CRYSTAL LAKE – U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam brought local businesses an update from Washington, D.C., on Friday, but left the pessimism in the nation's capital.
Roskam, R-Wheaton, met with local business owners and chamber of commerce members at Park Place Banquet Facility in Crystal Lake on Friday morning to outline the challenges entrepreneurs and businesses still face and the progress he believes is possible in the coming years.
"I sense an opportunity," Roskam said. "I'm more optimistic than most about the direction of our country."
To seize the opportunity, Roskam said the public must be informed and act to make a difference. Two of the biggest obstacles to a better business environment, he said, are the country's complex tax code and the Internal Revenue Service that enforces it.
The 6th District congressman said the complex code has made it far too difficult for people to enter the business world and for businesses to operate efficiently in the country. He said the recent slew of businesses moving headquarters to other parts of the world would continue if tax reform was not pursued because the existing code chases them away.
Simplifying the tax code, he said, also would help put an end to what he called an embedded culture of corruption in the IRS. Roskam blasted the IRS for recent probes into churches, operating in secrecy and generally overstepping its role.
"Bureaucrats hide in complexity. They are able to exert more influence based on the complexity of the code," Roskam said. "We need to take away their hiding place."
There is some harmony in Washington, he said, especially when it comes to progressing trade. Roskam said he supports President Barack Obama's goal to double trade in the next five years and sees plenty of opportunity in Pacific nations and Europe.
"There is some common ground on trade," he said. "Where trade barriers come down, we all win."
While that economic policy resonates with Roskam, he said Obama's health care overhaul has been a disaster that could crumble on itself. He said the president had a great opportunity to address health care expense and provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions but the plan was ill conceived.
With the numerous delays in the roll out of the reform, Roskam said the plan as constructed will change significantly out of necessity and could lead to some business relief.
He added there is no reason health insurance should not be similar to vehicle, life, house or any other insurance where the customer knows the price.
"I look at Obamacare like that Jenga game," Roskam said of the layered complexities. "There are ways to [reform health care] that don't cost $2 trillion."
Jamie Maravich, market president at BMO Harris Bank and Crystal Lake Chamber chairwoman, said it is always important to hear from the people representing the community at the national level and agreed with many of Roskam's visions for the future.
She said while the federal changes would be a key piece, the state needs to shift its approach to business to see growth. Roskam said he uses Illinois as an example of what not to do when speaking with his colleagues in Washington.
"The state of Illinois definitely needs to get its act together," Maravich said. "There is great infrastructure here and a lot to leverage, but it needs to be much more business friendly."
The event was held in conjunction with chambers from Algonquin/Lake in the Hills, Cary-Grove and Northern Kane County. Crystal Lake Chamber President Mary Margaret Maule said there would be similar events with other state and federal representatives.
"This makes us a broad regional voice, which is how I think we should approaching business," she said.