Virginia Ninth District Representative Morgan Griffith voiced a continuing commitment to eliminate over-regulation which he feels procedurally limits progress more than philosophical gridlock on Capital Hill. He made the comments while on a tour last week which included Carroll County and Pulaski County.
“I want to create an atmosphere of creating jobs in the District which means we have to look at the tax codes and the regulation on a number of our industries facing a heavy regulatory burden. That’s how you create jobs. You release the American economy. It’s ready to go,” said Griffith. “I want to continue to work across the aisle where we don’t have philosophical disagreements to just solve problems. Sometimes folks don’t understand when you’re a legislator there’s a lot of give and take. Being a republic means by deffinition you divide the power. In our Republic we have three branches so I’m never going to get everything I want, but as long as I’m moving the ball forward I feel like I’m doing a decent job. I feel in my first six years the ball has moved forward. Every year I’m there I can move that ball forward and with increasing speed.”
One of Griffith’s early successes is the Maximum Achievable Control Technology or “Boiler MACT.” (Also known as The EPA Regulatory Relief Act.) The effort proposed limits to the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal fired and wood boilers. Griffith explained this was important to Carroll County because it helped furniture industries who wanted to burn their scrap in a boiler for heating and energy purposes.
“We now have in the district WestRock, who burns some of their own wood to power their own plant. Instead of scrapping it they use it as a source for power,” said Griffith. “It goes back to that bill. We got it out of the House and to the Senate. I don’t think they would have been able to do that without our revisions and I’m very proud of that.”
Griffith’s efforts include being a part of a group trying to change Washington by restoring historical procedures to congress. He explained the U.S. House and Senate started out under rules set forth by Thomas Jefferson.
“When Jefferson published his rules on parliamentary procedure; the next 100 and some years we got further away from Jefferson. In the 1970s, the changes are a big part of the gridlock in Washington,” Griffith said. “Everybody wants to say it’s this party or that party. Its the fact we’re not following the rules for efficiency and economy Jefferson set forth. While they have to be modernized some the basics are the same. You have to be efficient and we’ve gotten away from that. You have more gridlock. If you have rules that really work for efficiency you’re better off and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Griffith stressed this is a return to a rule (Refered to as the “Holiman Rule” pertaining to appropriations) used for 100 years in the House. He said “everyone in D.C. wants to say this is the way we do it, and it has been since the 1970s. But with a preconcept from early 1870s to 1970s and it worked well. Now we have a new rule and it doesn’t work so good.”
He explained one benefit of a return to Jefferson’s rules, in mandatory spending and descretionary spending, for instance, is mandatory programs, costing tens of millions that could be cut, allowing more money to be spent on people. Griffith said one example of this is a program paying private land owners caring for wild horses because theire are too many for Federal Lands. He said he is sympathetic to horses, but not at the cost of people’s welfare.
“We can’t afford to have social programs for wild horses. The Holman Rule would have allowed us to cut the program. (Under it) there can be no new programs but you can cut programs,” Griffith said. “If you’re going to cut the deficit this is the way to do it. When I got to Washington nobody talked about the Holiman Rule. Everybody is taking about this now. I’m not sure I’m going to get it passed this November, but I’m going to try. (The effort needed 26 votes.) Everybody wants to fight because it’s not the way we did things, but is was the way we once did things. I think it will free us up to do debates on the deficit. The deficit has been reduced since I’ve been in office. Did I do that single handedly? Of course not. Working with others we have brought the deficit down. It was over a trillion a year when I got there. We’ve got it down to 700 billion. I consider that a major accomplishment.”
Griffith said there’s only a few ways to get out of the crisis caused by a budget deficit. Bad options include hyperinflation, and raising taxes. He said spending cuts can be both good and bad.
“The best way to do it is to grow the economy and have more people working. Because then you have more people paying taxes. Without raising taxes you have more money and that’s what we’ve been working for all across the District,” Griffith said. “Unfortunately the current administration doesn’t understand that. They seem to think it doesn’t matter. Part of the problem we’ve got before their war on coal is they didn’t have a plan to transition the economy. If you look at their estimates at what the job loss would be what we are seeing is they way underestimated job losses. They’ve never understood you can’t (over) reglate industry whether its coal, furniture or farm produce or cattle production. You can’t tax and (over) regulate these businesses without costing jobs”
He said the administration has over-regulated to not just the point of killing coal jobs but lots of other jobs as well. At a time, when he feels the economy should have been growing 4 to 5 percent.
“We’ve been averaging about two percent and I’m being generous estimating two. The Chinese are concerned about their growth rate, which is between four to five percent,” said Griffith. “They’re worried about it and we have a President who touts we have two percent. (He says) Things are great! The Chinese would not find that acceptable. When the Chinese have a higher standard on growth rate for the economy than we do we have a problem.”
Griffith said he and his office have worked closely with Carroll County on its Commerce Park infrasturcture improvement. He said economic development always requires local folks doing the heavy lifting with his office assisting.
“We’ve done that across the district. Some will bear fruit this year and some five years from now. You just keep plugging and do what you can. We actually got the Democrats to agree to a $5 million increase for the restoration of abandoned mine lands in Southwest Virginia,” Griffith said. “It restores area damaged by surface mining. That money can be used for econonomic development. They weren’t spending enough money in Southwest Virginia so in a budgetary way I “stole” $5 million from a huge EPA Fund Account and shifted it to this program.”
He said he feels Government’s roll is not to create industries but help when the task of research, for instance, is so big it requires government. He said he is proud The 21st Century Cures Act is an example of this. He said when it comes to creating jobs and curing diseases, he backs careful spending to problem solve.
Another concept Griffith promotes is a “safe zone” period (or a grandfather period) on new regulation so businesses would have time to pay for their investments before they comply with new regulations.
“We should have had two years of four to seven percent (economic) growth based on historic models. It’s because we have policies that make people afraid to invest. I look forward to working on this,” Griffith said. “We need to be looking for ways so that if people are looking to make an investment in the United States they don’t have to worry about losing their investment by the Federal Government regulating them out of business. This is where jobs can make a difference. If you create jobs which offer security and pay a decent wage they don’t have to be the sexiest but those jobs have spinoff jobs in areas you never see. When, in my opinion, you have an attitude out of Washington that it doesn’t matter for the last eight years you kill the desire of people to go out and start those little businesses. The next little business might feed one man and his family or be the next PetSmart. You never know. There’s no way to measure how many jobs we didn’t create because we discouraged the man or woman with an entrepreneural spirit who thought about going out and doing something but was afraid govenment policies would stop them from succeeding.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.