The cost of health insurance, property taxes, and finding qualified job applicants remain constant concerns for Texas small business owners despite economic conditions, according to the 2020 NFIB Problems and Priorities Survey. The data, collected just prior to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, reflect owners’ views four years into one of the largest U.S. economic expansions.
“Although the government shutdowns and coronavirus pandemic have fundamentally shaken the small business economy, we know that even during historic small business expansions, owners consistently face many of the same problems,” said NFIB President Brad Close. “As small business goes, so goes the economy. While small businesses were setting records for growth, job creation, and optimism, healthcare costs, and government regulations were constant pain points.”
NFIB State Director Annie Spilman said, “The pandemic undoubtedly has raised the sense of urgency surrounding some issues, especially those related to employment, sales, and financing, but underlying issues such as the cost of health insurance and, especially here in Texas, property taxes haven’t changed. Once the pandemic is behind us, those issues will remain.”
Every four years, the NFIB Problems and Priorities Survey asks small business owners to evaluate 75 issues on a scale of 1 (a critical problem) to 7 (not a problem). The issues are then ranked from top to bottom by their average score.
The No. 1 problem on both the Texas and national surveys was the “cost of health insurance.” It has been named the No. 1 problem for small businesses since 1986. Fifty-six percent of Texas owners said it’s a “critical” problem compared with 50.6 percent of owners on NFIB’s national survey.
The No. 2 problem in Texas was property taxes, with 34.7 percent of owners calling it critical. Nationwide, property taxes ranked No. 4 with only 20.6 percent of owners surveyed describing it as critical.
“Property taxes are a perennial problem in Texas,” Spilman said. Last summer, Governor Abbott signed Senate Bill 2, requiring that residents of any city or county with a population of 30,000 or more vote on any property tax increase above 3.5 percent. Spilman said, “That was a good start, but property tax rates here are still among the highest in the country.”
Other most important issues in Texas include:
3. Locating qualified employees (No. 2 nationally)
4. Tax complexity (No. 8 nationally)
5. Federal taxes on business income (No. 3 nationally)
6. Finding and keeping skilled employees (No. 5 nationally)
7. Uncertainty over government actions (No. 10 nationally)
8. Unreasonable government regulations (No. 6 nationally)
9. Uncertainty over economic conditions (No. 9 nationally)
10. Cost and availability of liability insurance (No. 14 nationally)
“Uncertainty over economic conditions and the cost and availability of liability insurance almost certainly would have ranked higher if the data had been collected after the COVID-19 health and economic crisis,” Spilman said. “Our members are seriously worried about lawsuits that try to exploit the pandemic for financial gain.”
The issues considered least important in Texas are:
66. Bad debts (not delinquencies) and/or bankruptcies (No. 66 nationally)
67. Undocumented workers (No. 73 nationally)
68. Zoning/land-use regulations (No. 60 nationally)
69. Winning contracts from federal/state/local governments (No. 70 nationally)
70. Out-of-state sales tax (internet sales) (No. 72 nationally)
71. Obtaining short-term (less than 12 months or revolving) business loans (No. 68 nationally)
72. Competition from imported products (No. 65 nationally)
73. Obtaining long-term (5 years or more) business loans (No. 67 nationally)
74. Importing my products/services (No. 74 nationally)
75. Exporting my products/services (No. 75 nationally)
NFIB Director of Research and Policy Analysis Holly Wade said, “One area that we’re going to continue to watch is ‘competition with large business’ since so many small businesses have had to close or temporarily close due to the coronavirus.” Competition from large businesses ranked No. 19 on the Texas survey and No. 21 on the national survey.
“Small businesses have always had to compete with large stores, but this pandemic has definitely heightened that,” Wade said. “Many small businesses were mandated to close or decrease business due to state and local ordinances while the big stores could stay open as ‘essential’ business.”
The National Federation of Independent Business is the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization. To learn more about NFIB in Texas, visit www.NFIB.com/TX and follow the NFIB Texas office on Twitter or Facebook.