Small Business Owners Take Capitol Hill By Storm

May 23, 2012

Members of the Johnson City, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce meet with Sen. Lamar Alexander (center) to discuss taxes, health care, and federal spending.

Hundreds of small business owners visiting Washington, D.C., for America's Small Business Summit descended on Capitol Hill on May 23 to personally voice their concerns about the economy to their elected representatives. A group of small business owners from Johnson City, Tennessee, which included a restaurant owner, two CPAs, and two educators, carried a simple message: uncertainty over health care reform, taxes, and federal deficits and spending are keeping them up at night.

“Our clients are concerned about the health care costs and taxes, particularly tax increases,” said Karen McMurray, CPA with Blackburn, Childers & Steagall, PLC. McMurray and the rest of the group from Tennessee met with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R) and Bob Corker (R) and staff from Rep. Phil Roe’s (R) office as part of the summit's Rally on the Hill. McMurray called on the legislators to pass comprehensive tax reform that includes an extension of current rates and permanently extend tax credits including the research and experimentation tax credit and the state and local sales tax deduction, both of which expired at the end of 2011. Temporary extensions of tax provisions are doing little to provide certainty, she said.

Tom Seaton, owner of The Firehouse Restaurant in Johnson City, is in a wait-and-see mode. He has plans to expand his 32-year-old business but won’t move forward until he hears what the Supreme Court decides on the health care law. “It’s a looming thing -- what’s going to happen on health care,” says Seaton, who has 80 full- and part-employees. He currently provides 100% health care coverage for his four management staff but isn’t sure if he’ll be able to do so for all of his employees as required by the health care law beginning in 2014. “I have two expansion projects on hold because of uncertainty over costs and the unknown,” he says.

The concerns voiced by the Tennessee small business owners were well receieved by the lawmakers with whom they met. “My overall goal is to try and create an environment where it’s easier and cheaper for these small businesspeople to create jobs,” said Sen. Alexander, a former governor of Tennessee. (Of interest: Alexander offers waiting visitors Little Debbie's snack cakes, which are made by Collegedale, Tennessee-based McKee Foods.) 

Sen. Corker said that the best opportunity to do something on taxes would be the end of the year, and he called for tax reform linked to entitlement reform. “We’re waiting for showtime and right now, show time will be in December,” he said, referring to a lame ducksession of Congress. Corker warned that “failure to fix our financial house could destroy our nation.”

Below check out our photo slideshow of the Rally on the Hill.

Click here for complete coverage of America's Small Business Summit.


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