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National Restaurant Association - Lawmakers agree: Businesses need greater certainty

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Lawmakers agree: Businesses need greater certainty

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Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner (R-Ohio) told a packed house of restaurateurs April 18 that he came to the nation's capital more than 20 years ago for the same reason they came to the National Restaurant Association's 26th annual Public Affairs Conference this week. As a small business person, he was concerned about the future of the country.

One of 12 siblings, Boehner grew up working in his father's tavern in Southwest Ohio. He ran a small business in the plastics and packaging industry before making his first bid for elected office.

"I thought government was too big, too expensive and too involved in my business," he said.

Boehner spoke to the group of more than 500 restaurateurs just before they headed to Capitol Hill to talk to their senators and representatives about top public-policy issues for the restaurant industry.

The federal government's instinct is to "micromanage and manipulate," Boehner observed. He said the government's actions often create "one big wet blanket of uncertainty" that makes it hard for employers to hire.

Business owners "just don't know what the rules are going to be," he noted. He singled out the 2010 health care law as one of the most harmful sources uncertainty for business owners.

Speaker Boehner's remarks came after restaurateur-turned-congressman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) spoke to the group about his first year in Congress.

Schilling operated Saint Giuseppe's Heavenly Pizza in Moline, Ill., for about 15 years before being he was elected to the U.S. House in 2010. His family now operates the restaurant.

 

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He said his restaurant background has served him well: "We in the restaurant business know what it's like to work hard and to work long hours," he said. "We are awesome troubleshooters. If in [the restaurant] businesses we have a problem, we have to find a solution. You can't increase the price of your product each time you have a problem." He said Congress's instinct is often to turn to tax increases when the government runs into problems.

About 90 percent of the lawmakers in Congress have no background in business, Schilling said. "They don't look at the long-term effect of regulation." Like Boehner, he said it's important for Congress to provide more certainty to business owners. As an example, he noted that Congress just allowed a 15-year tax depreciation schedule for restaurant improvements and new construction to expire at the end of 2011 and revert to 39 years.

He encouraged restaurateurs to tell Congress the impact of that decision. "If members of Congress understood that a 15-year tax depreciation schedule for restaurant improvements and construction allows you to hire, expand and put Americans back to work," they'd extend the 15-year schedule, he said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rep. Cedric Richmond (R-Ill.) and National Journal Editorial Director Ron Brownstein were among the other speakers. Read more about the event here.

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