Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Democrats have put out their agendas for the 2017 legislative session. First impression? Small businesses are left by the wayside.
“There’s only one mention of small business in the one-page agendas from Gov. Kate Brown and House Democrats,” says NFIB/OR State Director Anthony K. Smith. “That’s not very encouraging.”
The single mention reads, “Boosting small businesses and encouraging the growth of living-wage jobs in every part of the state.”
Smith says it’s a “great sound bite, but it doesn’t mean anything.”
While there are many objectives on the table, the one taking the most attention is the state’s budget deficit.
“The highest priority is balancing the budget,” Smith says. “We’ve never had more revenue coming in than we have projected in this next two-year budget cycle, yet we’re still hearing talk about raising taxes.”
The rate at which state government is growing far outpaces the rate of economic growth, he adds.
“That’s the point small business owners will resonate with. They don’t just get to decide what they can spend; they have to know whether they can afford it. Owners are going to be unsympathetic to government officials saying we have to spend all this new money. Who will be left paying that tax bill?”
Also on the table is a major transportation package that legislators from both sides of the aisle favor. However, it will be difficult to launch as it and a balanced budget will compound the difficulties of accomplishing both legislative efforts at the same time.
Smith says there’s also concern about tax increases, which the governor has proposed.
“Brown’s budget proposal includes raising taxes on certain small businesses who qualified for a small business tax rate reduction under a 2013 law,” Smith says. “That’s proposed to be done away with.”
In general, the future is uncertain for Oregon small business owners.
“I think small business has a lot to worry about in the long session,” Smith says. “Fifteen-hundred bills have been introduced and there will be more coming, including paid family leave, flexible scheduling, and possibly even a bill granting government access to the private financial information of businesses. That should make us worry. These bills won’t help ‘boost small business.’ ”
Oregon’s 79th legislative session started Feb 1.