While Minnesota enjoys a budget surplus, Main Street businesses weigh in on how to put the added revenue to use, favoring local infrastructure investments over tax cuts.
During Small Business Week and throughout the year, small business owners can speak for themselves on the issues facing Minnesota. When big business groups and corporate lobbyists push a tax-cutting and service-gutting agenda, they're not speaking for the small businesses on Main Street.
Here in Minnesota, we know the results of that agenda all too well. We've had to dig ourselves out from years of budget deficits that began with a tax rebate similar to what's being proposed i the legislature now.
Just as small businesses have to invest their surpluses wisely, so should the state invest its surplus in things that will benefit as many people as possible instead of just a fortunate few.
Our businesses thrive when our communities thrive, and we could do much more to benefit the hard-working people of Minnesota if we appropriately allocated the budget surplus by bolstering our public education and infrastructure, and increasing support to those struggling to make ends meet.
We’ve worked hard to grow our businesses and create jobs for our community members. As a result, less than ten years after one of the worst economic downturns on record Minnesota enjoys a budget surplus. And CNBC rates Minnesota as the best place for business in the country. The small businesses that line our city’s streets and employ over half of the state’s workers built this budget surplus and deserve a say in how the revenue is put to use.
We have already learned how tax cuts for big business, and the wealthy few will halt our progress and undo the economic strides Minnesotans have made these last few years. In honor of Small Business Week and the contributions that local, independent businesses make to our communities year round, we urge lawmakers to listen to the voices of Main Street.
"The small benefit I would get from a cut to my statewide property tax is not enough to impact my business model. By combining my resources with others in the form of business property taxes, our state can ensure a more stable and resilient work force. As a business owner and a citizen, it's important to me that the state uses our collective dollars to invest in an infrastructure that supports workers at my restaurant and in my community." Holly Hatch- Surisook, Owner, Sen Yai Sen Lek, Minneapolis, MN.
“As a small business owner, a mother, and a concerned citizen, I believe any budget surplus should be reinvested in our infrastructure, transportation, clean energy and education. Having a highly educated workforce should be a top priority in our state. Minnesota can be made an even greater state to live in by educating our population without saddling our young adults with crippling student loan debt as they exit college.
Additionally, tax cuts should be created to assist small businesses rather than expecting any benefit from the elusive "trickle-down" effect from corporate tax breaks. Helping small businesses will stimulate local economy and make our communities more vibrant." Terri Emmerich, owner, Spice of Life Tea Shoppe, St Cloud, MN
“These proposed corporate and other tax cuts will not benefit me or my business at all. As a matter of fact these tax cuts will likely result in my personal property taxes going up because of the shortfalls in infrastructure and education investment revenues. We’ve already seen what tax cuts like these cause…budget deficit after budget deficit, and rising property taxes. We did that for ten years. Why would we go back to doing that?” Todd Mikkelson, owner, Sprayrack by the RM Group, Orono, MN
In 1993 lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came together to enact the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 22 years ago today the FMLA was implemented and began providing workers with the ability to take time off to care for themselves, or a sick or injured loved one, without fear of losing their job.
The FMLA was the first legislation of its kind and it was the first step in creating a fair and family friendly workplace environment. Since the law was implemented on August 5th, 1993 FMLA benefits have been used over 200 million times, according to a study conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Families.
While the policy has been a huge success, it only works for people who can afford it. Too many workers are unable to take advantage of their benefits due to the loss of income they would face while on leave. In fact, a Department of Labor study cited “financial impossibility” as the number one reason given when people were asked why they didn’t take leave that they were eligible for.
That is why Congress should pass the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMILY) Act to support families when they need it most. Small contributions from the employee and the employer would ensure that the employee will receive a portion of their salary during their period of leave. Similar insurance programs are in place in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island and they serve as a testament to the success of the policy.
In today’s economy households depend on multiple earners, and small businesses depend on families that can afford to shop for their goods and services. Providing an insurance policy that allows workers to continue receiving a paycheck while they; take time off to welcome a new member of the family, recover from an illness, or provide care for a sick or injured loved one is the right move for families, businesses, and our economy.
The FMLA serves as a model for what Congress can get done when they work across the aisle and lend bi-partisan support to legislation. Congress should reach across the aisle again and pass the FAMILY Act, ensuring that all workers who are eligible for protected periods of leave can afford to take it.
Forty years ago Main Street Alliance of Florida member Charles McKinney made a mistake. A mistake he was reminded of every time he had to answer 'yes' on the criminal conviction question on job applications.
