Small businesses have less clout, but are vital

All the state legislative news did not end with November’s special session giving Boeing everything it demanded, or else.

This is the time of year throughout Washington state when small-business-owning members of the National Federation of Independent Business are voting their state ballots, the results of which will center the lobbying positions of NFIB when the Legislature returns for business next year on Jan. 13.

Small business is no small matter to any state’s or nation’s economy. In fact, it is the engine of every single one. According to the latest report by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, “Small businesses significantly impact Washington’s economy. They represent 98.1 percent of all employers and employ 53.7 percent of the private-sector labor force. Small businesses are crucial to the fiscal condition of the state and numbered 546,885 in 2010.”

Even though it is more vital, there are a few reasons small business will never have the clout big business has, one of the most important of which is — quite simply — perception. Most policymakers fail to make the distinction between the different difficulties small businesses have in remaining solvent that big businesses don’t. To them, all businesses are alike.

It has been the primary mission of NFIB for the last 70 years to educate legislators in all 50 states and in Congress about the differences between small business and big business. Small-business owners as a whole can never compete with big business in the financial resources needed for lavish lobbying efforts, but what they lack in money, they can partially compensate for in manpower.

When state legislators return home, small-business owners are all around them, and, according to Pew and other research, are the most trusted and highly regarded group of people in America. In short, smart politicians don’t want to get crosswise with them.

NFIB’s lobbying efforts come not by throwing a temper tantrum and threatening to move out of the state, but by pressing its case in scheduled office appointments with senators and representatives, or by buttonholing them in the halls of the capitol, or by being a little emphatic in testimony before committees, or — most effectively — by rounding up the troops back home to start making calls. To use a football metaphor, by blocking and tackling slowly downfield into the end zone.

Whereas the Boeings of the business world usually lobby for one big thing, small businesses have many things on their minds, because they are more susceptible to even the smallest changes in regulations and taxes. No legislator can ever claim ignorance on what the issues affecting mom-and-pop, Main Street small businesses are, because every year NFIB polls its members on their views, and publicizes the results widely.

The results from this year’s ballot, together with past years’ positions, form the basis of the small-business agenda. The four questions NFIB is asking its Washington members on their 2014 state ballot are:

Should the Legislature eliminate most deductions and exemptions in order to lower business and occupation tax rates?

Should retail sales tax be applied to services in order to lower the business and occupation tax on those service activities?

Should the prevailing wage be eliminated on state-funded public works and transportation projects?

Should the Legislature prohibit local governments from adopting their own employment ordinances?

How would you vote? Results from the 2014 ballot will be released after a statistically valid sample is reached. You can read the background and pros and cons on each ballot question on the NFIB/Washington web page at Click the “Please Vote Your State Ballot” story.

Patrick Connor is Washington state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. NFIB has 8,250 members in the state.

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