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Guest Column: The Not-So-Silent Partner

May 1, 2017

By: Renee Amar

Sunday, April 30th kicked off National Small Business Week. This is a week for us to celebrate our job creators and innovators. This is a week when we honor the nation’s and our state’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. While this week is all about providing small businesses with the recognition they have rightfully earned for all of their hard work to make Louisiana’s economy stronger, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) would like to honor these businesses in an unconventional way, by bringing to light the hardships these small business owners face in order to make Louisiana better.

These small business owners are our job creators and innovators, employing more than half of the workforce of the state. LABI applauds small business owners who take the huge risk of starting their own business without any guarantee of a return on their investment. They are the epitome of the American dream, typically scraping together every penny possible, borrowing from family members and friends. These are the innovators in our society, who are pillars in their local communities, giving back more times than not. They have a vision to become their own boss, of working for themselves and supporting their family, they work tirelessly to achieve this end. However, what most small business owners didn’t realize when they started their business, was that they were going to have a partner. A not–so-silent and increasingly over-reaching partner… the government.

In our home state of Louisiana, we should be highlighting the impact of these outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners on a daily basis. Yet, all we are hearing from Baton Rouge are discussions of how to grow the government and how business is not pulling their weight. There is no bold vision to unleash the economic engine responsible for two out of three net new jobs. No vision to get our state’s economy moving after massive job losses over the last year. In fact, the only rhetoric we hear is quite the opposite, tax increases and mandates.

Our state government is on a constant march to regulate and tax small business owners. The three 2016 legislative sessions saw a plethora of mandates suggested, further seeking to interject the government into the small business owner’s process of maintaining their business. Much of this legislation sought to give attorneys more opportunities to sue small businesses, and although Louisiana already has guarantees of equality and non-discrimination in the law, bills were filed that would have gone much further and required many small business owners to prove to a bureaucrat how and what they pay their employees. Whether it was fighting to stop the state or local governments from establishing new wage mandates or forcing costly sick leave policies beyond what is required by the federal government, LABI successfully fought to ensure the business owner could decide wages and best hiring practices based on market demands. In the competitive environment in which small business owners exist, LABI believes that small business owners are very aware that their employees are their most valuable asset and operate best in a free and open marketplace. 

Sadly enough, 2017 is feeling like Groundhog Day. The same mandates that the Governor pushed last year are back again. These perennial mandates on the business community take a huge toll on small businesses, as they do not have fixed departments to adjust to the new mandates. These issues simply cause a small business owner to take hours of their precious time to navigate the new system or spend precious resources hiring outside help. Once again, LABI will be on the front line, alongside small business owners, to stop these costly mandates and tax increases from hurting small businesses even more.

Another major issue for small business owners outside of taxes and mandates is related to the workforce. Small business owners, just like their large counterparts, continue to say that hiring skilled workers is a constant difficulty for them. Nonetheless, the Governor’s plan for education and workforce is to erode reforms that seek to improve Louisiana’s talent pipeline.

Small business owners are not feeling optimistic about our state government’s view of their work. While the federal government is working diligently to repeal burdensome regulations, taxes and mandates on small businesses, it seems our state is hell-bent on doing the polar opposite. The Administration and lawmakers in Baton Rouge should take heed. Stop the needless rhetoric about the business community, of which small business owners are a majority. Taxpayers and businesses need a consistent tax structure that does not change every few months. Small business owners simply want to operate their business with as little governmental interference as possible. They really do not ask for much. Let me operate my business without mandates telling me how much to pay my employees, without laws that seek to make it easier to sue small business owners and without a cumbersome tax code.

If we truly want to employ more of our citizens, we need to unleash Louisiana’s economic engine, our small businesses. That starts with helping them grow and lessening the impact of their not-so-silent partner, the government.