Jerrod Shouse, Oklahoma state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the group is warning its members that small business is under attack as never before in Oklahoma City.
“Every year, there are a handful of bills that would hurt small business, and we work to defeat them, but we’re seeing an alarming number of anti-business bills beginning to gain traction,” Shouse said. “Unless we remind our elected officials how important we are to the state’s economy, we’re going to reset the clock on Oklahoma’s economic recovery and make it even harder for small businesses to grow and create jobs.”
Issues of concern this session to small business include:
- Raising the state’s minimum wage.
“Some members of the Legislature think they can score a few easy political points by spending other people’s money to give hourly workers a raise, but that’s not how it works,” Shouse said. “The fact of the matter is that small businesses aren’t sitting on piles of cash. If the government forces them to pay more, they won’t be able to hire as many workers, and they won’t be able to take a risk on young workers with little experience. In other words, raising the minimum wage would actually hurt the people the politicians say it’s supposed to help. It’s that simple.
- Paid leave.
“Again, small businesses can spend only so much on pay,” Shouse said. “Our members understand that their employees get sick or have to take care of family, and they do the best they can, but forcing them to offer paid leave would really put a lot of small businesses in a bind. They can’t afford to pay both a worker who’s absent and that worker’s replacement.”
- Equal pay.
“This is another issue that’s more about politics than it is solving a problem. It’s already illegal to pay women less money than you would pay their male counterparts with the same level of experience. If this legislation gets through the Legislature, it would do little besides create a new opportunity for disgruntled workers to sue their employers, and in the case of a small business, the cost of defending against even one lawsuit, no matter how meritless, can be devastating.
“This would prevent employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal background until well into the interview process. That might work for a big corporation, but small businesses don’t have the time or money to waste interviewing candidates whose prior convictions might disqualify them.”
- Service tax.
“Paying a sales tax on goods is one thing, but extending the sales tax to include services would have a crippling effect on small businesses,” Shouse said. “Not only would it create additional paperwork and costs, but it would raise the cost of doing business in Oklahoma, at least for small businesses. Big corporations have their own accounting departments and legal department and maintenance departments, but most small businesses don’t. They have to hire outside firms to do those things, and if you start taxing services, you’re going to make it even harder for a lot of small businesses to succeed.”
“Small business is the engine that drives Oklahoma’s economy,” Shouse said. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 97 percent of the state’s employers are small businesses.
“We need to tell legislators and the administration now, before it’s too late, to stand up and fight for small business,” Shouse said. “When small business wins, everybody wins.”