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Politico - What Small-Business Owners Want to Hear in State of the Union Speech

Op-Ed

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By Representative Sam Graves

What do small-business owners want from the government? The short answer: Move out of the way.

Eight out of 10 small-business owners say they want the government to stay out of the way instead of providing a "helping hand," according to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey. Eighty-six percent said they would rather have more certainty than more assistance.

As President Barack Obama gives his third State of the Union address Tuesday night and presents his legislative agenda for the year, I hope he takes note that small-business owners around the country will be waiting to hear (hopefully) how Washington will step back and allow them to expand without more government interference.

This includes lowering taxes and simplifying the Tax Code. Small-business owners spend too much money and time filling out government forms just to pay their taxes. The more time and resources spent on tax compliance, the less an entrepreneur has to hire employees and grow. Four of the top 10 small-business problems are tax-related, according to a recent National Federation of Independent Business study. With the U.S. Tax Code now nearly 70,000 pages and roughly 3.8 million words, we need a Tax Code that is simple and fair, and that promotes economic growth.

It would be music to every small-business owner's ears to hear the president call on his agencies to roll back costly regulations. Small firms bear a regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee, 36 percent higher than the cost of regulatory compliance for large businesses. In fact, small-business owners say the cost of regulatory compliance is the most important problem they face today, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

"Agencies just don't get it," David Frulla, a partner at Kelley Drye and Warren, said at a recent House Small Business Committee hearing. "They really don't get and understand the impacts that their regulations have on small businesses, and so they just proceed; others have their mission; and they don't care."

Small-business owners also want to know if they must continue competing against the federal government for contract work. They have proven that they can do the work -- and do it more cheaply and more quickly.

Any avenue to save taxpayer dollars, increase competition and spark growth is the route we should be taking. Small businesses are recognized as the engine of job creation in America -- and allowing them every opportunity to compete fuels that engine.

Around the bend are 2,500 pages of the new health care law that is expected to be enacted this year -- and small businesses want to know exactly what to expect. According to a recent survey, 74 percent of small-business owners say this tsunami of health care regulations makes it harder for them to hire more employees.

Brian Vaughn, president of Nearly Famous, emphasized this at a recent committee hearing, "Given the harm the new health care law is going to wreak on our business," Vaughn said, "as well as the uncertainty and the pain caused by other regulations, I fear that neither of these dreams [to expand] nor my plans to achieve them will be possible. … My worry is that everything I have worked for will be wiped out."

Small businesses that export would like to hear a commitment that the government won't stand in the way of opening new markets worldwide and will lower the tariffs for their products and services. This includes joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, re-enacting trade promotion authority and strengthening the enforcement of illegal and unfair trade practices.

Along with opening new markets, we need to make the export process easier. This means coordinating federal and state agencies to clearly outline the process and regulations involved with exporting to a new market.

These are just a few of the things small-business owners would like to hear addressed in the State of the Union speech. They don't want to hear about more proposals, "shovel ready" projects or directives. They want to be set free -- free to prosper without costly government interference.

As we have seen over and over, government does not create jobs or produce long-term economic growth. The private sector does. The faster Washington releases the reins, the faster we will see Americans back on the job and economic prosperity abound.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) is chairman of the House Small Business Committee.


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