Small Businesses Support Strong Consumer Bureau

New Jersey Main Street Alliance leader Jacquie Germany, owner of Nina's Nuances Interior Design in Montclair, NJ, had a commentary published in the Washington Post on July 10 in support of financial reform and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Jacquie writes:

Small businesses have been devastated by the economic consequences of Wall Street recklessness and abusive lending, with the recession leading to small-business bankruptcies nearly doubling between March 2008 and March 2009.

And small businesses are especially hurt when dollars that our customers and prospective customers could be spending on the goods and services we offer are instead sucked away by bad mortgages, or deceptive credit cards or outrageous overdraft fees.

Click here to read the full commentary.

June 30: NAIC Task Force Vote Bad for Small Business

If upheld by full NAIC, recommendation would gut MLR requirement, hand almost $1 billion in small business and individual rebates back to insurers

Washington, DC – Today, a work group of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) voted to recommend NAIC endorsement of a legislative proposal that would undermine the Affordable Care Act’s minimum medical loss ratio (MLR) requirement by removing agent and broker commissions and fees from the calculation of administrative costs. The Main Street Alliance released the following statement in response:

Kelly Conklin, owner of Foley-Waite Associates, Inc and a member of the Main Street Alliance Steering Committee:

"Today’s task force vote was a very good vote for big insurance and a very bad vote for small businesses. The task force voted to take almost $1 billion in annual rebates to small businesses and individuals and just hand that money right back to the health insurance companies, no questions asked. That’s a real poke in the eye to Main Street.

"The value for premiums requirement is one of the key benefits of the new health law for small businesses. It should be implemented as written, not undermined to bail out the health insurance companies from having to fix their broken business model. If the full NAIC takes into account what small businesses need, they’ll vote to overturn this misguided recommendation and support the value for premiums requirement as written."

The Main Street Alliance submitted a letter on June 28 to the task force outlining the importance of the MLR requirement for small businesses and urging the task force to recommend no change to the requirement. Download a copy of the letter here.


Small Businesses Demand Value for Premiums

One of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 was something called a minimum Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) requirement. This requirement establishes a basic level of value for premiums. Insurers either meet that standard or, if they fail to, owe rebates to their customers.

If this requirement had been in effect in 2010, health insurance customers would have received rebates of almost $2 billion from insurers who failed to meet the value for premiums standard. That’s some serious money back in the pockets of small business owners who've paid too much for health care – and a serious incentive for insurers to hold premiums down and increase value in the future.

Predictably, these new requirements have come under attack by industry groups that want to roll them back and allow insurers to continue doing "business as usual." The latest attack is an attempt to remove agent and broker commissions and fees from the value for premiums calculation.

What would that mean for small businesses? This change would wipe out $1.2 billion – more than half – of the potential rebates in the 2010 estimates. And, it would undermine the incentive for insurers to hold premiums down going forward.

The Main Street Alliance submitted a letter to a task force of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) on June 28 outlining the small business case for protecting the value for premiums requirement and implementing the new minimum medical loss ratio standards without changes.

Read MSA’s letter here

June 27: Small Businesses Respond to High Court's Divided Ruling Monday on Public Financing Laws

MSA leaders say decision striking trigger provisions allows corporate players to buy political influence uncontested, at expense of small businesses

Download PDF of this release

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in McComish v. Bennett, a case testing some state public financing laws. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled narrowly that trigger-based matching funds provisions of some states' public financing laws are unconstitutional, while leaving the foundation of public financing systems intact.

The Main Street Alliance released the following statements from national spokespeople in response:

Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, OR and MSA steering committee member:

This decision is bad for small businesses. We don't have the kind of money it takes to buy influence through heavy election spending the way big corporate players can. The Court's decision basically says to big corporations and their trade groups, 'Go ahead, spend all you want to buy elections, and if anyone tries to limit the corrupting influence of your activities, we'll run interference for you.

The silver lining is that the decision leaves the basic structure of public financing systems intact, reaffirming that small dollar public financing laws are a legitimate way to combat corruption and promote free speech. Establishing small dollar fair elections laws is a critical way to take corporate corruption out of elections and restore integrity to our political system.

David Borris, owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, IL and MSA executive committee member:

This decision goes against the very idea of America as the 'land of opportunity.' It means big spenders, many of which are big businesses, will be able spend massive sums of money to flood election debates and drown out the interests of small businesses like mine. It means corporate heavy hitters will continue to be able to buy influence by tipping the scales of elections with their campaign spending, then rewrite the laws of the land to favor their narrow special interests at the expense of small businesses - and everyone else.

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Our Mission:

The Main Street Alliance creates opportunities for small business  owners to speak for themselves on issues that impact their businesses and local economies.

