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NFIB business agenda for 2013 Legislature

February 11, 2013

nfib-logoSmall Businesses’ 2013 Legislative Wish List
(Originally published in Salem Business Journal)
By Jan Meekcoms

Come bearing gifts.

That’s probably a bit impolite to ask legislators wanting to attend the National Federation of Independent Business’s annual Small Business Day at the Capitol in Salem on April 11, but what a delight it would be if even one were wrapped and handed to Oregon’s leading job-generators.

With the opening of a new legislative session on February 4, small businesses, which have uniquely different difficulties than big businesses do in remaining solvent, would like to hoist themselves up to the ample Santa’s lap of senators and representatives and present its legislative wish list.

1. A balanced state budget with an appropriate spending growth cap indexed to population growth plus the rate of inflation. According to an article by Sen. Doug Whitsett, Oregon’s all-funds budget has tripled from $20 billion 20 years ago to $60 billion today. To put this in perspective, this amounts to $15,000 for every man, woman and child residing in the state of Oregon, or $60,000 per family of four. If the suggested growth cap would have been in place, our current budget would be $27 billion.

The source of this $60 billion budget is produced from taxes, fees, charges, licenses, registrations and other charges from enforced regulations of the private sector economy. In Oregon, that is predominantly small business. In a state with the unemployment rate above not only the national rate, but also that of our neighboring states, the cost in employment is substantial.

2. Small business equality in tax certainty and treatment (see last month’s column for a perfect example). After the governor and Legislature acknowledged that tax certainty motivates business expansion and job-creation and, commensurately, increased revenue in the state’s coffers, all small business is asking for is the same consideration shown Nike during the special session. Small business can create significantly more jobs and contribute significantly more state revenue than Nike could ever.

3. A moratorium on regulations. Oregon has 180 agencies contributing to an 11,000-page tome for businesses to abide by. This is a big reason, according to a poll in Forbes, that 55 percent of small-business owners would not start companies today—69 percent of them citing regulations. A good start at reform would be to implement statutes already on the books, such as ORS 183.405, which requires adopted rules to be reviewed by state agencies within a five-year period of their adoption. Another is ORS 183.336, which requires cost assessment of compliance of rules on small businesses. With agencies poised to pounce on any small business found not in compliance by assessing fees, penalties and sometimes costly capital improvements, the small-business community lives under constant threat from an aggressive agency culture.

4. No mandatory paid sick leave. This one-size-fits-all proposal does not work and is punitive for small businesses. In a Portland Business Journal survey of its readership, 65 percent answered “no” to the question, “Should the city of Portland force businesses to provide mandatory sick leave to employees?” In 2012, NFIB/Oregon did a similar poll of our 7,500 members, and 95 percent answered “no” to the question, “Do you favor legislation requiring employers in Oregon to give employees a guaranteed number of days of annual paid sick leave?” Sick leave is an issue best left to the policy and agreements made by each business with their employees.

5. Last, but not least: No new taxes. People are having a difficult enough time living within their means, because government still cannot manage to live with its means.

Three of the five items on the wish list ask legislators to do nothing. How difficult could that be? Yes, that was a bit of sarcasm.

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Small Biz OR February 11, 2013

Is this the same NFIB that sold us down the river by supporting Obamacare exchanges in Oregon?

Bob Clark February 11, 2013

I hope realtors and home remodelers will oppose lifting of property tax limits and assessment methods, as it sure can’t help the local housing industry. One proposed bill would allow assessed value to increase to sales price when a house is sold. This creates some rather perverse incentives. Existing homeowners and remodelers would be less inclined to refurbish their house before selling it as this would very likely cause the future property tax bill to spike. Moreover, buyers would adjust their bids lower in order to make the property tax bill more manageable. Under this proposal, existing homeowners would tend to hold onto their homes longer rather than sell, removing house inventory from a currently thin market. At the same time, the other bill to lift the limits entirely has these same qualities above but, in addition, also discourages to some extent families and businesses re-locating to Oregon. No doubt some folks view the latter as positive, but I shouldn’t think those in building industries and real estate would view this positively.
The City of Portland is seeking to eliminate the property tax limits altogether, and yet here is one of the most wasteful City governments in Oregon. Its own City Auditor says it wastes much of its transportation budget, and she questions much of its development expenditures. The City loans millions to a downtown hotel, and the loan goes into nonperformance only a few years later. It spends millions remodeling its ballpark only to shortly thereafter boot out the baseball team. OSPIRG rates the City a D minus in budget transparency. Existing property tax limits allow for 3% growth in property tax bills, and with Housing starting to recover this growth should resume; making compression a spending problem not a taxing limit problem. In fact the average home owner property tax bill has increased between 4 and 5 percent per year on average for the last ten years in the City of Portland (even with compression).
The problem with allowing citizens to vote for higher property tax rates is many elections are biased; with government employee unions (who stand to benefit from higher tax bills) swamping the campaigns with their largess of monies and use of children as props, with government officials largely elected or assigned to rewrite or write the property tax ballot initiative; and with those with little property allowed to vote ever higher taxes on more substantive property owners.

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