Janesville78.5°

Small business fears onslaught of government

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Edward J. Lump
March 23, 2009

Restaurants in Wisconsin are typically considered small businesses. Restaurants are as “Main Street” as it gets. Even those with national identification are usually independently owned franchises.


Restaurants, along with the rest of Main Street, are struggling. Consumers are pulling back and, to make matters worse, so-called “experts” on the economic downturn are appearing on talk shows suggesting that a way to cope is to stop dining out.


Thanks a lot! How many more storefronts do these experts want boarded up? How many more people do they want unemployed while they put the money from their appearances and book sales in the bank?


If this is not enough, here comes the government. The first bill, SB1, passed by the Wisconsin Senate, raises the minimum wage to $7.60 on Sept. 1, 2009—that’s 35 cents more than the raise already scheduled to take effect July 24, 2009. The bill also indexes future annual raises to the Consumer Price Index and reinstates the right of local government to set their own minimum wages. The result of this would be a hodgepodge of minimum wages throughout the state and wage inflation in the face of a declining economy.


Voters in the city of Milwaukee approved a referendum to mandate up to nine days of paid sick leave for full- and part-time workers. This is being challenged in court, but if it stands it will institute a new benefit with potentially huge costs. The activist group behind this ordinance has stated that it plans to use it to help pass the law at the state and federal levels.


Federally, there is the Employee Free Choice Act or “card check.” This bill essentially does away with secret ballot in determining whether a business’ workforce is going to be unionized or not. This is potentially a high-cost mandate that would remove the flexibility that many small businesses need to react to the day-to-day changes in customer volume.


Other legislation proposed or in the pipeline: mandated employer-paid health insurance; repeal of Wisconsin’s Sept. 1 school start date; soda taxes and a beer tax increase. This is after just the first 60 days of legislative sessions.


Those elected to office tend to look at each proposal as separate legislation that has no relation to anything else. However, the small-business person looks at proposed legislation individually harmful and as a disaster when considered in total. To many, it looks as though government has declared war on small business.


Most speak of small business as the engine that drives our economy. It provides consistent job growth and many times leads the way out of recession. Proposed legislation at all levels of government can stand in the way of small-business success and leadership. What we need now is stability. And to get that, small business needs an armistice.


Edward J. Lump is president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, 2801 Fish Hatchery Road, Madison, WI 53713; phone (608) 270-9950 or toll free at 1-800-589-3211; e-mail: elump@wirestaurant.org.

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