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Retailers to Obama: Promote Our Priorities in SOTU

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

The National Retail Federation has something to sell to the White House.

The massive retail lobbying group sent a letter today to President Barack Obama touting the benefits of the private sector when it comes to job creation and urging him to push Congress to move on its priorities.

“As you prepare your annual State of the Union address, it is clear that our nation faces deep divisions over many key questions,” said the letter signed by Matthew Shay, the group’s president and CEO, and Terry J. Lundgren, its chairman. “But there is one pressing issue that nearly everyone from every party, faction and interest group can agree on — the need for businesses of all sizes to create the jobs needed to put Americans back to work and restore the U.S. as the leader of the global economy.”

The letter added that the retail sector employs twice as many people as health care and four times as manufacturing.

But to keep growing, the retailers say they want “sales tax fairness” — legislation that would require states to collect taxes from online retailers. “It’s time to pass a federal bill now,” the letter said.

The NRF also called for corporate tax reform and more free trade agreements.

“At a time when our economy desperately needs those jobs, we’ve got the ability to create them,” Shay said in an interview with Roll Call. “We’re trying to help policymakers and those primarily here in Washington gain a greater level of appreciation for the critical importance of the industry that we represent and the 42 million jobs that the industry is responsible for creating.”

Shay, who called his industry a “bright spot” in the economy, said the NRF is putting its grass-roots and political energy behind the policy priorities outlined in the group’s letter to the White House as part of its “Retail Means Jobs” campaign.

“It’s more than just jobs, it’s about careers,” Shay said. The retail industry, including its supply chains, has the ability to build careers in design, technology and transportation, he added.

The letter went on to say: “Congress is well aware of these issues, but as is so often the case in Washington, it takes the power of the presidency to turn a good idea into law. By calling for action on these items in your State of the Union address, you can play a major role in helping American businesses create the jobs American workers so desperately need.”

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