Oregon NFIB discusses three bad business bills

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By Alyssa Williams, BIZ Reporter

1. Family Leave Payroll Tax: (SB 966)
2. Employer censorship bill (SB 519)
3.
Corporate minimum tax bill

With Oregon now having the highest rate of unemployment in the nation, hitting a staggering 12.1 percent in March, the Oregon division of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB/OR) is evaluating most current legislation based on whether it kills or creates jobs, according to NFIB/OR State Director Jenna Kaluza.

Senate Bill 966 family leave payroll tax. NFIB/OR opposes Senate Bill 966 for paid family leave because the program taxes employees in the worst economic times, said Kaluza. The bill, which taxes workers 2 cents for every hour of work (around a total of $42 a year), allows an employee $300 a week for up to six weeks of leave at a time for extended caregiving, not personal illness. However, the law would exclude companies with less than 25 employees, she said.

Because the majority of the 7,000 businesses that Kaluza serves employ seven or less people, the bill does not solve much for the companies she represents. She claimed a new insurance program seems unnecessary when many business owners already work on a policy of good faith with medical and other forms of leave.

The NFIB/OR state director also pointed out the bill has yet to provide evidence that a 2 cent tax every work hour would be enough to fund the program, or if enough people would take the paid leave to make it worth tax payers’ money.

Senate Bill 519, Employer censorship bill. According to Kaluza, this bill prevents employers from discussing religion and politics (defined as unionization) in a meeting, making it illegal to discipline employees if they are absent from employer sponsored meetings about such topics. As Kaluza explained, if there are two employees and a supervisor in a room and one of the employees asks about the advantages and disadvantages of unionization, it would be illegal for the supervisor to discuss the issue until the second employee leaves.

NFIB/OR does not support this bill because federally regulated law already prevents employee bullying (the core concern of the bill), and it only exposes employers to more lawsuits and penalties, potentially resulting in job loss, she said.

Proposals to increase the corporate minimum tax.
To put it simply, the NFIB/OR opposes these bills because it taxes such items as payroll and healthcare, among other things. (See the Oregon Report March 3, 2009 article “House panel eyes Corporate Minimum Tax Increase” by John Marshall for more information.)  Kaluza finds no merit in these bills that penalize companies with health benefit packages in a time when it is not questioned whether a business will lay off, but how many people will be laid off.

In summary, Kaluza does not believe that Oregon law makers are approaching the economic decline correctly. “We need to have a bigger conversation,” she said about the multitude of recent bills that propose to help Oregon survive the recession. “We all need to find a gap in the budget and decide where revenue needs to be made and stop having multiple discussions about how to raise money.”

Alyssa Williams