State's small businesses urge to end tax breaks for wealthy

Owners from cities across Washington, including Vancouver, participated in survey

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

Small business owners across the state called for an end to tax breaks for the rich in a survey released Wednesday by the Main Street Alliance of Washington.

The group, which represents more than 2,000 small business owners statewide, surveyed 113 small business owners sprinkled across 16 Washington cities, including Vancouver. Eighty-eight percent of the survey respondents said Congress should put an end to Bush-era tax cuts on annual incomes above $250,000. Only 4 percent called for renewing the tax breaks, set to expire on Jan. 1.

Alliance members also resent the implication that continuing tax cuts for the super-rich will help smaller businesses, small company owners from around the state said during a telephone press conference on Wednesday.

"The name of small business has been used by people wanting tax cuts for the rich," but very few fall into the bracket, said Don Orange, a member of the alliance and the owner of Hoesly Eco Automotive, a small auto repair shop in Vancouver. "We're just regular folks."

The group's plea comes as President Barack Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, negotiate tax policies aimed at steering the national economy away from the edge of a "fiscal cliff," with a recession forecast for 2013 if action isn't taken by the end of 2012.

Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree legislation is needed to stop fiscal changes that become effective next year. But they disagree on how it should be paid for, and time is running out.

On Jan. 1, more than $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts are set to kick in. The resulting take-home pay cut could drive already cash-strapped consumers to pull purse strings tighter, the majority of the small businesses said in the Main Street Alliance survey.

"The most pressing issue for small businesses is the lack of consumer demand," said Tiffany Turner, also a member of the alliance and co-owner of the Adrift Hotel in Long Beach.

She said 73 percent of small businesses surveyed responded they need more customers, rather than lower tax rates.

In back-and-forth negotiations this week, Boehner offered a plan in which tax cuts would extend to incomes under $1 million.

Obama countered with a plan to extend the breaks to incomes up to $400,000. Obama's plan included spending cuts of $100 billion in defense and $130 billion in savings from adjusting the inflation index for Social Security benefits, according to The Washington Post. It also included roughly $80 billion in unemployment insurance and infrastructure spending.

Small businesses in the Main Street Alliance group oppose the notion of cuts to disposable income, Orange said.

"We cannot dig our way out of the hole we're in by chopping people on Medicare and Social Security," he said.

His state group has been working with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in an effort to carry the results of its survey and its message to the president and Congress, Orange said.

"We would like our senators and our president to know that we'd like them to stand with real small businesses," he said.