Manufacturers warn regulations are piling up

The growth of federal agency rules is weighing down the manufacturing industry, according to a pair of major trade groups, who sounded a call Wednesday for regulatory reform legislation in Congress.

The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) released new data showing that the industry’s regulatory costs are far outpacing its growth, rising and average of 7.6 percent a year since 1998, while output grew at a rate of .4 percent.

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The figures, prepared by NERA Economic Consulting, found that less than 10 percent of new regulations impacting the manufacturing sector are considered major rules, which carry a price tag of $100 million or more and are subject to cost-benefit analysis requirements.

While the remaining 90 percent are less expensive individually, the cumulative burden could be just as large as it is for major regulations, MAPI President Stephen Gold said during a forum the group co-hosted with the National Association of Manufacturers.

“Each year, federal agencies layer regulations onto manufacturers, one on top of another, without any transparency or any clue as to the true cost to our factory sector,” Gold said.

The manufacturing groups, joined by current and former lawmakers from both major parties, urged Congress to consider some of more than a dozen regulatory reform bills now pending in one or both chambers.

While some of the legislation is strictly partisan and faces little chance of moving through the divided Congress, the forum’s participants turned their focus to a handful of bills that enjoy at least some measure of bipartisan support.

“Here is one area where we can find some common ground,” former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said, pointing to bills that enjoy backing from members of both parties, including measures penned by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Also on the list was legislation authored by Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) in the House and championed by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) in the Senate. The Small Business Paperwork Reduction Act would give companies a reprieve from penalties and fees when they make first-time errors on paperwork required by federal regulations.

“If you don’t do the paperwork correctly, you should be given a break,” Duckworth said, arguing provisions in existing rules could be construed as “piling on” small companies trying to comply with regulations.

“I really think we can reform our regulatory system, because being pro-manufacturing shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” she said.

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