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Roll Call

CEOs Press Congress, Obama For Lower Taxes, ‘Smarter’ Regulation

Fresh out of a meeting with members of the Blue Dog Coalition, dozens of CEOs in town for a series of Business Roundtable policy and lobbying meetings today unveiled proposals to boost the economy.

The plan, billed as “Taking Action for America,” calls for a balanced federal budget, a reform of federal regulations and a lower corporate tax rate based on a territorial tax system, among others.

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R), who is president of the Roundtable, and the CEO contingent met with President Barack Obama on Tuesday night and were set to meet today with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

“Today we are focusing on one thing and one thing only: re-energizing the slow-growing economy and putting America back to work,” said Jim McNerney, the Roundtable’s chairman and the CEO of Boeing Co.

McNerney said the country won’t be successful in repairing the economy as long as business and government are divided, and while government itself is divided amid partisan politics. He stressed that lawmakers should not wait until after the November elections to move on the Roundtable’s proposals, such as tax reform.

“We cannot afford inaction from Washington,” added Andrew Liveris, president and CEO of the Dow Chemical Co.

The Roundtable members — CEOs from the biggest corporations — stressed that when it comes to regulatory reforms, they are not opposed to regulations but want “smarter regulations,” in Liveris’ words. The group identified what it considers some of the regulations it considers overly complex and costly to businesses.

McNerney, whose company was the subject of a National Labor Relations Board complaint last year, said that many of Boeing’s interactions with federal agencies seem “nonproductive” and occasionally “politically motivated.” In the labor matter, the NLRB complaint charged Boeing with illegal retaliation for union strikes when the aerospace company began trying to produce airplanes at a non-union plant in South Carolina. The NLRB withdrew its complaint after Boeing reached agreement with machinists in Washington state.

“We shouldn’t have had to go through it,” McNerney said.

Procter & Gamble’s president and CEO Bob McDonald, who chairs the Roundtable’s tax and fiscal policy committee, said that the country’s corporate tax rate will become the highest in the world when Japan lowers its rate three weeks from now. The Obama administration recently released its own proposal for lowering the corporate tax rate from about 35 percent to about 28 percent. The CEOs said they support lowering it to about 25 percent.

“We’ve been talking about this a long time,” McDonald said. “Now is the time to get it done.”

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