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NFIB sets its small-business growth agenda

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The National Federation of Independent Business Jan. 20 unveiled its legislative agenda for the coming session of Congress. The following article was provided by Martha Winberg, a spokeswoman for NFIB, summarizing the issues important to the lobbying group.

With the partisan margins in Congress narrowed by the 1998 elections, predictions for the 106th Congress have emphasized how little either side of the aisle will be able to accomplish during the next two years. Agendas advanced by either side will only creep forward if they move at all.

At NFIB, however, we take a considerably less pessimistic view. We offer an agenda we believe not only can be, but will be embraced and advanced by Republicans and Democrats alike. It's a winning agenda on its merits; it's the right thing to do for Main Street. And doing the right thing for Main Street is good business for lawmakers of all political stripes.

In these times of economic uncertainty, why not focus on Main Street instead of Wall Street? Small business produces 40 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, more than half of all private-sector jobs and two-thirds of all the net new jobs created from coast to coast. If we want to stabilize Wall Street, we'd better strengthen Main Street.

NFIB believes the United States ought to be the single most small-business-friendly nation in the world. The United States should always serve as the role model for nations in distress who seek the type of economic recovery that only comes from a healthy small-business climate.

NFIB belives there are obstacles in the way of small-business economic potential: high taxes, frivolous lawsuits, rising health care costs, and excessive regulations. NFIB's agenda targets each one of these areas and offers solutions designed to benefit the well-being of the overall American economy.

Simpler, lower taxes. The time to set a sunset date for the current tax code and develop a new code a fairer, simpler code that rewards work and encourages savings is here.

NFIB also seeks to repeal the estate tax. Nearly 60 percent of business owners say they would add more jobs during 1999 if estate taxes were eliminated.

For Social Security, payroll taxes must not be increased, paperwork associated with tax collection should be reduced and personal retirement accounts (controlled by individuals) should be instituted.

The unemployment insurance system should be returned to the states and eliminate collection at the federal level.

Health care accessibility. Health care benefits should not be mandated from the federal level. Small businesses should be allowed to purchase health insurance through association health plans. In addition, NFIB supports immediate 100 percent deductibility of health insurance costs for self-employed people.

Ease regulatory burdens. All workplace safety rules should be reviewed and repealed when they prove to be outdated. In addition, regulations that treat small business like big business are disproportionately cumbersome and expensive for smaller firms. Per-employee costs for small firms are about 50 percent more than for large firms. NFIB calls for adherence to the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.

Efforts to increase or index the minimum wage and expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act will be opposed.

NFIB supports legislation that protects small business from unfunded federal mandates. The Mandate Information Act directs the Congressional Budget Office to provide financial information on the impact of proposed legislation.

Curb frivolous lawsuits. Non-economic damages (punitive damages and pain and suffering) in civil suits ought to be capped at fair, reasonable levels. A Rand Institute study estimates that the cost for defense in an average lawsuit costs a business owner $100,000.

In addition, small business should be taken out of Superfund litigation. The 1980 law that pays for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites has turned into a nightmare for small business.

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