A bipartisan panel of six governors yesterday blamed the country’s pervasive high unemployment on excessive regulation at both the state and federal levels – but the panel clashed over the exact role any regulations might play in governing business activity in their states and countrywide.
During an event on Monday hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, said he is doubtful he would have been able to run his first business, a doughnut shop he bought in his twenties, if it were subject to the same local, state, and federal regulations that businesses in Florida experience today, he said. “Regulations make it so difficult for anybody to grow a business — even in our state where we’re reducing regulations,” he told the group of business executives who attended the event, held at Chamber of Commerce headquarters. “We even regulate hair weavers!” he said jokingly, noting that though his sparse head of hair precludes him from that regulation, it’s one of the 11,000 in Florida that he is working to scale back.
Each of the governors on the panel relayed stories of businesses in their states that are struggling under bureaucratic rules and regulations. “Businesses are not making any money, not putting people to work, when they’re waiting in line filling out forms,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell, a Democrat. “They [the businesses] want us whenever we can to reduce the time it takes to issue permits.” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, chimed in on that point. “We drill a lot of oil and natural gas in Colorado, and the companies that do that have these tremendous lead times that amount to an incredibly long, painful permit process,” Hickenlooper said. “We want to make sure that there’s not pollution, that we protect our communities from spillage or waste. But ultimately, you’ve got to do it in an efficient way and get things done faster, which will help with jobs.”
The Republicans on the panel, including Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, took the argument a few steps further, arguing that corporate regulation could push U.S. companies to relocate their headquarters abroad or push entire industries, like the oil and gas industry, out of the U.S. altogether. McDonnell classified the federal government’s reaction to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year and the Fukashima nuclear disaster as an “overreaction,” which led the U.S. down a dangerous path of “writing off industries.”
“Yes, it was an unprecedented natural disaster, but what’s happened is this administration has taken over Atlantic Coast drilling for the foreseeable future,” which essentially means taking offshore drilling and nuclear energy exploration off the table, McDonnell said. “If we had done that with the space shuttle Challenger in the 1980s, we’d have been beaten by every other nation on earth in the space race. That’s not American — we don’t give up and we don’t write off industries because we have problems.”
Markell countered that the U.S. has a very clear role to play in safeguarding against pollution and avoidable, man-made disasters like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. “There’s this tension when you’re talking about natural disasters,” Markell said. “Yes, we think natural gas is a great economic opportunity, a tremendous source of energy for many states, but that’s people’s drinking water we’re talking about … It’s not an overreaction to make sure that we are focused on doing this in a safe way.”
Where Are the Jobs, Gov. Walker? (Washington Post)
Colorado’s John Hickenlooper Co-Chair’s Bipartisan Governor’s Summit (Denver Post)
Scott Walker Touts Job Growth to U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Green Bay Press Gazette)