By Leslie Williams Johnson

U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) told members of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter  and Dunwoody Chambers of Commerce Tuesday that he’s optimistic about the nation’s future even as it continues to wade through economic, transportation and health care issues.

“This is a nation that is at odds with each other right now about the direction and how we move forward, at odds with each other about what the role of the federal government ought to be,” said Price, representing Georgia’s sixth district, to just over 100 in attendance at the May 13 Chambers of Commerce lunch at Villa Christina. “These aren’t minor differences. These are major fundamental differences. And the way we sort through this is elections.”

Price, who serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, and House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said there is a strong correlation between transportation and job growth in the sixth district.

“I believe, especially in our area, one of the reasons that we aren’t seeing the job growth that we’d like to see is the whole issue of transportation,” he said. “You can’t be in the north Atlanta area and have a discussion about economy and jobs and business without talking about transportation. And the loggerhead that we’re at in Washington right now is making it so there’s less certainty, more uncertainty, in the area of transportation there should be,” Price said.

He said he’s rooting for a six-year transportation bill, perhaps within the next year – not before the current transportation bill expires in a few months.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get another transportation bill, but candidly I think the likely thing will be another patch or bridge for a period of time which is Ok, not great, OK,” he said.

Based on an annual poll of the sixth district, which includes some 700,000 residents in the north Atlanta area, he said the No. 1 concern continues to be economy and jobs.

“The recovery out of this recession has been slower than any recovery that we’ve ever had out of any recession and I think it’s important for us as a nation to step back and say, ‘well, why is that? Why are we not seeing the kind of robust recovery that we’ve seen in the past?” he said.

Georgia’s unemployment rate is 7 percent, but Price said the actual rate is probably in the mid-to-low teens, a percentage that would include people who have given up the search for work.

He says the country must move forward with tax reform to address the root cause of the recession and slow recovery.

“We have the highest business tax rate in the industrialized world,” he said. “If you file your taxes in your business as a C corporation you pay more taxes on your business than any other industrialized country in the world. What that means is that when folks are trying to figure out whether to expand here or to create a new enterprise somewhere – and you know the world’s very small, the national boundaries don’t mean what they used to mean — and they’re looking to do something to create jobs and they go to the line that says ‘taxes’ and then it says ‘United States’ and the next line says ‘go somewhere else, we don’t need you because we’ve got enough here already,’ that’s what that message sends.”

“We are working as diligently as we can to pull together a bi-partisan group to try to move forward with tax reform,” he said.

Price told the audience that the “over reach of the president and this administration” as well as health care were also concerns for those polled.

“We’re in the midst of this healthcare storm right now. Public policy is dynamic, it changes all the time and we’re going through a very, very unfortunate situation now as it relates to health care in this country, I believe, because there were some folks who believed that Washington ought to be in charge of it and they had a better idea of how to take care of patients,” said Price, an orthopedic surgeon who served in private practice for close to two decades.

“I don’t think that’s where we’re going to stay,” he said, touting the “Empowering Patients First Act,” or H.R.. 2300, that he’s introduced. “I think we will move to a system that’s much more flexible and responsive to patients. There are positive solutions. We can get everybody covered, and we can solve those insurance challenges, we can make it so that health coverage is actually affordable if we address the real cost drivers in health care.”