Washington's gridlock is the key concern keeping CEOs from increasing capital spending, AT&T chief Randall Stephenson told CNBC on Wednesday.
"When you have uncertainty in an environment where you're investing billions of dollars of capital, that can do nothing but have a suppressive effect," said the AT&T CEO and chairman of the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs that represent companies with $7.4 trillion in annual revenues.
The Obama administration and Congress must prioritize reforming the tax code, and the Federal Communications Commission needs to finalize net neutrality rules in order to boost investments and drive the economy, Stephenson said on CNBC's "Squawk Box."
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Until then, AT&T and many other companies may pull back from investments. CEOs' economic outlook fell moderately for the fourth quarter, with declines concentrated in capital spending. "I hope that's not a permanent cessation of investment. Let's understand what the rules are because these are multibillion dollar investments."
"There is general agreement [among government leaders] that our tax code is now uncompetitive. We are the highest tax rate among the OECD countries, and if we want to move the economic growth rate further, we have to change the tax code," he said.