Rep. Griffith speaks to Bristol Va-Tenn Rotary club
By Debra McCown
Bristol Herald Courier,
Oct 19, 2011 -
U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith explained his rationale – and that, he said, of conservatives generally – for their opposition to tax increases as a solution to federal budget woes.
“Taxes historically come and stay for a long time,” Griffith told the Bristol Va.-Tenn. Rotary Club on Tuesday.
“Spending cuts, unless you do something like a balanced-budget amendment, spending cuts come and then the reforms you bring in are gone,” he said. “Each of the reforms lasts five or six years.”
For an example of taxes that outlive their creators, he pointed to a telephone tax instituted to help pay for the Spanish-American War. A century later, the tax – originally set up as a luxury tax in a time when only the rich had phones – was still on the books.
His thought about the idea of a “balanced approach” that would involve covering half a $1.3 billion shortfall with budget cuts and the other half with taxes: “You can’t raise taxes $650 billion without getting the middle class.”
He said the real problem is something called mandatory spending, the term for items in the budget that are not up for discussion in budget debates.
Griffith said he wants to re-think the whole framework of how budgeting is done in Congress and to change the rules so the majority of the budget, which falls into the “mandatory” category, is no longer off-limits.
The U.S. House of Representatives, he reasons, makes all the rules for how it operates, and a majority of members can change those rules. All spending bills must originate in the House. Therefore, he said, “A majority in the House of Representatives can change the way we do budgeting.”
He praised Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain and the bipartisan “Gang of Six” U.S. senators working to craft a budget compromise – both for thinking outside the box in search of creative solutions.
“We need to throw out the old models,” he said, stopping short of expressing support for Cain but calling Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan “the kind of creative thinking that we need to have discussed at the national level.”
Griffith also spoke on environmental regulation and its risk to American jobs.
He said those hurt by a controversial set of boiler regulations are institutions like the University of Notre Dame, which spent $20 million in 2004 for a new boiler system that exceeded environmental standards – only to learn that it wouldn’t meet new regulations put forth in 2011.
Griffith said Republican-led efforts hope to make the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency take into account “real-world consequences and real-world effects” when considering new environmental regulations. For example, he said, a factory in his mountainous Southwest Virginia district shouldn’t be given an impossible timeline to bring a natural gas pipeline over challenging terrain to replace a no-longer-compliant coal-fired boiler.
“What they do is also being done in China,” he said of the manufacturing that takes place in Giles County and other parts of his Southwest Virginia district. “They don’t want to leave … but faced with large fees from the EPA and an impossible tax, what would you be doing if you were a multi-national corporation?”
Griffith claims 10,000 jobs in Virginia – and 230,000 nationwide – are at risk of being lost to well-intentioned but misguided regulations that give business no choice but to move offshore.
After the noon meeting, he said he hopes a study will reveal the numbers that prove his theory: Imposing ever-stricter regulations in the U.S. drives manufacturing overseas to countries that have few environmental laws, not only costing jobs but also causing air quality to worsen. After all, he said, the whole world shares the same air.
As Democrats and Republicans battle over the budget and President Barack Obama tries to drum up support for his latest jobs plan – dubbed “stimulus junior” by Republicans – Griffith has become a face of the conservative counterpoint: a plan to create jobs by decreasing government regulation. Asked Tuesday how a freshman congressman has raised his profile so quickly in Washington, Griffith credited good timing, a strong work ethic and intense study of the issues.
He said he generally stays for the entire committee meeting, has been building his knowledge base and is working with committee staff, who have given him favorable recommendations. He said he hopes to become one of the leaders on the Energy & Commerce Committee, which deals with many of the high-profile issues that go through Congress.
His request to his constituents Tuesday: Send ideas.
“If you get ideas that you think something would make the federal government work better, not all of them will bear fruit, but those ideas coming forward will help me figure out where we need to go as a country,” Griffith said. “There are a lot of good creative people out there and I just need you all to bring those ideas to me because I’m your conduit to get them to Washington.”
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