Lilly CEO: Ease immigration laws to boost innovation

The always-verbose John Lechleiter (photo) is at it again today, sounding off on immigration and taxation--issues he believes are negatively affecting U.S. innovation.

The Eli Lilly CEO thinks the U.S. needs to loosen its immigration laws for skilled immigrants, making it easier for them to obtain permanent resident cards. The average non-U.S. citizen working at Lilly waits five years for a green card. Many people are uncomfortable with the uncertainty of their legal status in the country, says Lechleiter, prompting them to return to their country and taking their valuable talent with them.

"To those that argue that these immigrants are taking jobs from Americans, I say baloney," the CEO says, according to Bloomberg. "And it surely beats the alternative: talented people trained in the U.S. returning to their native country or going elsewhere to start or help a foreign firm to compete against us."

Lechleiter also attacked the U.S.'s high corporate tax, which sat at 40% in 2009. That's compared to 28% in the U.K. and 25% in China over the same period. He proposed a tax rate of 20% and no taxes on overseas earnings of U.S. companies.

Next week, BIO CEO Jim Greenwood will unveil a legislative and regulatory proposal to encourage greater innovation in the industry. He wouldn't reveal specifics to Bloomberg, although Greenwood notes it won't address the immigration issue.

- read the report from Bloomberg