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Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark

With the commencement of the 114th Congress, the Georgia Chamber is focusing on federal legislative priorities key to enhancing Georgia’s economic competitiveness and ability to attract new jobs and investment.

“Georgia is fortunate to have a strong Congressional delegation representing our state in D.C.,” said Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark. “Both our new and existing members of Congress understand the importance of supporting legislation that will grow our economy.  We look forward to working closely with them on our 2015 priorities, including immigration reform, funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion, defeating proposed environmental regulations, and transportation funding, among others, which have a critical impact on Georgia’s business community.”

The Georgia Chamber’s 2015 federal priorities include:

Immigration Reform

The Georgia Chamber supports immigration reforms that ensure a talented and qualified workforce in order to maintain and grow our economy and global competitiveness. This includes measures such as a lawful, manageable and monitored guest and essential worker program; a reliable E-verify system; and, a safe and secure border that does not unnecessarily restrict commerce or access for documented entrants.

Savannah Harbor Expansion

The Chamber supports the appropriation of the remaining $440 million of federal funds needed to complete the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.  The state has already set aside its total share for the program – $266 million – which through an agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) is being used to begin construction on this long-awaited project, which will allow our ports to maintain their global competitiveness and boost our state’s economy.

Retailer Fairness

The Chamber supports the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would tax transactions from online retailers in the same manner as storefront retailers.  While current state law requires customers to remit “use” taxes to the state for untaxed online purchases, few comply.  As a result, brick and mortar stores are placed at a significant disadvantage to their online counterparts and our citizens who shop online carry the burden of compliance.

Proposed EPA Clean Power Plan

The Chamber is concerned that through the proposed Clean Power Plan the federal Environmental Protection Agency is rushing to achieve an arbitrary deadline for reduced emissions without fully considering state-specific options or the serious long-term consequences that will arise from the range of regulatory requirements that would be imposed on the energy sector.  The Chamber has implored the EPA to take the needs of individual states, and their economies, into consideration before finalizing the proposed rules.

Proposed EPA Waters of the US Rule

While the Chamber supports the objectives of the Clean Water Act, we also support formal rulemaking processes that promulgate rules in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act.  As such, the Chamber opposes recent attempts by the Obama Administration to circumvent the role of Congress in the regulation and management of the nation’s water resources, as well as that of the states.  In addition, the Chamber believes the proposed rules would violate private property rights, threaten Georgia’s agriculture and other industries and subject business to yet another layer of uncertainty due to their ambiguity.

Highway Trust Fund

The Chamber supports efforts to preserve the solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund.  Should Congress not successfully address this critical transportation funding measure, Georgia will see reduced and delayed reimbursements for needed transportation projects, putting some at risk for completion.  While the federal gas tax, currently 18.4 cents per gallon, has been the traditional source of revenue, it has struggled to keep pace with expenses as vehicles have become more fuel-efficient.    Both reauthorization of federal funding and an increase in the gas tax is necessary to keep our highways and transit systems efficient for transportation and commerce.

Protecting Georgia’s Military Bases

The Chamber supports the military presence in Georgia, which currently includes three Army bases, two Air Force bases, a Navy base and a Marine base, installations that have a total impact of $20 billion on our economy.  Of 9.5 million Georgians, over a million are compensated directly because of the military in our state.  The role of these bases has only grown more critical with troop draw downs in the Middle East and dramatic cuts in funding and manpower underway.  We urge Congress to avoid additional cuts to the Department of Defense and any future BRAC efforts to reduce Georgia’s military footprint.

Debt Ceiling

The Georgia Chamber calls on Congress and the Administration to avoid any future government shutdowns.  While important policy issues are at stake in the ongoing debate about federal spending, debts, deficits and entitlements, the full faith and credit of the United States should not be subjected to further brinksmanship.  The consequences of a default to the U.S. economy and the business community are too extreme to be allowed to occur.

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