With the dawn of a new year come new opportunities to meet existing challenges for our nation’s economy. We stand at a crossroads in history where we must rebound from an economic downturn the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time.
The foundation of our national economy is American small businesses — our nation’s strongest job creators. Helping them thrive is the most important thing we can do to fix our unemployment crisis and grow the economy.
Last year — my first as chairman — the Small Business Committee was a voice for our nation’s nearly 30 million small businesses. We provided oversight for small-business policies and programs that span more than 20 different departments and agencies in the federal government. We have focused on small-business issues related to regulations, complex tax policy, research and development, government inefficiency, export policies, federal contracting policy, Dodd-Frank regulations and the health care overhaul law, among others.
Last year’s legislative accomplishments included the introduction of two regulatory bills and the extension of various Small Business Administration programs. We reauthorized the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, two of government’s most effective programs for spurring innovative ideas among the small-business research-and-development community.
We held hearings on and advocated for the repeal of the 3 percent withholding requirement for contracting businesses and the health care reform law 1099 reporting requirement.
We kept the Obama administration accountable during oversight hearings with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the under-performing Small Business Lending Fund and an Office of Management and Budget official about the White House’s attempt to politicize procurement.
We also created a new interactive website, Small Biz Open Mic, to communicate with small businesses all over America.
And our work has just begun.
As we begin the second year of the 112th Congress, we will continue to push policies that encourage small-business job creation. Unemployment is still very high at 8.5 percent. The rate of “underemployment,” which represents people who want to work but have stopped searching and those who are forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, stands at a whopping 15.2 percent.
Our committee’s agenda for this year is an active one. We stand ready to evaluate the president’s proposal to consolidate several agencies and departments that deal with commerce, small-business lending and trade programs. In addition to overseeing the implementation of the free-trade agreements for small exporters, we will fight for policies that increase trade agency coordination and streamline the export process, to make it easier for small businesses.
One simple way to help small firms is by providing more opportunities through federal contracting. While several important provisions have been built into the federal procurement system to help small companies receive a share of government contracting opportunities, there is still more to be done on behalf of small contractors.
This year, our committee will produce legislation that will ensure small businesses have strong advocates and fair processes, which will allow them to compete for and successfully perform federal contracts — representing $536 billion in business. The legislation also adds transparency and accountability so that we can deter and punish bad actors.
It is a federal government goal to award 23 percent of all prime contract dollars to small businesses. Unfortunately, the Obama administration missed that target by 3 points last year — that’s $15 billion that small businesses missed out on. Our committee will help address this by increasing the small business goal to 25 percent and holding agency executives responsible for meeting these goals, so that small businesses receive real opportunities rather than lip service.
Because access to capital continues to be a problem for many small businesses, our committee will continue to analyze the effects of regulations on lending. The current anti-business policies from Washington have led to a 17-year low in entrepreneurship, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We will hold hearings on ways the federal government can do more to create an environment for entrepreneurship.
Our committee will continue to promote pro-growth policies that will help small businesses and fight regulations that keep them from growing and creating jobs. We will also closely monitor the barrage of health care regulations coming from this administration because small businesses continue to be burdened by health care compliance.
Small businesses have been burdened by the constant threat of tax increases, inconsistent flow of credit, a cloud of federal debt, overreaching federal regulations and the looming health care law mandates.
What they need is a better economic environment driven by fiscal discipline, a sustainable path of less government spending, lower taxes and fewer burdensome regulations.
The top priority for our committee will be to lead Congress in this endeavor, because small-business growth is the best path to sustained economic prosperity.
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) is chairman of the House Small Business Committee.