Small 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.