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|Vitter: Legislation would negate progress|
In spite of the success the Monroe area has enjoyed recently on the economic development front, events are occurring nationally that could hamper it.
That's according to U.S. Sen. David Vitter who spoke Tuesday at a Monroe Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
According to Vitter, the three national threats that could disrupt economic development and negatively impact businesses in Louisiana include the healthcare reform advocated by President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership, cap and trade legislation and Card-check legislation.
Regarding healthcare in the United States, Vitter agrees there are issues that need to be addressed, but he believes the healthcare system currently utilized throughout the country has an upside, too.
"There is a lot wrong with our healthcare delivery system, but there's a lot right with American medical care," said Vitter, a Republican from Metairie.
"We need to fix the specific things that are broken, and we need to use a scalpel and not a sledgehammer and not cause a lot of residual damage in the process, including pushing folks off coverage which they have now and are satisfied with," Vitter said. "There's a lot we need to improve, we just need to go about it the right way. I'm afraid many of the approaches you've been hearing about out of Washington the last several months are the sledgehammer approach."
Vitter is concerned how current healthcare reform proposals would affect small businesses.
He said the "more liberal side of Washington" is pushing an approach that would result in businesses having a "legal mandate to provide health coverage."
"If they don't, they have an alternative, and that's to pay a major fee or tax to the federal government to go into the healthcare system," Vitter said. "I'm concerned how that would impact small businesses. It would be a big increase in doing business that would immediately cost us jobs in the middle of a recession."
Vitter also is concerned with how changes would affect people who already have health coverage. He said the Senate's health care reform bill includes provisions outlining which coverage businesses could provide.
"Businesses would provide health insurance according to standards we (federal government) set up," he said. "That may be higher than what you are providing now."
Businesses would have the alternative to pay a fee that is currently set at $750 per employee each year in the Senate bill, Vitter said.
"That fee doesn't approach what it costs any business to provide healthcare today," Vitter explained. "The national average is not $750 per employee per year; it's $6,100 per employee per year. What do you think the reaction of many businesses providing care now will be? My prediction is a bunch of businesses will take the much cheaper option and dump employees. And, folks who have coverage now who are reasonably satisfied with it will lose it.
"That is the biggest cause that I think would lead any so-called government option to balloon in a short period of time and become the dominant option if not eventually the only option."
Dr. Mark Napoli of Monroe was one of the members of the audience who asked Vitter questions following his speech.
"There's a lot of emotional people who've made it on to YouTube and TV and people are screaming and hollering at congressmen and senators," Napoli said. "Some people have called them mobs or ignorant, or (Democratic) plants with ulterior motives. Well, I can tell you those same people are coming into my office and other doctor's offices and they are expressing the same concern.
"I think the bigger picture is people in this country have abruptly gone from mistrustful of their government to being terrified by it. The people who come in and talk to me - no larger group is sending them in. They are individuals who are extremely concerned about this.
"It's not just the people on TV screaming and hollering … that represents the extreme group, but across the board, from all socio-economic status, people are extremely concerned."
On cap and trade legislation, Vitter said it would negatively impact businesses around the country since it would result in an "enormous tax on energy across the board."
"That would be the biggest push we've seen in our lifetime toward greater outsourcing of jobs," Vitter said. "We're all concerned about shipping jobs overseas. Well, it's my opinion that we haven't seen anything compared to what we would see if we have this dramatic cap and trade system in place."
He said there would be a "massive outsourcing of jobs" into other areas of the world where businesses would not face this new energy tax.
"I think it's bad for the country and ill-advised, and it's particularly bad for Louisiana because we are an energy state," Vitter said.
Under the Employee Free Choice Act, or Card Check legislation, "employees would be denied the right to freely choose whether to unionize while employers would be prohibited from explaining the drawbacks of organizing," according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"I believe this is un-American and bad for the country," Vitter said. "The secret ballot is a fundamental concept for us and I believe we need that for union elections just like we need it for public elections."
He said Card Check legislation would be particularly "dangerous for Louisiana" since Louisiana is a right-to-work state.
"We have a real advantage when competing with a lot of other places, particularly for manufacturing jobs, because we are a right-to-work state," Vitter explained. "Card Check would more or less wipe that off the table and equalize the situation because you would have artificially promoted massive unionization across the country, including right-to-work states."