Interview with businessman and lawmaker Scott Bruun

By Aaron Crowley,
Oregon Small Business Association

Scott Bruun is not your typical business owner or Oregon State Representative.   He is one of only a handful of citizen legislators serving in Salem who owns and operates a business enterprise.  This business experience brings a much needed perspective to the capital and the decisions affecting not only the residents of West Linn, South Lake Oswego, and Tualatin, but every business and employee in the state.

Q: What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing your company and other businesses in Oregon?

The regulatory structure in Oregon hamstrings businesses and our tax policy is one of the worst in the country.  This creates a drag on our economy because it slows the growth of businesses and makes them less competitive.

Business owners are trained professionals in their industries, yet they are required to become masters in jumping bureaucratic hurdles and navigating tax loopholes to succeed.

These roadblocks to business growth are the greatest challenge facing Oregon’s business community today.

Q: In respect to this challenge, what role can/should the state government play?

We should stop passing laws for the sake of passing laws.

Q: Regarding regulation, we should ask the questions, “What can we do to help Oregon businesses succeed and what business owners believe would streamline and simplify their dealings with the state?”

Take contractors as an example.  Instead of going to the city for this, the county for that, the contractor’s board for something else, we could be asking them how the process could be modernized and improved, then write laws reflecting that input.

Regarding tax policy, eliminating capital gains is the first step, followed by replacing half of our income tax with a consumption tax.  This would mirror Idaho’s tax system and would generate an additional 900 million dollars per biennium.  By creating a friendlier tax environment, Oregon becomes a more attractive location for businesses considering relocating here.

Speaking of attracting businesses to Oregon, we could do a lot more than we’re doing.  Gov. Schwarzenegger, if you’ll remember, conducted a very successful campaign to bring businesses back to California, by simply saying, “California wants your business!”

By reducing regulation and lowering taxes, Oregon and Oregon’s business will be more competitive on a national and international scale and will make Oregon easier to sell.

Q: What would you say to Oregon’s business community about how involved they need to be in this issue and the many issues that affect them?

Small business owners need to make their voices heard.  They need to unify to increase their influence.  While I am always willing to take a call or answer an email from an individual business owner or citizen, a group will always make a bigger impact, simply because they’re louder than the individual.

Take the independent coffee houses for example.  There are hundreds of small business owners selling coffee to drivers in parking lots all over our state, competing with the giant coffee brands.  Competing for the attention of the legislature as a single, independent business owner is a tremendous challenge.  On the other hand, if 150 independents coordinated their concerns in a unified message, it would really get attention.

As a business owner myself, I would recommend NFIB as a great option as they work tirelessly on behalf of the 1000’s of small businesses in Oregon and around the country.

Q: As a legislator, what business related legislation are you most proud of?

First and foremost, let me mention the topic of taxes again.  I am leading a task force for tax reform.  As I mentioned earlier, Oregon’s tax structure must be improved to attract investment and jobs.  My proposal would do that and more.

This proposal will eliminate capital gains, cut income taxes in half and institute a 4.5% consumption tax.  By reducing the state’s dependency on income taxes for funding essential services like education, roads, and safety, and shifting it to a consumption tax, Oregon will avoid the wild fluctuations in revenue it experiences in boom bust economies.

As you probably know, the meth epidemic and the skyrocketing price of metal products like copper has created major problems for the construction and agriculture industries because of the rampant theft of wire, plumbing, and pipe.

I am proud to have been involved in enacting laws that are reducing metal theft.  The new law requires the middle men, the legitimate buyers of scrap metal, to inspect and document the i.d. of questionable people or companies who are bringing in the scrap metal to sell.  This makes it increasingly difficult for thieves to find buyers for the stuff they’re stealing.

Q: For this upcoming term, do you have a single burning issue that you hope to impact as a legislator?

Well I have more than one.

I am going to work to improve the tax and regulatory environment in Oregon.

Additionally, I am going to help reform redistricting rules.  Right now, the districts do not accurately reflect the political make up of the population because of the partisan nature of the current system.  In the next legislative session, I will continue this work.

My proposed reform would shift the influence away from the governor, the legislature, and the secretary of state and into the hands of a commission of non partisan judges.  These judges would objectively create re-districting proposals and then submit them to the people for an up or down vote.   By enacting this change, Oregon residents and businesses will be more fairly represented in the legislature.

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