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Business Roundtable Head Says CEOs Will Be Visible Lobbyists

John Engler, president of the CEO lobby Business Roundtable, on Thursday offered his group’s 2013 policy priorities, which he said could boost the economy. The roundtable will marshal its lobbying and communications resources to push its agenda, which includes a lower corporate tax rate, comprehensive immigration legislation and changes to entitlement programs, among other matters.

“If Congress and the administration embrace growth, we stand poised to not only revive the U.S. economy but to lead a global recovery,” the former Michigan governor said.

Engler, a Republican, noted that for the first time in his two-year tenure at the roundtable, his staff is at “full strength” with no vacancies. “It’s a busy year,” he said during a briefing Thursday with reporters. “We have an aggressive budget.”

Last year, the roundtable spent $13.9 million on federally reported lobbying work, up from $12.3 million in 2011. The roundtable CEOs also made frequent trips to Washington in December as debate on the fiscal cliff unfolded at year’s end. The executives met with President Barack Obama and other administration officials as well as congressional Republicans and Democrats. Some conservative members and their aides said they were displeased with the CEOs for supporting the idea of raising taxes on upper-income individuals.

Engler has said the CEOs will continue to work with Congress and the administration.

The group’s agenda, he said, should offer opportunities to work with both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue because it’s in the administration’s and lawmakers’ interest to spur the economy.

“We’re not worried about our ability to communicate with the president and White House staff,” he said at the briefing.

Engler said it was still possible that a wide-ranging overhaul of the tax code could occur this year. Without offering specifics, Engler said his membership supports the idea of simplifying the tax code, broadening the base and lowering the corporate rate — perhaps to around 25 percent.

He also said he saw “glimmers of hope” for bipartisan compromise on fiscal issues, such as automatic defense spending cuts known as sequestration. Immigration is another area where members of both parties have made positive steps, he said.

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