Now the owner of Trinity Laundry in Eatonville, Charles supports local efforts to remove the criminal conviction question from applications. He is calling on the President to take executive action on fair-chance hiring; expanding employment opportunities with federal agencies and contractors.
Breaking down barriers to employment with the federal government, the nation's largest employer, will reduce unemployment and increase consumer spending. The President has the opportunity to create a culture of fair-chance hiring that would support businesses, like Charles's, that are trying to do the right thing for their community.
Read Charles's full story featured in the Huffington Post.
Being a small business owner for 25 years has taught Deborah to value her employees and paying them a livable wage is the best thing she can do to support that effort. Deborah noted a 60% increase in sales resulting from increased productivity in her shop after implementing a $15.00/hr starting wage for her employees. Main Street Alliance members know that Raising The Wage helps small business and puts more money back into our communities.
National Executive Committee Member Kelly Conklin Testifies Before U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Stay focused on the goal, which is to make sure every American has access to high quality health care. That was National Executive Committee Member Kelly Conklin’s message to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) during the “Small Business Health Care Challenges and Opportunities” roundtable. Conklin, Owner and CEO at Foley Waite Associates in Bloomfield, New Jersey is a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act and he provided testimony on how the healthcare law currently works for business owners like him and how it should be developed to ensure it works for all small business owners.
At the Main Street Alliance we believe the Affordable Care Act is an important and crucial step forward for millions of Americans in gaining access to affordable healthcare coverage, but we know it can be improved upon. Kelly provided the perspective of a small business owner in New Jersey who purchases health insurance in a small group market. He laid out examples of what has worked and what hasn’t worked, and shared his policy recommendations with the committee.
His recommendations included; expanding tax credits available to small business owners, incorporating regional costs of living when determining subsidies, technological improvements in the SHOP exchange market place, and expanding Medicaid. He insisted that these changes are made while maintaining the robust consumer protections and oversight written into the law.
“Until every American has a card in their purse or wallet that guarantees access to a doctor- any doctor, anywhere, until emergency rooms only serve emergency patients and not emergency patients and the uninsured, I and my employees will pay too much for too little,” said Conklin
To see the full video of the Senate Committee Hearing visit: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/small-business-health-care-challenges-and-opportunities
Report Reveals Walmart’s Use of Tax Havens
Allowing Them to Dodge TaxesBurlington, Vermont -- A groundbreaking report released today by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) unveils that Walmart has built a vast, undisclosed network of 78 subsidiaries and branches in 15 offshore tax havens, which may be used to minimize foreign taxes where it has retail operations and to avoid U.S. taxes on those foreign earnings. These subsidiaries have never been subject to public scrutiny before and have remained largely invisible, in part because Walmart has not listed them in its annual 10-K filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Walmart’s preferred tax haven is Luxembourg, dubbed a “magical fairyland” for corporations looking to shelter profits from taxation.
The report, The Walmart Web: How the World’s Biggest Corporation Secretly Uses Tax Havens to Dodge Taxes, is available here and the report’s Key Findings are here.
“Companies use tax havens to dodge taxes. It appears that’s the secret game Walmart is playing,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. “We are calling on Congress, federal agencies and international organizations to determine if Walmart is skirting the law when it comes to reporting its use of tax havens, using various schemes to dodge taxes, and getting a sweetheart deal from Luxembourg that is the equivalent of illegal state aid. Average Americans and small businesses have to make up the difference when Walmart doesn’t pay its fair share of taxes.”
"Speaking as a small business owner and a tax payer, we pay our taxes to fund the government and government services; while Walmart and other corporations exercising these kinds of off shore strategies are sheltering their profits outside the US and not supporting the system they benefit from. In fact, they're actually depressing the system and our economy by not not paying their fair share of taxes and by not reinvesting their profits into their employees in the form of wages and benefits. But the craziest thing of all is that most of what they're doing is actually legal and that should change." Said Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Café in Vergennes and member of the Main Street Alliance in Vermont.
When corporations like Walmart use tax havens, other American businesses that play by the rules can get stuck picking up the tab. Recently U.S. PIRG released a report, Picking Up the Tab 2015, which showed that every American small business would have to pay an average of $3,200 in additional taxes to make up for all the lost revenue due to corporations exploiting tax havens. A state-by-state breakdown from the U.S. PIRG report shows how much small businesses would owe on average and cumulatively in each state.
