Last year, I put more miles on my 1998 Ford Explorer than I thought possible, driving around Southwest Washington in my run for Congress. In all communities and during every meeting I was given the same directive: put Washington, D.C.'s focus on jobs.

The pages of The Daily News just days ago gave us another reminder why jobs is the most pressing topic in every corner of Southwest Washington. The headline read, "State reports 12.8 percent January jobless rate in Cowlitz County."

Southwest Washington has been coping with a double-digit jobless rate for years. But we shouldn't accept 12 percent unemployment as the new norm for our moms, dads, neighbors and former co-workers in Cowlitz County and throughout Southwest Washington. A revival of our economy is possible. We can do better.

We live in a tremendous region with so many natural advantages. First and most important, we have highly-skilled and hard-working people ready to get to work. Second, we are located in a critical freight corridor with rail, rivers, truck routes that are critical arteries for economic growth. Third, we have access to a diverse range of natural resources. Businesses and entrepreneurs have adapted and continue to adapt to make sure these resources remain sustainable. Many enterprising businesses are harnessing the power of new technology. Others are entering into emerging industries like biomass. As I visit business after job-providing business, I see the potential of entrepreneurs and small business owners to lead our economic revival.

If only we let them.

One of the biggest impediments to job growth and economic recovery is overregulation by government. Just ask a small business owner. I've had literally dozens of them join me at roundtable discussions or meetings to tell me about a specific federal regulation that is hurting their business.

Unfortunately, sometimes it seems as if some in government believe that small businesses are bothersome or harmful, and that it is the role of government to tax and regulate them into submission. A good example is the Environmental Protection Agency. Last year alone, the EPA released more than 900 new rules affecting small businesses. Can you imagine the amount of time employees and owners would need to take away from running their businesses to read through and comply with 900 new rules? And EPA is just one agency in a vast federal bureaucracy that I am taking to task.

Another example: last year, Congress and the President passed a health care overhaul that impacted several areas that have nothing to do with health care. One piece of the bill caused an outcry among the business community because it requires companies of all sizes to file more forms with the IRS. What is known as the "1099 mandate" would require a business to file an IRS 1099 form for any purchase over $600. Picture a small business with four or five employees having to meet this new paperwork burden. Again, that's taking their time away from growing their business and hiring. Many don't have the resources to meet this requirement at all, which is why I voted to repeal this mandate.

We can make significant changes to reduce and streamline rules and rulemaking processes, while maintaining a reasonable system of regulation. In doing so, we'll be helping job-creating businesses do what they do best: grow their business and hire people.

In the coming weeks, Congress will be addressing EPA attempts to institute a national energy tax that would raise gas prices. The American people have clearly opposed these "cap and trade" taxes that would result in higher energy costs, and I will vote to stop these efforts. I've also been actively working with the EPA to recognize woody biomass as a clean, renewable source of energy. To date, the EPA has attempted to regulate and hamper biomass energy. Biomass has tremendous promise in our region, both as a source of jobs and as a means to produce clean, affordable energy. I want to see this source of energy thrive and bring jobs with it.

We have made significant progress toward repealing the "1099 mandate" and scoring a win for small businesses. One of my first acts as a member of Congress was to cosponsor a bill to repeal this mandate, and I'm pleased to report that the House of Representatives voted to pass this bill. Once enacted into law, this repeal will lift a significant regulatory burden from the shoulders of struggling small business owners.

Small businesses and private enterprise are the heart of what makes this country great. I'm committed to clearing the runway for these job creators, so they can grow, thrive and succeed as far as their hard work can take them. That's the job creation plan that has worked for this country for the last two centuries, and I'm confident that it's the plan that will put folks in Southwest Washington back to work.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler represent's Washington's 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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