Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm
Tax reform and health care costs are the two biggest legislative issues of interest to business owners, and Congress will attempt to take on both of them in 2006, according to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). Ryan serves on the Congressional Ways and Means Committee, which will hold hearings early this year on tax reform aimed to make America more attractive to international companies wishing to locate here and do business, he said.
Current tax law makes America less competitive in how it taxes capital, investment and job creation, Ryan said.
"We need to focus on making American businesses more competitive in the international marketplace and Wisconsin employees more competitive in the country and the world," he said. "We need to have a system that gives us a competitive advantage in the international marketplace, vs. the American (economy) being the second-worst tax economy in the world."
Many American companies are now owned by off-shore firms or individuals, Ryan said. Because so many companies are internationally owned, the U.S. needs to ensure it is attractive to global business, he said.
By tackling the nation’s tax code and rewriting it to be more business friendly, Ryan says the nation could better position itself for the future.
"We want to see (America) become the Ireland of this decade, where there are pursuant policies that restore our competitive advantage in the marketplace," Ryan said.
Many of America’s competitors on the international stage allow for immediate business tax write-offs, something this country should move toward, to make it more attractive, Ryan said. He also said the U.S. should examine other countries’ policies toward imports.
"Most of the countries we’re competing against, they lift taxes on exports and tax imports," he said. "We do the opposite. That’s going to be a big debate, if and when and how to adjust it.
"We have to rewrite (the tax code) so we can compete globally, so we have capital flowing into and not out of America," he said.
Ryan said Congress also might make some progress on health care issues in 2006. By working on cost transparency issues, he said, Congress can help make health care costs more comparable, and therefore encourage more consumerism.
To make informed decisions about health care, patients need to be able to compare costs at different hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics, Ryan said.
"The point is, there is no price competition in Wisconsin or America (for health care services)," Ryan said. "And we have to have that. In order to have that, consumers have to be consumers."
Current Health Savings Account laws encourage the development of insurance products that give consumers incentives to shop around for health care services, Ryan said. However, they face big obstacles, he said, because health care providers aren’t required to give accurate, transparent figures for the cost of health care procedures.
"We need to have transparency in health care so consumers can compare," he said. "Those critical foundations are missing in health care and have to be restored."
The Ways and Means Committee pledged to work on transparency issues over the next year to try to encourage health care providers to produce more realistic, understandable and comparable cost estimates, Ryan said. He hopes to encourage the health care community to take these steps on their own, rather than have the government force it to.
"The government shouldn’t create some new bureaucracy. The market should be doing that," Ryan said. "Where obstacles exist, Congress and the government can help. The producers, either they can figure out transparency or we can do it for them."
Ryan said he expects 2006 to be a good year for businesses, largely because of economic indicators carrying over from 2005.
"Right now, there’s no inflation on the horizon," he said. "If you look at the commodity index, core inflation is low. The Fed will raise (rates) a few more times, and that will stave off more increases down the road."
Business investment has increased rapidly over the past 10 quarters, Ryan said, creating about 4.5 million jobs, giving the country, "great fundamentals going into 2006."
"Energy prices and health care, we should make some great strides on that," he said. "We’re finally getting serious about expanding (energy) production in America instead of depending on international sources."