“I’m dreaming…of a …White Christmas…just like the ones we used to know.”  by Irving Berlin

So goes the well-known holiday carol that Bing Crosby croons this time of year. Small businesses certainly have things that they are dreaming of – increased business, expanding their workforce, building their customer base and supporting their communities.  The question is – will our state leaders make those dreams a reality in 2012?

Believe it or not, there were some victories for Main Street in 2011, thanks in large part to the leadership efforts of the National Federation of Independent Business: holding the line on tax increases, implementing a review of new regulations, and the vetoing of card check legislation, to name a few.

Looking ahead to 2012, what is small business hoping for from their elected leaders and Sacramento?

First, like every other year, small business owners have made it quite clear that they are overwhelmingly opposed to any new taxes.  Time and time again when balloted, NFIB/California small business owners have said that now is not the right time for more taxes on individuals or businesses. In June, when NFIB polled members across the state, 96 percent of those responding indicated that California should not use tax increases to balance the state budget. I’m not sure how much clearer we need to be – especially when 87 percent of those surveyed didn’t support even putting tax increases on the ballot.  The message is clear – government should only spend what it brings in – and not a penny more.  And when revenues are down, they need to adjust, just like the small business owner does.

Second, small business owners are ready to see real regulatory reform and accountability for government. Senate Bill 617 (Calderon and Pavley), which Governor Brown signed, was a step in the right direction.  It requires a thorough economic analysis for every regulation with an economic impact of over $50 million. This doesn’t fix everything, but it is a huge step in the right direction for addressing California’s regulatory nightmare.  On the flip side, the Governor missed a huge opportunity to allow small business to have a voice on the California Air Resources Board by vetoing NFIB-sponsored legislation that would have required one member of the board be a small business owner.  While we are disappointed in that decision, NFIB and small business will not give up our effort to ensure Main Street has a seat at the table in the regulatory process.

Small business owners also want help stemming the tide of frivolous lawsuits in our state.  In a survey released this year by California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, California voters believe the number of lawsuits filed in our state hurts our economy, and they’re concerned that if we don’t make reforms now, these lawsuits will continue to cost us more jobs and send us further down the financial hole. In a survey of NFIB members, more than one-third of small business owners have been sued in the past five years and nearly 6 in 10 have been threatened with a lawsuit during the same period.  Clearly there is as problem – but the challenge is to get legislation passed in Sacramento to fix the problem.  Recently, NFIB was proud to participate in a press conference with Congressman Dan Lungren where he announced federal legislation to reform the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  H.R. 3356, or the ACCESS Act, would allow small businesses sufficient, reasonable time to fix alleged ADA violations before they are hit with a lawsuit.  Small businesses are eager for someone in Sacramento to take up this cause and pass similar legislation in 2012 that would provide them additional protections in California.

Finally, small business owners want to see that their legislators understand their challenges and support them.  Too many of our elected leaders get to Sacramento and then forget who they represent – our annual voting record released each January makes that clear time and time again.  It is time for those sent to Sacramento to walk the talk – and leave the sound bites and campaign slogans behind.  NFIB is actively working to recruit candidates this next cycle that genuinely understand small business and know the challenges that they face.  Small business owners are too critical to the economic recovery of this state for them to sit on the sidelines and be ignored any longer. Keep an eye out for the NFIB Voting Record, which is expected to be released soon — and be sure to hold your Senators and Assembly Members accountable if their actions don’t match their rhetoric.

So, will 2012 be the year in which small business’ dreams come true?  Or will it be another year of cleaning up the sludge after a storm that leaves them worse off than they were before?  Only time will tell, but this is the perfect storm for small business owners and all Californians to hold their legislators accountable – now through Election Day.