Our Values:

  • Trust & Transparency: Successful small businesses are  built on the trust of our customers, where a handshake is a commitment.  We advocate full transparency in our relationships with government.
  • Inclusion & Equity: Small businesses succeed when  communities thrive, and thriving communities are built on the values of  inclusion and equity – where everyone is welcome, everyone is invited to  contribute and everyone has the opportunity to succeed.
  • Leadership: If small business owners don’t speak up, who will  represent us? We speak for ourselves, so that the true voice of small  business will be heard. Small business owners need to be an integral  part of the decisions that impact us.
  • Sustainability: We build our businesses and communities not  merely for short-term gain, but for the long haul. We recognize sound  public policy as an investment that benefits our communities and  businesses over time.
  • Accountability: We work hard, our employees work hard and we  make direct contributions to our communities (paying taxes) with the  expectation that our contributions will be spent wisely. We promote  fiscally responsible government that uses revenues to advance practical  solutions to everyday problems.
  • Shared Responsibility: We recognize the role of small  businesses as part of the fabric of communities and we’re committed to  giving back to our communities. We believe everyone needs to contribute  their fair share.

Watch Out for Small Business Identity Theft!

Rick Poore, a leader with MSA from Lincoln, Nebraska, had an op-ed published in The Hill for the 10 year anniversary of the Bush tax cuts on June 7. Rick's piece provides a forceful critique of the claim that the high-end Bush cuts help small business, and warns small business owners to watch out for small business identity theft - the use of false small business arguments to advance the narrow interests of big corporations and the wealthy.

Read Rick's op-ed in The Hill.

For the 10 year anniversary, MSA released a fact sheet highlighting what small businesses need most: local investment to create jobs, not tax cuts for the wealthy.

Click here to download the fact sheet.

Health Law to Deliver Big for Smallest Businesses

New research released today re-confirms two key points that small business owners who've been fighting for health care reform knew all along:

  • First, that employer health coverage has been on the decline for the last decade, and small businesses have been feeling the squeeze more than anyone.
  • And second, that provisions of the Affordable Care Act are going to bring health coverage within reach for a lot of small business owners who want to offer coverage but haven't been able to.

This second point is real good news for small businesses, and it comes in an Urban Institute report released today by the non-partisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (it's refreshing to see some real research after the circus show over the controversial McKinsey & Co. "study" that has been thoroughly debunked over the past week).

The Urban Institute study forecasts that insurance offer rates for firms with 100 or fewer employees will increase by nearly 10 percent thanks to the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges and other insurance market reforms. Firms with fewer than 10 employees are expected to see the biggest jump - an increase of more than 14 percent. Talk about delivering big for small businesses!

Of course, many important decisions remain to be made about how states will set up their new insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. Main Street Alliance leaders are actively engaged in states from Maine to Oregon to promote exchanges that maximize on the opportunity to make quality, affordable health coverage available to all small businesses.

Click here to see the Main Street Alliance's exchange recommendations one-pager

MSA's Bill Daley Testifies on Small Business Access to Credit

On June16, the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Capital Access and Taxes held a hearing entitled The Dodd-Frank Act: Impact on Small Business Lending. The Main Street Alliance's Bill Daley was invited to testify on behalf of businesses in our network. See the clip of Bill's testimony:

A TRAIN that Shouldn't Leave the Station

Opponents of clean air and water standards are putting their money into a new set of wheels. It's called the TRAIN Act (TRAIN stands for Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation - read the bill here).

Put briefly, this proposal is an attempt to open a new line of attack on  the Environmental Protection Agency and rules that protect and promote clean air and water, veiled in the language of "cost-benefit analyses." And when the proponents of this proposal say "cost-benefit" analysis, what they really mean is "cost-cost" analysis - that is, an evaluation that takes into account only the costs and not the benefits of clean air and water for businesses, local economies, and communities.

The fact is, we already have review processes set up to look carefully at the full picture of costs and benefits when it comes to updating the standards that protect our air and water. We have plenty of cost-benefit analyses, both from government agencies and from independent third parties. And when you look at the full picture, it's clear that the benefits of our air and water standards far outweigh the costs for small businesses and for our economy overall.

A new briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute reaffirms these conclusions. The paper, which looked at both final and proposed EPA rules, found that for nine final rules and four proposed rules studied:

  • The combined annual benefits from the nine final rules exceed the costs by $32 billion to $142 billion a year (with benefit/cost ratio ranges from 4-to-1 to 22-to-1).
  • The combined annual benefits from the four proposed rules exceed the costs by $160 billion to $440 billion a year (with benefit/cost ratio ranges from 12-to-1 to 32-to-1).

Looking at these benefit-to-cost ratios, we're talking about an impressive return on investment.

Clean air and clean water are Main Street values and always have been. A true cost-benefit analysis shows that they make economic sense for small businesses and for the economy as a whole.

Here's hoping for small businesses that the ill-conceived TRAIN Act never leaves the station.


Business Against Tax Haven Abuse

We, the undersigned business owners, executives and investors, call on the President and Congress to end tax dodging and support a level playing field for business by enacting strong legislation to stop tax haven abuses. Offshore tax havens reward tax evaders, rob public coffers of needed revenue and offload taxes to responsible businesses and households.