U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue said the scrapping of Obama-era energy regulations, coupled with last month's comprehensive tax reform, will help kick-start economic growth into 2018, but warned that the Trump administration must also make modernizing the nation's infrastructure a priority to keep the economy growing.
During his State of American Business address Wednesday, Donohue credited business-friendly policies from Washington and several states, plus a "pro-growth mindset" with helping to achieve consecutive quarters of 3% or higher growth in the nation's economy.
"While our economy is improving, the prosperity hasn't flowed to every community or every household," Donohue said. "Families and workers are living in a time of rapid change and disruption that is driven by many factors...[including] energy innovation...These disruptions are creating economic insecurity for those who don't have the right skills or education -- or who don't live in the right places -- to compete for today's jobs."
Donohue said the Chamber "worked vigorously" to help Republican lawmakers in Congress pass a $1.5 trillion comprehensive tax reform bill last month, which he said would help lay the foundation for years of economic growth.
"The final package wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn good," Donohue said. "It achieved our priorities of lowering rates for all businesses, instituting an internationally competitive system of taxation, and allowing for full expensing of capital investments."
Another achievement last year, according to Donohue, was the Trump administration "reining in the regulatory state after eight long years of regulation run amok.
"Last year we saw regulatory actions fall to a 17-year low, down 40% from their peak in 2011. And building on years of work, we helped unravel a slew of major Obama-era regulations, including sweeping rules that shackled our nation's energy innovators; burdensome labor regulations that hampered business operations and harmed workers; and onerous financial rules that would have suppressed retirement investment and disadvantaged consumers."
But Donohue said that in order to keep pace with a growing economy, the nation also needs to modernize its infrastructure -- a task he conceded would not be easy.
"We cannot build a 21st century economy on 20th century infrastructure," Donohue said. "This year can and must be the year of major infrastructure investment. We have the political will, the bipartisan support -- and we certainly have the need. Now it's time for action."
Donohue revealed that the Chamber has been working with the Trump administration "to determine what a forward-looking infrastructure package should achieve.
"We must pave our way to the future by choosing projects of national significance that maximize long-term growth." He added that although the nation is "living in the midst of an energy renaissance...we don't have the infrastructure to support it. So we must revamp our power grid and build the pipelines necessary to transport our abundant resources to market. These long-term, nationally significant infrastructure projects will enable serious growth and job creation."
How to pay for such improvements is "a problem that has dogged the debate for ages," he said.
"We have a number of ideas and proposals, which we'll lay out in more detail at an infrastructure event here at the Chamber on Jan. 18. We're going to help jumpstart the conversation between private and public sector leaders."