In recent years, Walmart has made tax havens central to its growing International division, which now accounts for one-third of the company’s profits. Walmart’s network of 78 undisclosed overseas subsidiaries in tax havens have no retail operations and few, if any, employees. The subsidiaries are mostly invisible, as Walmart hasn’t listed them on Exhibit 21 (“Subsidiaries”) of the company’s annual 10-K filing with the SEC. There is a legal requirement to list subsidiaries that account for greater than 10 percent of assets or income, which Walmart may be skirting. Most, if not all, of Walmart’s 27 foreign operating companies in places such as the United Kingdom, Brazil, Japan, China, Chile and South Africa, are owned through subsidiaries in tax havens.
Walmart currently has 22 shell companies with addresses in Luxembourg – a country infamous for helping companies dodge taxes. Walmart has established 20 of these shell companies since 2009 and five in 2015 alone, yet Walmart does not have a single retail store there. Walmart has transferred ownership of more than $45 billion in assets to Luxembourg subsidiaries since 2011, and reported paying less than one percent in tax to Luxembourg on $1.3 billion in profits from 2010 through 2013.
The Walmart Web report is being released as Congress and the Obama Administration consider whether any form of corporate tax reform can be crafted and voted on this year. A central part of that discussion is how to tax the $2.1 trillion in offshore profits that are held by U.S. corporations and are currently untaxed here at home. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that corporations should be able to bring these profits home at a steeply discounted tax rate, and the revenue would be used to rebuild roads and bridges. This would result in a huge tax break for multinational corporations that have already dodged paying their fair share of taxes, many through the use of offshore tax havens. Instead, Congress should require that Walmart and other multinationals pay all legally required taxes on their growing pile of overseas earnings, which would raise substantially more revenue to make new investments.
Further information, related materials and shareable graphics on the The Walmart Web report can be found here.
Americans for Tax Fairness is a diverse coalition of 425 national and state endorsing organizations that collectively represent tens of millions of members. The organization was formed on the belief that the country needs comprehensive, progressive tax reform that results in greater revenue to meet our growing needs. ATF is playing a central role in Washington and in the states on federal tax-reform issues.
Business Contact: Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Care in Vergennes, VT
Local Organization Contact: Lindsay DesLauriers, State Director, Main Street Alliance of Vermont
802-343-7423 General Contact: Peter Knudsen, Communications Director, Americans for Tax Fairness firstname.lastname@example.org
Open until filled. Applicants will be considered on a rolling basis.Job Title: Temporary Small Business Organizer
Position Summary: The Small Business Organizer will conduct outreach to small business owners and support businesses working with The Main Street Alliance of Vermont, an affiliate of the national Main Street Alliance network, to advance public policies that benefit small business owners, their employees, and the communities they serve. The Main Street Alliance of Vermont Small Business Organizer will work with Main Street Alliance staff to develop a coordinated organizing plan, conduct direct canvass-based outreach, help implement a grassroots fundraising plan, and support other activities related to Main Street Alliance projects. This position requires frequent travel around the state.
The Main Street Alliance of Vermont Small Business Organizer reports to the Main Street Alliance of Vermont State Director.
The responsibilities of The Main Street Alliance of Vermont Small Business Organizer relate primarily to outreach and recruitment of small business owners to our network to engage decision-makers, the media, and the public in support of public policy issues like health care reform, fair taxes, and community-centered workplace policy reform. Responsibilities include:
- Work with Vermont and national Main Street Alliance staff to develop a coordinated outreach plan for the state and participate in the development of the Main Street Alliance network.
- Conduct small business recruitment in key areas around the state using direct canvass-based outreach to small business owners.
- Provide general support to Main Street Alliance of Vermont’s projects.
- Support coordination and implementation of meetings and events in key areas around the state for a variety of purposes.
- Support implementation of a grassroots fundraising plan to support the work of The Main Street Alliance of Vermont.
- Personal commitment to a vision of racial, gender, social, and economic justice and to building the collective voice of small business owners in Vermont.
- Experience in community/grassroots organizing, political campaigns and/or legislative work preferred.
- Strong written, verbal, and interpersonal skills.
- Strong analytic ability and capacity to understand and effectively communicate complex policy issues.
- Ability to produce consistent, high quality work.
- Willingness and ability to travel around the state on a regular basis and to work flexible hours.
- Ability to work independently, solid time management skills.
- Computer skills (word processing, spreadsheet & database management, Power Point, electronic communications, social media).
- Temporary position through Fall 2015
- Position is part-time: 3 days/week
- $15.00 per hour.
- Mileage reimbursement.
