As the nation nears the 2014 midterm election, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is concerned and excited about America’s economy at the same time.
Chris Eyler, executive director of the congressional and public affairs division of the U.S. Chamber’s northwest region, spoke to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during Thursday’s luncheon.
While the national advocacy organization for business is concerned with entitlement spending on the federal level — expected to double in the next decade — “not everything is doom and gloom,” Eyler said.
“We’re seeing a revolution in energy production right now,” he said.
Eyler added that the new development in the Lower 48 is taking place “in spite of” federal policies, and none of the work is taking place on federal land.
While the national chamber rarely deals with state-specific issues, Eyler said the group is monitoring Alaska’s looming vote on the repeal of the More Alaska Production Act.
“If ballot measure one passes, we are concerned,” Eyler said, adding that it would be “harmful” to the state economy.
After the meeting, Eyler stopped short of saying Alaska’s tax structure was a deterrent for new oil development, but he said the uncertainty of what that system will look like in the future is a factor companies have talked to his group about.
The national representative also discussed a hot-button issue with direct impacts on the economy: immigration reform.
“We need immigration to just keep up the pace,” Eyler said, citing a projected shortfall in American workers as more and more of the Baby Boomer generation retires.
He added that reform to “bring them out of the shadows” is needed to allow the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in America to become contributors to the economy.
The national chamber is focusing its immigration reform lobbying efforts on four points: developing a better work visa system; improving the employer verification system so employers can know they’re hiring people authorized to work in the U.S.; creating an earned lawful worker status; and tightening border control.
“We cannot round up all 11 million people and just send them back,” Eyler said, because it would cripple some southern states’ economies.
In closing, Eyler turned his focus to the 2014 election cycle. Twenty-one Democrats — all of whom were elected during the party’s strong 2008 showing — are up for reelection in the U.S. Senate.
The national chamber considers three states — West Virginia, South Dakota and Arkansas — as elections Republicans are likely to win back from the Democrats. In the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney won all three states.
Alaska — with incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich up for reelection — is one of four states deemed true toss-ups that are impossible to call at this point, Eyler said.
“It’s too early to say what will happen,” he said.