Building a better sandbox

Serving in Indiana’s state Legislature while Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) was in office, Mitch often said he wanted to make our state the “best sandbox for businesses to play in.” During that time the Legislature created a favorable tax climate while Governor Daniels instituted a cultural change shifting the focus of government agencies from enforcement to cooperation with business. Now, due to his successor and current Gov. Mike Pence’s (R) leadership, Indiana consistently ranks as one of the best states in the country to do business.

Despite relative success in states like Indiana, the U.S. economy continues to underperform, our labor participation rate is at historic lows and more businesses in our country are closing than opening. A primary cause of this has been President Obama’s consistent choice to grow government through taxes, regulations and spending. On the federal level, our sandbox needs serious work.

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To restart America’s dynamic economic engine, we must first follow the example of Governor Daniels and others. Smaller governments with freer markets lead to more jobs and economic growth. In contrast, the passage of ObamaCare, the implementation of Dodd-Frank and an over-burdensome Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have caused great harm to our economy in recent years.

If the United States is going to continue to grow, reforming federal healthcare, banking and energy policy must be a priority.

First, in regard to healthcare, this November marks the third year of open enrollment for ObamaCare and another year the government’s top-down approach continues to be a problem, not a solution. Insurance rates are on the rise, as are deductibles and co-pays, and families continue to lose access to the doctors they were promised they would be able to keep. In my home state of Indiana, the full potential of life-changing innovations and accompanying jobs are put in jeopardy by ObamaCare’s medical device tax. Countless employers and families have identified the financial and compliance costs of ObamaCare as one of the top reasons they have been hesitant to invest in their businesses, hire more employees or make important life decisions.

When done correctly, the federal government can make healthcare reform an opportunity for all Americans, not an obstacle for jobs and the economy. Numerous Republican proposals in Congress have been introduced to do things like allow insurance to be sold across state lines, expand health savings accounts, and provide parity and portability for those who receive insurance from an employer and those who purchase insurance on the private market. No matter where the proposals originate, true healthcare reform should apply the market principles of choice, access and transparency instead of instituting more taxes, restrictions and mandates.

Equally if not more dangerous than ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank law has put businesses in all sectors of our economy at risk. In fact, a small community banker recently told me that their business had been able to survive the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War I and World War II, but that they were unsure if they would be able to survive the full implementation of Dodd-Frank. As a member of the Financial Services Committee, we are fighting against this failed law every day. With the weight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau off of the American economy, businesses on Main Street and Wall Street will have greater opportunities to grow and create jobs.

Perhaps no other sector has seen greater opportunity and potential than the energy industry, as witnessed in states like North Dakota and Ohio, where the shale revolution is taking place. Energy development means good paying jobs, and it also means lower energy prices for businesses and families. However, the federal government’s practice of picking winners and losers skews this reality. Losing bets like Solyndra cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, while the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and unrealistic ozone air quality standards are set to shutter coal-fired power plants and harm our critically important manufacturing industry. Instead of creating jobs and growing the economy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has estimated that these two proposals alone will cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year, along with millions of lost jobs.

The United States needs an all-the-above approach to energy — one that places a responsible commitment to jobs, the economy and our environment over blind ideology. By removing the threat of unneeded regulation, increasing access to public lands for resource development, breaking down energy trade barriers like those on crude oil and LNG and streamlining energy infrastructure permitting, we can provide the certainty of affordable power our economy needs to grow.

More government is not the answer for the economy; it never has been. By shrinking government and increasing freedom in the marketplace, we can put our country back on a path toward growth and prosperity. All it takes is a better sandbox.

Stutzman has represented Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District since 2010. He sits on the Budget and the Financial Services committees.