- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

One day after a face-to-face meeting with President Obama, a group of some of the nation’s most powerful business leaders challenged Washington lawmakers not to wait until after the fall election to take action on immigration, tax reform and the government’s fiscal woes.

“[America’s economic competitors] are not waiting until after the November elections before making meaningful policy changes and we shouldn’t either,” said W. James McNerney Jr., Boeing CEO.

The Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from some of the nation’s biggest companies, called for the White House and Congress to balance the federal budget within five years.

“Our message to the federal government on fiscal policy is simple and straightforward: Get your house in order and get started on that task now,” said Robert A. McDonald, Procter & Gamble CEO.

The plan, “Taking Action for America,” also calls for lower corporate taxes.

“It’s no secret that America has one of the least competitive corporate tax systems in the world. We think we can get to a 25 percent tax rate … and do it in a fiscally responsible way,” said Mr. McDonald, chairman of the tax and fiscal policy committee at the Business Roundtable.

The executives also called for streamlining the federal regulatory process.

“We are not opposed to regulation,” said Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical. “We are for (smart) regulation.”

“Done wrong, they impose massive costs on U.S. businesses,” he added. “They become a drag on the economy. That is something none of us can afford.”

The business leaders also want to see immigration reform on the front burner in Washington.

“We believe immigration reform needs to happen in America. We do think it’s positive for economic growth. We certainly think it’s positive for an innovation agenda. We just need to get it done,” said John Engler, the group’s president and a former Republican governor of Michigan.

Mr. McNerney, chairman of the Business Roundtable, was critical of how the Obama administration’s National Labor Relations Board challenged his company, Boeing, in a labor dispute last year.

The NLRB dropped its complaint against Boeing in December after the aerospace giant made concessions to its unions in Washington upset by the company’s decision to open a new plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state.

“We shouldn’t have had to go through it,” Mr. McNerney said at a Business Roundtable event on Wednesday.

Mr. McNerney said the NLRB’s action against Boeing was an example of regulation that was “politically motivated.”

“We’re hoping to get things to a more constructive state,” he said.

Mr. Obama, who met with the group on Tuesday for a question-and-answer session at the Newseum, told the executives that his focus is on jobs.

“If you’re a CEO that’s willing to bring jobs back to America, we want to do everything we can to help you succeed,” he said.

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