Obama Outlines Regulations Overhaul to Save Businesses About $10 Billion

The Obama administration outlined plans today to revamp government regulations that it said would save businesses about $10 billion over five years.

The changes affect rules enforced by more than two dozen federal departments or agencies from Agriculture to Veterans Affairs, according to the administration.

Drafts of the rule changes were released in May, and today’s announcement is an update following comments from industry groups and the public.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest business lobby, was among the business groups that welcomed the administration effort while saying it didn’t go far enough.

“This lookback will not have a material impact on the real regulatory burdens facing business,” Bill Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs, wrote on the Chamber’s website. Still, the plan is a “worthy effort at making technical changes to the regulatory process.”

President Barack Obama, facing criticism from Republicans in Congress about his policies, is rolling out initiatives aimed at boosting job creation amid public concern that the economy is stalling. He ordered the regulatory review in January, and the final plans are being released before the president delivers an address on additional measures to spur growth, including tax cuts and spending for infrastructure projects.

Economic Growth

Gross domestic product will grow 1 percent in the fourth quarter rather than the 2.5 percent previously forecast, and 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012 instead of 1.5 percent, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) said in a note e-mailed to clients last week. Citigroup Inc. cut its 2011 growth forecast to 1.6 percent from 1.7 percent and lowered its projection for next year to 2.1 percent from 2.7 percent.

“The president’s executive order has built into it the words job creation,” ” Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said on a conference call. “We do see this as helpful to job creation.”

He said it’s not possible to estimate how many jobs it may lead to. “To translate the elimination of regulatory costs into number of jobs isn’t a simple exercise.”

Government regulation has been a focal point of Republican critics, such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who called the results of the regulatory review “underwhelming.”

‘Burdensome Regulations’

“Every day, business people and job creators cope with burdensome regulations that have a negative impact on both jobs and our economy, and again the president seems reluctant to do everything in his power to help them,” Cantor said in a statement.

Rosario Palmieri, vice president of regulatory policy at the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, said the administration continues to add costly rules for businesses even as it modifies existing regulations.

“While removing some modest burdens with this hand, with the other hand the administration is proposing new costly and unnecessarily burdensome rules that will wipe away all the savings that have been proposed today,” Palmieri said.

He cited the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to tighten ozone standards, saying it may cost the economy an additional $1 trillion annually between 2020 and 2030 and jeopardize 7.3 million jobs. He called it “the most costly rule that this administration has proposed.”

Voter Complaints

During Obama’s bus tour to rural parts of the Midwest last week, he repeatedly heard from voters, small business owners and farmers who said they were concerned that regulations were too onerous and adding to the uncertainty preventing them investing additional capital.

“One of the things we’re doing is we’re saying, show us particular regulations that may be getting in the way of you hiring,” Obama said in Atkinson, Illinois. “If there’s a bunch of bureaucratic red tape and it’s not actually improving the situation, let’s figure out how to get rid of some existing rules and let’s review every rule that comes in for its cost and its benefits.”

He also said some complaints about regulations are unfounded and driven by lobbyist and industry groups.

“Some of these regulatory concerns that people have, frankly, are unfounded in the sense that if somebody even has an idea or a thought about some regulation, then right away the message is sent out, they’re coming and they’re going to make it impossible for you to farm and this and that and the other,” Obama said in Alpha, Illinois.

Department Changes

The changes include accelerating payments on Department of Defense contracts to 60,000 small businesses and requiring the Small Business Administration to adopt a single electronic application for potential borrowers.

The Department of Health and Human Services will work to remove some reporting requirements on hospitals and health-care providers to save potentially $4 billion over five years, according to Sunstein.

Revisions by the Energy Department may save makers of commercial appliances and bathroom showerheads as much as $900 million, according to the plan posted on the White House website.

The Interior Department aims to cut the time needed to approve offshore wind projects on public lands to promote more rapid development, the department’s plan says.

The Department of Transportation will work to eliminate regulations on the railroad industry that could save about $340 million, and the EPA will propose a rule to make it easier for hazardous-waste generators to report electronically, saving up to $126 million per year.

-- With assistance from Eric Martin, Katarzyna Klimasinska and Bill McQuillen in Washington Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Mark McQuillan.

To contact the reporters on this story: Julianna Goldman in Vineyard Have, Massachusetts at 4304 or Jgoldman6@bloomberg.net; Hans Nichols in Washington at hnichols2@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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