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Business owners send message to Congress: Stop the bickering

Dick Castner, Western regional director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, joined U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle and business executives at a roundtable Tuesday to discuss job creation. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Valley businesses executives told Congressman Ben Quayle on Tuesday to stop the partisan infighting in Washington if he and his fellow politicians want to restore confidence and stability in the market.

“It’s frustrating, as a citizen, to see so much action in Washington that is so partisan, and feeling like no one there cares about us. It just makes my blood boil,” said MaryAnn Guerra, CEO of the bioscience research firm BioAccel.

Quayle, a Republican who represents Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, hosted a roundtable with thirteen business leaders: small business owners, representatives from large businesses, and the heads of prominent economic development organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Commerce Authority.

He asked them about the impediments to job creation, such as over-regulation or prohibitive tax rates.

One of the resounding responses had nothing to do with either – but everything to do with the overwhelmingly partisan divide in Washington.

Many of the business owners at the table said they were frustrated with the bickering at the nation’s capital and thought the seeming ineffectiveness of government in its current form caused investors to lose confidence and ultimately contributed to the market stalling.

Additionally, they said, if Congress can’t get together to have a discussion without arguing, it didn’t bode well for finding a potential solution for the economy.

“One thing you can do to improve certainty is to talk together, as a group, instead of always fighting or thinking that ‘well if it’s not my idea, it’s the wrong idea,’” said Chris Joslin, COO of software company Mission3.

Jonathan Koppell, director of the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University, said that the uncertainty typically comes when investors or businesses can’t predict what Washington is going to do.

With the government “unusually fractured” where compromise is elusive, Koppell said that the partisan divide contributes to that unpredictability.

“The norm is that you have some expectation of compromise, but when you have one party that has a significant faction that does not want to compromise you create a unique environment, for better or for worse,” he said.

However, Koppell points out that the notion that the ability to compromise is the same as effective governance is faulty.

If the final compromise doesn’t accomplish its stated goal, he said, it doesn’t matter whether or not all parties agree.

“The idea that anything that is produced by the system will fix the economy isn’t true,” he said. “They could come up with a compromise that doesn’t do anything.”

One of the participants, Cox Communications lobbyist Susan Anable seemed to agree, using temporary tax cuts as an example. It may be more politically palatable to pass tax cuts for businesses that expire after three years, she said, but it makes it difficult for businesses to put together a long-term plan.

“We need stability in our tax policy and our regulatory policy,” she said.

To try and address the concerns, Dick Castner, Western regional director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggested that the roundtable participants contact their representatives and let them know how they feel about the issues being discussed in Congress.

And Don Cardon, CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, implored Quayle and other politicians to give up some of their knee-jerk objections to certain government practices, like “picking winners and losers” when it comes to giving tax breaks or grants to spur investment and hiring.

“The market already picks winners and losers,” he said, adding that it would be better for the government to look at market projections to determine which industries may rebound most quickly and investing in those areas.

“That’s where you say, maybe I cast a vote that will end my political career in two to three years,” he said.

He added, “If you leave here today with one thing, leave here inspired to lead.”

Other business owners named other government policies that impeded job growth, including the estate tax, lack of funding for small business development plans and insufficient incentives for expanding a business in America rather than moving to China or Singapore.

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