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By Riley Johnson
Virtually every elected official from Helena to Washington, D.C. expresses deep concern about the loss of jobs and the need to jumpstart our economy. After all, the national unemployment rate sits at around 10 percent (the highest in a quarter century), and here in Montana, it stands at a lower but still troubling 6.4 percent. And lots of job creation and economic proposals—some good, others bad—will appear on state and federal legislative agendas in coming months.
Most policymakers agree that we need an energy policy that creates sustainable economic growth, benefits all Americans and protects the environment. If that’s truly the case, they should go back to the drawing board to find alternatives to the burdensome, big-government energy policies currently popular in Washington.
Proposals known as “cap-and-trade,” intended to combat global warming and revamp America’s energy policy, are deeply unpopular with both the voting public and the entrepreneurs who create most of the nation’s new jobs.
Recent polls that my organization released are clear: An overwhelming majority of small business owners oppose cap-and-trade legislation that has passed the House of Representatives. More than 70 percent of the business owners we surveyed think that the legislation will raise energy costs, and similarly large majorities don’t buy supporters’ claim that it will create new jobs or improve economic growth. And virtually none said that regulating greenhouse gas emissions should rank as a top national priority.
Small Business Champion of the Year
They started with a small salvage yard and one garage, never borrowed money to finance the business, and today run one of the most sophisticated automobile dismantling and recycling firms in all of North America. For the can-do example they set and for helping advance the small business agenda in the Montana Legislature, Loretta and Ron Miller are this year’s Solveras/NFIB Small Business Champion of the Year.
The honor was conferred upon the Millers, who own Green Meadow Auto Salvage, Inc., in Helena, by the Montana Leadership Council of the National Federation of Independent Business and Solveras Payment Solutions, one of the nation’s leading payment processing companies for small business. Each year, NFIB and Solveras single out a small business owner in all 50 states for special recognition and honor him or her with the prestigious Small Business Champion of the Year award. This is the sixth year America’s leading small business association has recognized small business owners who go the extra mile for their fellow entrepreneurs.
“The biggest contribution to building our business was that we never borrowed money,” said Loretta Miller. “We bought the business on a contract with the previous owner, but back then banks wouldn’t loan operating capital on an auto salvage yard. So we built it up from cash flow day by day. A second factor was that Ron could take anything mechanical and make it do whatever you wanted it to do. And, finally, getting the business totally computerized to meet today’s technological world was critical. You can now go online and visually see any part or car in our inventory.”
“There is much more to this award than the Millers’ success in establishing a cutting-edge business,” said Riley Johnson, state director for NFIB/Montana. “Loretta Miller has answered the call to testify before the Legislature on issues critical to small business solvency. Her persuasion helped the passage of Senate Bill 371 (even though it was later vetoed by the governor), which set the course and scope of workers’ compensation benefits. Her assistance was instrument on passage of House Bill 204, which established Montana’s first safe-employer pool for workers’ compensation, and the defeat of Senate Bill 506, which would have imposed a burdensome local-options tax. She also assisted me in discussions with Sen. Max Baucus in his drafting of a national healthcare bill in the U.S. Senate. All small business owners in Montana owe her a big debt of gratitude.”
The Millers can be reached at 406 458-9204.
Healthcare Reform Takes a Left Turn
By Dan Danner, President
National Federation of Independent Business
The road to healthcare reform took a hard left turn last week.
The leaders of both the House and the Senate announced that they would bring bills with a public option to the floors of both chambers for a vote.
The announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) was no surprise, as all previous House versions included a public option. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) caught many off guard with his plan, which came despite the Senate Finance Committee’s rejection of the public option.
Among other provisions of the nearly 2,000 page bill, Pelosi’s plan creates a public option that pays medical providers rates negotiated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and expands government spending on the Medicaid program. The speaker intends to have a vote on the House bill this week. But the real battle will come later in the Senate.
As I write, details of the Senate proposal are sketchy, but it’s clearly designed to appease Senate liberals. It would be a national, government-run program that would negotiate payment rates with doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers.
In an attempt to gain moderate senators’ support, Sen. Reid’s proposal would allow states to opt out of the government program at some point, which hasn’t been determined. Sen. Reid’s attempts to appeal to the left wing while also keeping his moderates happy may well backfire. Two prominent centrists, Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine), have already come out against his public option proposal, and concerns have been raised by others such as Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.).
The opt-out, as outlined by Sen. Reid, comes with a high price tag in terms of access and affordability. In an effort to coerce states to remain part of the government-run public option, the opt-out is all or nothing. If your state decides not to participate in the public plan, then your state may forfeit opportunities to access other private market solutions. This isn’t providing states or small business owners with more choices. Instead, it’s saying take the government plan, or risk leaving all the other options at your state line.
In addition, if you opt-out as a state, you’ll still be paying – and paying and paying. So, while an opt-out provision may sound good, in the end, we’ll all still be paying for it. Why? Because even if a state opts out of the program, it appears likely that all taxpayers will be on the hook to pay for it, whether it’s financing subsidies or simply the long-term costs of running yet another complex bureaucracy.
States don’t need a public option to spur competition. They need a reformed marketplace where all private insurers have incentives to compete. The public option doesn’t lead to more competition, but it does set up perverse disincentives that will further stifle the private-market competition that small business owners have fought for all these years.
Reform for the sake of reform is not what small business wants or needs. Instead, they want access to a reformed private marketplace with lower costs, more affordable options and real competition for their healthcare dollars.
That is the message small business owners have shared throughout the health reform debate, and it’s the same message they took to the White House last week in a meeting with the President.
Small business owners hope that the White House and Congress will remember that new public programs – however couched as a “consumer choice option” or with “opt out” ability – are still costs that will ultimately come out of their pockets and prohibit them from growing, investing in their business and hiring new employees.
We have said repeatedly that we remain committed to trying to support reform efforts that will provide more affordable and accessible healthcare options for small employers and their workers. No one needs reform more. But in the end, small businesses’ support or opposition will rest on whether or not they’re persuaded that costs will actually be reduced, and the quality of their healthcare will not be compromised.
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103