Mr. President: Time to Partner With the Small Business Community

Unfortunately, the political and economic environment is sour at best for our smallest businesses even though we are the fastest growing economic sector. Roadblocks and barriers continue to stand in our way.
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On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union Address before Congress and the American people. While outlining his second term agenda, he does so against the backdrop of a sluggish economy that includes a depressed housing market and a mediocre jobs report for January -- only 157,000 new jobs added to the economy while unemployment ticked back up to 7.9 percent. However, there is a solution to America's continuing economic crisis: fuel from the small business community.

The nearly 22-million of America's smallest businesses -- the self-employed and micro-businesses -- stand ready to work alongside the president in generating sustainable growth for our economy. As the majority of the business community, our small businesses embody the real entrepreneurial spirit of America. Instead of standing in line at the unemployment office, we step out to create our own jobs while helping the economy improve at the same time. But the only way we can succeed, grow and expand -- and in turn help our national economy -- is with supportive public policies.

Unfortunately, the political and economic environment is sour at best for our smallest businesses even though we are the fastest growing economic sector. Roadblocks and barriers continue to stand in our way. Despite paying our taxes and contributing to the economy, we face enormous challenges compared to our corporate and employee counterparts we work alongside everyday. We need a level playing field that permits small and micro-businesses be competitive.

Any economic agenda proposed by President Obama Tuesday evening must include a robust plan for America's small business community. The status quo is no longer acceptable; we need an actionable plan that not only creates equity for our small business community, but ensures we have the tools and resources to flourish and help our nation's economy rebuild. It's not just sound economic policies needed for existing businesses to thrive and expand, but also self-employment training assistance and micro-lending programs that will foster the creation of new businesses.

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service's decision to offer a simplified home office tax deduction will save millions of self-employed businesses time and money -- both of which will not only be reinvested in our businesses, but also in our economy. While a good start, we cannot stop there. Small businesses got a temporary taste of a health insurance tax deduction in 2011, but it was unfortunately eliminated despite its immense economic benefits. It should be reinstated. Expanding the Health Reimbursement Arrangements will allow self-employed business owners receive the same benefit as employees. To help new businesses get up and running, we must support and urge states to implement Self-Employment Assistance programs as part of their job training and work requirements for unemployment benefits. With only seven states currently offering this benefit, now is the time to direct the Department of Labor to get more on board.

The small business community isn't looking for broad legislative changes, rather minor tweaks to existing law that will go a long way to support our community. But, the economic and fiscal challenges remain stacked against us. Implementation of the upcoming health care reform law means additional taxes that threaten our bottom lines. An unfairly tilted individual and corporate tax structure puts us out of favor during tax time. And the pending spending cuts at federal level mean it's going to be more difficult to access credit and capital. Combined with the uncertainty of our nation's fiscal health, our smallest businesses are left wondering who's on our side.

The Dow Industrial Standard's recent peak above 14,000 may suggest better economic times ahead, but President Obama can take bold action now by partnering with America's small businesses who are ready to help rebuild our economy. We are a community that generates an average of a billion dollars annually for our national economy. It's not enough to say that we provide the economic fuel for our nation, but rather, when small businesses thrive, America thrives.

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