In 2001 and 2003 President Bush gave tax relief to individual West Virginians and small businesses to give our economy a boost. Tax relief was extended with bipartisan support in 2010 because when small businesses grow, America grows with them.
Now, unless Congress acts, this much-needed tax relief will expire and jobs will disappear. The impact on the economy would be huge -- a study by independent accounting firm Ernst and Young found that raising taxes on nearly a million small companies would cost us more than 700,000 jobs. On the flipside, extending current tax relief would keep $4 trillion dollars of the taxpayer's money in their own pockets instead of sending it to Washington where -- trust me -- it will be spent.
On Thursday, I voted to stop the massive tax hikes scheduled to hit all taxpayers on Jan. 1, 2013 because our economy simply is not ready for them. The American economy continues to recover from the recent recession, but it has proven to be a painfully slow process. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that our GDP growth rate has slowed to a mere 1.5 percent -- half of what that rate was only six months ago. Unemployment has been at or above 8 percent for 41 consecutive months, the longest period of sustained high unemployment since the Great Depression. It's clear that now is not the time to hold back our economy's growth by taking money away from families and small businesses.
West Virginia is one of the few places left where family businesses and corner stores still outnumber big businesses. Small business owners across our state tell me they're already struggling to stay afloat with the weight of new and complicated regulations in laws like Dodd-Frank. The President's health-care law included new taxes aimed at small businesses, and now he wants to increase their overall rates. It's no wonder organizations like the National Federation of Independent Businesses have come out so strongly in favor to making sure tax relief is extended.
Instead of hitting our job creators with higher taxes, I support comprehensive tax reform to make the system fairer and simpler. It makes more sense to close special interest loopholes instead of mom and pop shops.
In uncertain economic times such as these, businesses should be allowed to grow and hire new workers. Tax relief has helped us in the past and it will continue to help us in the future. Sensible taxes are good for families, good for small businesses, and good for America.