Everyone knows how dysfunctional Congress has been lately, and I agree with many of those who say congressional action (or inaction) is holding back our nation’s economic recovery.
But the truth is, whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, we all recognize that current tax policy, the regulatory environment and our inefficient and outdated immigration system could be improved.
While we work to find bipartisan consensus on these big issues, I believe it is vitally important that we identify some smart, smaller areas of common ground where we can all agree to move forward. In short, it’s time to identify what we can get done — and then do it.
That’s why, along with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), I’ve reintroduced bipartisan legislation to move forward in a targeted way on many of these issues that are holding back our economic recovery.
Our Startup Act 3.0 aims to correct policy flaws that allow the United States to hemorrhage job-creating opportunities year after year to countries like Singapore and China. We’ve been at the global forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship for a long time, but in order to stay there, we have to modernize.
The U.S. has the best higher education system in the world. Yet our outdated immigration policies force hundreds of foreign workers who earn advanced degrees here in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to depart for greener pastures back home. We should do more to encourage them to put their American degrees to use here in America, starting businesses that could employ American workers.
It’s especially troubling when you consider that over the past 30 years, nearly all net new jobs in America have been created by start-up businesses. Even as we fall behind in the STEM fields, other countries are seeing major growth in related businesses because they’re importing the U.S.-educated high-skilled workers who we won’t put to work here.
Startup 3.0 creates two new visas addressing this deficiency. The first, an entrepreneur’s visa, would allow legal immigrants to remain in the U.S. where they can launch new businesses, attract investors and create jobs for American workers. The second is a STEM visa that allows foreign students who graduate with a masters’ degree or Ph.D in STEM fields to receive a green card, allowing them to put their skills to work here in the country that educated them.
Our bill also would eliminate the per-country caps for employment-based immigrant visas — an arbitrary regulation that prevents U.S. employers from attracting the top-tier talent they need to grow in the academic disciplines where they still can’t find enough qualified American workers. We expect our visa reform proposals could form a cornerstone for emerging comprehensive immigration reform proposals.
It’s equally vital that our tax policy encourages investment in start-up businesses at the point when they are most in need of new capital — the early years, when entrepreneurs work to mold their great ideas into a sustainable business model. Startup 3.0 makes permanent the exemption of capital gains taxes on the sale of start-up stock held for at least five years, which gives patient investors an incentive to put their money into new businesses.
It also creates a targeted research and development tax credit for small-business start-ups, freeing up resources to help these young companies expand and create jobs.
As a former businessman, I’ve long argued that investment in R&D is key to keeping our innovation edge. But unless that research gets to the private sector, it can only do so much to create jobs. That’s why our bill uses existing federal R&D funding to support university initiatives that will bring cutting edge, taxpayer-funded research to the marketplace more quickly, where entrepreneurs can put it to use fueling economic growth.
Finally, Startup 3.0 takes aim at federal regulations siphoning time and money away from start-ups — resources that could be better put to use growing the business. Our proposal requires all government agencies to conduct cost-benefit analysis of all proposed regulations with an economic impact of $100 million or more. This will help determine the efficacy of regulations and better quantify their potential impact on the formation and growth of new businesses.
These proposals have bipartisan support, and for good reason: they’re targeted, non-ideological and commonsense solutions to obvious problems.
Just because we can’t do it all in Congress doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can — and the reforms outlined in Startup 3.0 could have a significant and lasting economic impact. Let’s get this done.
Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, is a former telecommunications executive and Virginia governor. He serves on the Senate’s Banking, Budget, Commerce and Intelligence committees. More information is available at warner.senate.gov.