My Seat at the State of the Union

By Jim Houser of Portland, Oregon. Jim is an advocate for small businesses and health care reform, and the co-owner of the Hawthorne Auto Clinic. He also serves as co-chair of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon (formerly the Oregon Small Business Council).

One week prior to the President’s 2011 State of the Union address, I received a call from the White House at Hawthorne Auto Clinic, the business I co-own with my wife Liz Dally, asking me to join the First Lady in her box overlooking the U. S. House of Representative’s chamber in the Capitol. Military heroes, victims of the attempted assassination tragedy in Tucson, along with business leaders like myself, education champions and other government officials were among the twenty invited guests.

On the evening of the address, guests and family members arrived at the gates of the White House. After a brief transit through security, we were assigned a staff member who led us to a reception on the first floor Entrance Hall where Ms. Obama graciously welcomed us.

Soon after the reception, invited guests were escorted to waiting vans and were sped, with lights and sirens, to the Capitol. We watched from our box as members of Congress entered, followed by several members of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President’s cabinet, and finally, the President.

The President’s speech did not disappoint, and it was his emphasis on his health care reform accomplishments, specifically the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that most captured my attention.

My company provides health care coverage for our 9 full-time employees and their families. Our premiums have doubled over the last 8 years to now equal $90,000, over 20% of payroll. The PPACA is already providing major health insurance premium relief to many of the 4 million eligible small businesses all across the country. According to our accountant we will be receiving a 2010 tax credit over $5,000 to help us pay our increased premiums. And there are even greater health care reforms slated to take effect in 2014. These benefits are why I worked so hard with the Main Street Alliance of Oregon to pass health care reform that works for Oregon small businesses.

The Main Street Alliance of Oregon works to provide small businesses a voice on the most pressing public policy issues in Oregon and nationally. Our advocacy promotes vibrant businesses and healthy communities, and fosters leadership development of socially responsible business leaders. In 2011, we will continue to focus on health care reform by adding our voice to the health care exchange implementation process. We are also currently broadening our scope to address other issues facing small business owners in local, state and federal decision-making.

It is opportunities like mine, opportunities to meet the President and sit with the First Lady during the State of the Union that the Main Street Alliance of Oregon tries to foster and present to small business owners throughout the state of Oregon.

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