap and Trade and carbon tax proposals are dead
• New energy policy will likely come in smaller chunks and no big omnibus package
• Top energy issues we should watch for in 112th Congress:
o Nuclear energy
o Renewable energy
o Energy efficiencies
o Clean coal
o Aggressive EPA oversight
o Defunding some EPA regulations
o Budget constraints
o Safe drilling

Small Business Policy and Regulation: Kevin Sweeney, Partner, Polsinelli Shughart
Click here for link to Small Business presentation
• Power struggle brewing for chairmanship of House Small Business committee with Sam Graves likely to prevail
• Biggest issues impacting Small Business in 2011

  • Extension of Bush Tax Cuts (increased tax burden on small biz= $3.8 trillion)
  • Repeal of 1099 Requirements/Health Care Act of 2010
  • Small Business Capital Bill ($30 Billion lending fund for community banks and leveraging $300 Billion in lending to entrepreneurs)
  • Innovative Technologies Investment Act (federal tax credit for tech and bio)
  • Regulatory Reform (FDA, food safety, patent reform)

The insightful, if not uplifting, panel concluded with these words of wisdom for the KC region and Chamber as we craft the 2011 Federal Public Policy Agenda.
• “You need to present congressional members with options” when it comes to talking about needs.”
• “We all are going to have to defer the good life at least for a while when it comes to local investment”.
• “Practice the 4 P’s: prioritize, promote, press on and pray.”

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