Posted by: Providence Chamber of Commerce | September 14, 2012

RI Business Leaders descend on Washington DC for federal initiative briefings

In its 14th year, Business Leaders Day, hosted by Senator Jack Reed in Washington, D.C., to date has engaged over 1,500 Rhode Islanders in a forum created to enlighten participants on federal government initiatives. The topics covered at this year’s event included the economy, commerce, energy, health care and foreign policy. Speakers included Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy; Timothy Geithner, Secretary, US Department of Treasury; Chuck Todd, Chief White House Correspondent, NBC News; Dr. Ashton Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Steven Chu, Secretary, US Department of Energy; Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of Commerce; US Senators Al Franken, Richard Durbin, Mike Crapo and Congressman Barney Frank. In addition, Senators Whitehouse, Congressmen Cicilline and Langevin also visited with the group.

While the majority of the hot topic issues will be considered after November’s election, Congress is poised to approve a resolution for a 6-month continuance to fund government operations, which is currently set to expire in March of 2013. Much of the conversation also centered on the so-called “fiscal cliff” or sequestration, scheduled to be enacted on December 31st, eliminating all tax cuts and trillions of dollars in government programs. A bi-partisan group of Senators and Representatives have been meeting to negotiate a compromise on this issue. One such compromise is to suspend the fiscal cliff for 6 months while paying for the suspension. There is also talk of amending the ratio of spending cuts to revenue enhancements suggesting a goal of 3 to 1, with revenue enhancements derived from reforming the tax code.

Other interesting take-a-ways from Business Leaders Day presentations include:

  • The importance of bolstering manufacturing and exportation opportunities were discussed as a vital component in our country’s economic recovery efforts. The “Back to Work Minnesota” (retrofitting buildings) Program was referenced as a successful model for job creation that requires little to no funding.
  • According to Chuck Todd, Chief Correspondent for NBC News — Ohio, Virginia and Florida are the 3 key states to watch, with Virginia being the most important, in order to determine who wins the election.
  • Senator Durbin is pushing a bipartisan bill that calls for a sales tax on internet purchases. His plan has been endorsed by Amazon.
  • On the foreign policy front, there was discussion about the need for the US to pull back troops from Europe.

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