As Congress takes up unfinished business during its lame-duck session, tech-industry leaders on Tuesday called on lawmakers to take action to avoid an economic meltdown from the so-called fiscal cliff and to address tech priorities such as cybersecurity legislation and tax reform.
In a letter to members of Congress and President Obama, the Technology CEO Council urged Congress to avert a crisis at year-end when tax cuts are set to expire and deep cuts to federal programs are scheduled to go into effect. The group also called on lawmakers to begin work on tax reform, which would include lowering corporate rates and implementing a territorial system that taxes only money earned inside the United States.
“We are concerned that many policymakers believe inaction is acceptable. We strongly disagree, as we explained to leaders in both parties in meetings throughout 2012 and again this October,” according to the letter from the council, which includes the CEOs of major tech firms such as Dell, IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm. “Failure to act will undermine our economy and make the challenge of restoring growth and fiscal sustainability that much more difficult.”
The council said that Congress should implement “strategic” reductions in spending instead of the across-the-board cuts set to go into effect on Jan. 1, while still investing in education, infrastructure, and research.
The tech-industry association CompTIA echoed the Technology CEO Council’s worries about the impact of the fiscal cliff on the tech industry and also called on lawmakers to extend some tax breaks that have expired or are set to expire at the end of the year, including the research-and-development tax credit and an equipment-expensing provision.
“As Congress returns to wrap up unfinished business, I urge them to consider the impact of tax and federal policies on the domestic IT sector, which employs more than 2 million workers and contributes $110 billion to workers’ payrolls,” CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux said in a statement. “An approach that balances revenue increases with spending cuts while prioritizing policies and programs that spur innovation and entrepreneurship can right the ship and set us on a steady economic course.”
Meanwhile, the software-industry group BSA on Tuesday also released a list of issues it wants Congress to focus on during the lame-duck session. The group’s list includes cybersecurity legislation; action on reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which deals with government access to electronic communications; changes to the nation’s immigration laws to allow more skilled foreigners to stay in the United States; and a measure to establish permanent normal trade relations with Russia.
“Lawmakers are rightly focused on averting budget sequestration. But even against that backdrop there is an opportunity to complete work on a number of issues that are critical to driving growth in the IT sector,” BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman said in a statement. “There are straightforward steps lawmakers can take to build trust and confidence in digital commerce, add to America’s reservoir of human capital, curb software piracy, and expand access to key overseas markets.”
It’s unclear how many of BSA’s issues Congress may address during the lame duck. An effort to move cybersecurity legislation through the Senate in August failed, and prospects for the issue in the lame duck appear slim even if the Senate tries to take up the bill again this year. On the Russia trade issue, the House is expected to vote on the legislation this week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began work on a video privacy bill in September, which included language that would update some provisions of ECPA. A committee spokeswoman said the panel would like to finish work on the measure during the lame duck but hasn't yet set a date for finishing its markup.
This article appears in the November 14, 2012, edition of NJ Daily.