Who Stands With Small Businesses in Salem?

By Dan Lombardi of Portland, Oregon. Dan is the coalition director for the Main Street Alliance of Oregon.

Many may not be aware of this, but this week marks National Small Business Week, a yearly event hosted by the United States Small Business Administration. According to the event's website, its goal is to 'recognize the special impact made by outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners'. This sounds all well and good, until start to study the site, and see that this year's event is sponsored by companies that don't fit your typical small business model: Wal-Mart, VISA, AT&T, Raytheon, Google, Microsoft, and so on. The truth is, not one of these businesses can be categorized as a 'small business.' In fact, some can even be credited with shuttering up Main Street businesses throughout the country. This all begs the question; who really stands with small business? Does the US Small Business Administration? Do our state elected officials?

We always hear politicians, on both sides of the aisle, say they are looking out for small business owners, but at the end of the day, corporate lobbyists muscle out the small business voice, making sure legislation benefits their CEO's and shareholders, and often leaving small businesses out to dry.

I don't think any of us would be shocked to learn that corporate lobbyist hold a certain amount of power and sway in Salem, and a perfect example of this is evident in the creation of a state health insurance exchange. The health insurance exchange is a bill that will cut waste, lower costs, and improve our health care delivery system through creating one unified market exchange - a market that is open and transparent with only consumers on the exchange board, not insurance brokers and agents who may come with hidden agendas. At the end of the day, itt will create a more accountable form of health insurance here in Oregon.

Small business owners throughout the state have been fighting for a strong insurance exchange that will help them find better and more affordable health insurance for themselves and their employees.

Recently, small business owner Jim Houser testified in front of the House Health Care Committee, saying:

Currently, my company pays over $100,000 per year in health care premiums for our 9 full-time employees and their families. Unless we can get control of rising premium costs we will have to reduce or eliminate coverage, which will harm our ability to compete with the larger companies for the best employees.

At every step in the process this session, legislators have ignored concerns similar to Jim's, and have capitulated to the insurance industry lobby to develop an exchange that continues to allow big health insurance companies to drive up premiums year after year.

Situations like these are the very reason that the Main Street Alliance of Oregon has been and continues to fight against the influence of corporate lobbyist in Salem and DC by giving small business owners a voice at the table when it comes to legislation that impacts them and their businesses. This National Small Business Week, the Main Street Alliance of Oregon is taking the opportunity to tell corporations and corporate lobbyist that they don't speak for small business.

Small businesses have been ignored for far too long, and that's why the Main Street Alliance of Oregon is asking Governor Kitzhaber and State Legislature to listen to the true economic drivers of Oregon's economy -- small businesses. These businesses do the majority of hiring of this state, and because of that, their voice should be heard louder than any corporate lobbyist in Salem. Up to this point in the session, they have been ignored. This National Small Business Week, the question must be asked again: who stands with small business, and who stands against them? Will the state's elected officials do the right thing for Oregon, and stand with small business?

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