NEW YORK – Cutting regulations and taxes are on Rep. Steve Chabot's must-do list for small businesses.
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The Ohio Republican, who became chairman of the House Small Business Committee when Congress took office last week, plans to continue the committee's focus on how the government burdens small companies.
"If there's one thing government can do for small business it's to get the heck off their backs," Chabot says. "We do over-regulate them. We do overtax them."
Chabot plans to hold hearings to advocate for small businesses, as did his predecessor Sam Graves, R-Mo. Chabot says the committee will focus on the health care law and regulations issued by the IRS and Environmental Protection Agency.
Chabot also plans to push for tax relief for small businesses. He noted that when the Republican-led House passed tax bills in the past, the legislation stalled in the then-Democratic led Senate. He's looking for more progress in a Congress now controlled by the GOP.
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"We think we have a much better chance at advancing a whole range of tax reform issues," Chabot says.
Among them: a drop in personal tax rates as well as corporate rates and a permanent increase in tax deductions on equipment and property purchases. Chabot also wants an end to the estate tax, which has forced some families to sell a business when the owner dies because they don't have enough cash to pay the government.
But he doesn't expect Republicans to get a free ride. Democrats have enough seats in the Senate to block legislation. And President Barack Obama has made it clear he'll continue to use executive orders to make policy changes like one he issued last year to shield about 4 million immigrants from deportation.
While the committee acts as an advocate, its primary jurisdiction is over the Small Business Administration. Chabot wants to see the agency's lending process streamlined to make it easier to get loans.
"It's cumbersome, it takes too long, there's far too much paperwork. It just intimidates a lot of people," he says.
Chabot was first elected to Congress from Ohio's 1st District in 1994, served until he lost his seat in 2008 and won it back two years later. He has been on the Small Business Committee for his entire 18 years in Washington.
His district borders House Speaker John Boehner's. The two men have a good relationship, Chabot says.
Legislation Chabot sponsored in the last Congress included bills to make permanent the prohibition against state and local government taxes on Internet access and to increase the amount of investor money available to small companies under the SBA's Small Business Investment Company Program. Neither bill made it to the floor of House.
Before Congress, Chabot ran a small business, a solo law practice. He recalls getting a taste of the kinds of government regulations he wants to see less of.
"It was the paperwork. You're just inundated with reporting to the federal government," he says.
Chabot gets good grades from small-business advocates for what they call his genuine concern about companies and willingness to work with both Democrats and Republicans.
"He's not overly ideological. He's someone who's pretty pragmatic about the needs of small business," says Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association.
Chabot showed his sensitivity to small-business concerns during committee hearings, says Kevin Kuhlman, director of legislative affairs with the advocacy group National Federation of Independent Business.
"He asks good, substantive questions and just keeps an open mind and just listens to the answers," he says.
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