The countdown to November 2 has begun. Control of Congress hangs in the balance, along with hot contests for governorships and numerous state and local races. With the economy still weak, Election Day 2010 could be a day of reckoning for many incumbent politicians.
Candidates and incumbents from both parties are touting their platforms and voting records to prove their allegiance to small business. Of course, most candidates find there is no downside to aligning their campaign messaging with this constituency.
According to a July 2010 Gallup poll, only the U.S. military outranks small business as the institution in which Americans have the most confidence.
Here’s a rundown on the hot-button issues this year and what’s at stake for small business. See the resources listed below to find out where your representatives stand.
A range of tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush expires at year’s end. Higher rates at the personal level, capital gains, dividends, and death taxes (currently zero) will take effect if nothing is done. Will the Congress make existing tax relief permanent? Will it make tax relief permanent only for the middle class and allow it to expire for those earning over $250,000 (family) and $200,000 (individual), thus increasing their taxes? Will it extend the tax rates for everyone for one or two years, forcing a future Congress to deal with the issue? Will state and local governments prove willing to deeply cut programs (or reform entitlements) to prevent or minimize tax hikes for the business sector?
The philosophy of the current Administration and Congress has been to stimulate the economy with government spending, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 and the just-passed Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, which would create a $30 billion fund to provide small banks with access to capital to lend to small businesses. The November elections may well be a referendum on this philosophy.
As the healthcare reform act rolls out candidates at all levels are being scrutinized for their support for or opposition to it. Certain portions of the bill (such as expanded 1099 reporting) are already being considered for repeal by Congress.
“Card-Check” and “Cap-and-Trade”
Both of these controversial issues have passed in the U.S. House, but have gone nowhere in the Senate. The “card check” bill bypasses the secret ballot system and allows a union to organize if a majority of workers in a unit sign authorization forms. “Capand- trade” legislation attempts to manage carbon emissions by a system of allowable credits that can be traded by companies that have exceeded or come in under their caps. Even a slight change in the makeup of the House would make it difficult for these legislative initiatives to move forward.
Election 2010 Resources and Tools
These resources will help you research how candidates for federal and state office stand (or voted on) key issues of concern to small business voters.
SBE Council has rated each member of Congress on 20 or more small business “Key Votes.” From tax issues to spending, health care, “card check,” and more, you can learn how your federal elected officials cumulatively scored on SBE Council’s ratings, and how they voted on a specific piece of legislation.
The Business Council has identified key issues and votes that impact the climate for job creation in New York. The votes, and how Senate and Assembly members voted on the council’s pro-jobs agenda, are available at the link above.
The Connecticut Business & Industry Association has developed an “Elections 2010” special section with information about candidates and “Critical Issues & Questions” for the state.
Billed as “the Voter’s Self-Defense System,” Project Vote Smart is a central clearinghouse for voter information and ratings from a wide spectrum of organizations. You can see “Which candidates are most like you,” and who took the “Candidate Courage Test,” the aim of which is to pin candidates down on the tough issues of the day.
The Business and Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) has a great tool to guide the public through the registration process. For information on how and where to register (and by what deadlines), absentee balloting, and early voting, you can use BIPAC’s EZ vote tool.