On October 20, an all-star team of small business leaders from across the Main Street Alliance network made the trek to Washington, DC to represent the voice of Main Street small businesses in the nation’s capital.
Business owners came from Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington to participate in meetings on Capitol Hill. In a day and a half, the team conducted close to 20 meetings with Senate and House offices, including three face to face meetings with U.S. Senators.
The group held wide-ranging conversations with congressional offices, covering topics including job creation and regulations, revenues and investment, health care, immigration reform, and fixing the housing market.
Some Hill staffers acknowledged that it was helpful – and refreshing – to hear from real small business owners back in their home states and districts, and to hear business owners with a different perspective on topics like taxes and regulations than you hear from the inside-the-beltway business lobbies. Mission accomplished!
Here’s a quick taste of some of the issues the group discussed in meetings on Capitol Hill:
Job Creation & Anti-Regulatory Attacks
Despite all the rhetoric in DC about “regulations,” what small businesses need is customers – demand – not deregulation. The focus on rolling back regulations is counterproductive in two ways. First, it distracts from the real issue, which is rebuilding the small business customer base. Second, the rules and standards that are under threat of being rolled back (financial reform, clean air, health insurance market reforms) are ones that protect small businesses and the communities they rely on from mistreatment by big corporate interests. Rolling back these standards and rules would only shift more risk and more costs onto the shoulders of small businesses.
See MSA’s 10 “dos and don’ts” for job creation
Revenues and Taxes
On revenues and taxes, Main Street Alliance small business owners stand squarely in support of efforts to raise revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending the abuse of off-shore tax havens, and generally ensuring that large corporations and the wealthy are paying their dues. As MSA Executive Committee member Kelly Conklin puts it, “If you want to fly the American flag outside your corporate headquarters, you should be paying your way.” Raising revenues in these ways would generate resources for important investments in infrastructure and job creation, and it would level the playing field for small businesses (who don’t have access to things like off-shore tax havens) at the same time.
At the same time, MSA small business owners are strongly opposed to the push for a repatriation “tax holiday” for large multinational companies, or to giving big corporations a permanent tax holiday – and permanent incentive to off-shore jobs and profits – through what’s called a “territorial” tax system.
See the recent coalition letter MSA signed onto about tax reform
On health care, the MSA delegation discussed important advances in health care reform, and highlighted opportunities to continue building on health reform to maximize the benefits for small businesses.
The MSA delegation in DC also discussed the importance of a comprehensive approach to immigration reform for businesses, workers, and the economy. Enforcement-only policies like the mandatory E-Verify proposal currently in the House of Representatives would be bad for small businesses, bad for the workforce, and bad for the country’s bottom line.
See MSA’s fact sheet about the dangers of mandatory E-Verify
Fixing the Housing Market
On the importance of dealing with the mortgage crisis to create the space for consumer demand to bounce back and help drive the economic recovery, MSA’s small business owners believe more needs to be done. A newly announced program that may allow 1 to 2 million homeowners to refinance is a positive step, but with an estimated 11 million homeowners underwater in their homes, Congress and the Administration should advance proposals for mortgage modification and refinancing on a much larger scale to truly get at the problem of stifled consumer demand.
Mandatory E-Verify would be bad for businesses, bad for the workforce, and bad for the country's bottom line.
Business owners and business groups across the country are taking action to make their voices heard on this issue.
If you're a small business owner, click here to read and sign the business owners' statement.
If you represent a business organization, click here to read and sign the organizational letter.
Ahead of a scheduled mark-up of H.R. 2885, a proposal that would mandate the use of the controversial E-Verify employment verification system by every employer in the country, Main Street Alliance leader David Borris, owner of Hel's Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, IL spoke at a press event outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on September 14 opposing the plan.
David urged the Chamber and members of Congress to take a stand against E-verify. “The balance sheet on E-verify is simple: it’s bad for small business, bad for our workforce, and bad for the country's bottom line,” David said. “We urge the US Chamber and our members of Congress to hear our call, listen to small business, and oppose this flawed proposal.” Scroll down to read David's complete remarks.
Meanwhile, leaders in the Main Street Alliance network from Maine to Colorado to Oregon submitted a letter to the House Judiciary Committee outlining the job-killing impact a mandatory E-Verify regime would have on small businesses, their workforce, and the economy. Click here for a copy of the letter.
My name is David Borris. I own a business called Hel’s Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, Illinois. I also serve on the Executive Committee of the Main Street Alliance, a national network of small business owners committed to speaking for ourselves on the important issues facing our businesses and our local economies.
My wife and I opened our business as a small, homemade food store in Highland Park in 1985. Over the years, we’ve expanded into a full service catering company with 25 full time employees and another 80 part time and seasonal workers. Small businesses like ours are the backbone of local economies across the country. We create jobs, deliver important goods and services, drive local economies and give back to our communities.
I’m here today to urge the US Chamber of Commerce to take the blinders off and see what this E-Verify proposal would do to small businesses. To take the earplugs out and hear how mandatory E-Verify would harm small business owners all across America. To recognize that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we need all the support the chamber and others can give to blaze the trail back to prosperity in our local communities.
We face many challenges: diminishing consumer demand, inability to provide quality, affordable health care to our employees, lack of access to capital -- all of these have conspired over the past 3 years to hold back the vibrant small business engine that should be fueling a strong recovery.
And while the Chamber has taken strident positions recently against new rules of the road that would actually help level the playing field for small business -- in health care, in the financial industry, in tax reform -- today they are inexplicably silent when Washington DC is talking about requiring every business owner in America to suit up as an immigration and customs enforcement agent.
Make no mistake, our immigration system is broken and that broken system is hurting small businesses, local economies, and the country. But as we’ve already heard today, taking the flawed E-Verify system and making it mandatory is not the solution.
Small businesses are doing everything we can to innovate, recreate, and delineate new roles in a rapidly changing business environment. All the while doing what we must to trim costs without laying off valued workers- many of whom are like family to us. Mandating E-Verify would create a whole new set of challenges for us.
The support of some in Congress for E-Verify exposes a blatant double standard. We’ve grown used to seeing some members of Congress use the good name of small business as a smokescreen to attack basic rules and standards. We’re talking about things like clean air rules that actually help small businesses by promoting a healthy workforce and cutting our health care costs.
Now, these same politicians are pushing for an E-Verify regime that – unlike those other rules they like to complain about – will actually have a direct negative impact on small businesses. This E-Verify proposal will be a good litmus test – it’s going to show us who’s serious about standing up for small business, and who only pays lip service to us when it’s convenient to advance the agenda of their big corporate donors.
The US Chamber claims to represent businesses large and small across the country. The Chamber has an obligation to listen to the small businesses - and speak out on our behalf. The problems of illegal immigration will not be dented one iota if e-verify is mandated - but small businesses across this great nation will suffer while struggling to comply.
The balance sheet for us on E-verify? It’s bad for small business, bad for our workforce, and bad for the country's bottom line. We need the US Chamber to hear our call, listen to small business, and withdraw its support for this flawed proposal.
We urge the Chamber to stop nibbling around the margins, stop accepting a piecemeal non-solution that will so negatively impact small business. We urge the Chamber to join the growing chorus of business owners and demand that our elected officials say no to E-Verify and find the courage to re-engage the debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
The Main Street Alliance submitted a letter from small business leaders in its network opposing a mandatory expansion of the E-Verify system for the record of a June 15 hearing on the topic. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith filed a mandatory E-Verify proposal on June 14.