- Competitive paid time off benefit.
We are looking for committed, enthusiastic people with a sense of humor and a strong work ethic to join our Vermont team and grow our organization. The Alliance for a Just Society and Main Street Alliance are committed to equal opportunity, and encourage applicants of all races, gender, ages, sexual orientations, national origins, ethnicities, religion, and abilities.
Many gathered in front of City Hall, yet Congresswoman Bonamici did not go downstairs to meet with the group. Business owners and community members rallied for about 30 minutes and headed up to her office. Representative from the rally politely entered City Hall, and went to deliver their message to her staff because the Congresswoman would not meet with them face-to-face.
Patty Katz, an Organizer with The Main Street Alliance of Oregon, delivered a copy of an Op-Ed from Mark Kellenbeck, Co-Chair of The Main Street Alliance of Oregon and Co-owner of BrainJoy, LLC in Medford. The Congresswoman was asked what happen to change her mind about standing up for small business and Oregonians as a whole.
The group asked, “What is in it for Oregonians? Why does Congresswoman Bonamici support the TPP?”
Congresswoman Bonamici’s staff were cordial to the group, and over 25 delivered different letters and other documents all with the same requests: “Say NO to Fast Tracking the TPP!”
Today the Los Angeles City Council heard testimony on raising the minimum wage in the city to as high as $15.25 an hour and The Main Street Alliance of California’s own Kevin Litwin provided comment in support of raising the wage. Watch his testimony here: https://youtu.be/C2kEs8D3ZIY
“I am the Chief Operating Office at Joe’s Parking, and a member of the Main Street Alliance. Together we are support raising the L.A. minimum wage to $15.25. When Joe’s Auto Parks was founded in 1959 minimum wage was just $1 an hour. We didn’t pay the minimum then, and we don’t pay the minimum now. For over 50 years we have been committed to offering fair wages and attracting the best and brightest employees to manage our locations. That is how we grew to one of the largest operations here in downtown L.A. We strongly hope you pass this and raise the wage to $15.25” said Litwin.
The Council chambers were packed with over 100 residents of the city, most of whom supported the minimum wage increase, and dozens of workers and community leaders provided comment echoing Kevin's support.
After hearing the support and concerns of those in attendance the Council turned in a 14-1 vote in favor of raising the city’s wage to $15 gradually over the next 5 years. The legislation will move on to a full Council vote next week before being written into law. The first wage bump will occur in July of 2016 when wages will rise to $10.60 an hour on their way to $15 by 2020.
Working Families Champions of Change event highlights importance of paid sick days and paid family leave policies
Washington, D.C. – The White House today honors Randy George, as part of its Working Families Champions of Change event. George was recognized for his work to improve the lives of working families in Vermont.
“Our 42 employees are at the core of everything we do – the heart of Red Hen.” George said, “That is why my wife Liza and I insist on providing paid sick days, an equal and livable wage, health coverage, and other benefits that help everyone balance the work they love with the life they lead. Through these workplace policies, we know we’re making our employees more secure, our bakery more productive, and our business more profitable.”
“Through our work in past years to establish a standard of earned paid leave in Vermont, several business owners have stepped forward and stood out as models of great employers and none so much Randy and Liza,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, VT State Director of Main Street Alliance. “Every time I buy a Red Hen baguette, I know that it’s not just about a great product or even about supporting a local business – I know that I’m investing in the kind of Vermont I want to live and work in.”
“Randy George is a true leader in the fight for paid sick days and paid family policies and has taken great strides to move these policies forward in Vermont,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work. “We’re proud of Randy for this well-deserved honor, paving the way for national standards, until no one has to choose between providing and caring for their families.”
In Vermont, H. 187, the Healthy Workplaces Bill, is currently being debated in the General, Housing and Military Affairs. The bill is expected to be voted out of committee this week, and come to the floor next week. The bill establishes a minimum standard of access of three earned sick days for the first two years after implementation, and then increases to five.
These wins come on the heels of President Obama’s call in the State of the Union address for the U.S. to catch up with the 21st century and other world leaders on paid leave. These issues are also being addressed by presidential hopefuls as the 2016 campaigns get underway.
Tune in live TODAY at 12:15!
Family Values @ Work is a network of coalitions in 21 states, including Main Street Alliance of Vermont, working to pass policies that value families at work such as paid sick days and affordable family leave.
The Main Street Alliance of Vermont is an organization committed to elevating the voices of small business owners to advance public policies that are good for small businesses, our employees, and the communities we serve.