PROVIDENCE JOURNAL: James T. Brett: New England businesses await Trump reforms
As originally appearing in The Providence Journal

BY JAMES T. BRETT

 

Last year was one of great uncertainty for the New England business community as the nation awaited the outcome of the election. As a new administration takes over, the New England Council is hopeful that new leadership in Washington will bring about positive changes for our region’s economy.

One area where we are likely to see action would have an impact on all businesses, from the small local business to the huge global corporation: We have a president who campaigned on a pledge to fix our broken tax system – perhaps even during his first 100 days in office – and a Republican-controlled Congress that seems eager to work with him.

In fact, President Donald Trump’s plans align significantly with proposals put forth by GOP leaders by lowering the corporate tax and eliminating the alternative minimum tax, both of which would be welcomed by the business community. New England is fortunate that the dean of our delegation, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., is the new ranking member on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, which ensures that our interests will be represented in any tax reform efforts.

Another priority of the new administration is a trillion-dollar infrastructure investment plan. Infrastructure improvements would make it easier for businesses to move products and people, create new construction jobs, and make the U.S. more globally competitive.

Anyone who has spent time on the roads in New England knows that our aging infrastructure is in dire need of improvements. In 2015, more than 1,800 bridges in New England were rated structurally deficient by the federal government. At the same time, over the past 20 years, we have seen an additional 1.24 million drivers on our roads in New England.

President Trump’s proposed funding mechanism is a concern, however. He proposes to offer $137 billion in federal tax credits to private investors to back transportation projects. Under this approach, some of the most critical upgrades – such as fixing those structurally deficient bridges and other existing roadways without tolls – could be ignored. Nevertheless, the new administration’s commitment to infrastructure investment is promising.

On the campaign trail, we heard a lot from Mr. Trump about cutting “red tape” and eliminating unnecessary federal regulations. In particular, he has indicated an interest in scaling back aspects of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform act. Many institutions – particularly some of the smaller community banks and credit unions that are so important in our region – have found Dodd-Frank regulations to be incredibly burdensome, which is frustrating since these are not the institutions responsible for the financial crisis. Republican congressional leaders have been talking for some time about scaling back some of the Dodd-Frank rules.

Of course, there is still a great level of uncertainty about many other critical economic issues, such as the Trump administration’s approach to trade policy and the future of the Affordable Care Act. But the New England Council is hopeful that the new president will follow through on some of these more promising proposals that could benefit our region’s economy, and we remain committed to working with the business community to ensure that our voices are heard in the months ahead.

James T. Brett is the president and CEO of the New England Council, a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth.

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