Will Small Business ‘Deck the Halls’ this holiday season, or have a ‘Blue Christmas’?

To say that 2013 was challenging for small business is really an understatement.  Coming off of 2012 saddled with additional taxes with the passage of Prop. 30 and more regulations with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many small business owners certainly thought that some restraint might be shown this year.

That turned out to be too good to be true – our elected representatives were able to get a 25% increase in the minimum wage passed, which means that small business owners will be paying $10 an hour in 2016.  And there are some who are proposing $15 an hour in the future!

While legislators opted to heed the call of Big Labor instead of their constituents to get the minimum wage bill passed, NFIB was able to stop a slew of other bills that would have lowered the threshold for increasing parcel taxes and raised upwards of $6 billion in taxes on a host of other things including property, plastic bags, sweetened beverages and oil.  But make no mistake – these bills will be back in 2014 as legislators try once again to tax and fee small businesses out of existence.

So as we look forward to 2014, what is it that small business wants – no, needs – in order to survive and thrive in California?

First, small business owners call on the Governor and Legislature to rein in the out-of-control California Air Resources Board.  CARB has never taken the time to talk to and hear from small business about the devastating impacts that AB 32, cap and trade, and diesel regulations are having on Main Street.  If those regulations continue to be rammed through without small business – our number one job creators – in mind, there will be unintended consequences for small employers, including job loss and business closures.  And while we are on the topic of state agencies, our state leaders need to match actions with rhetoric to stop state agencies from shaking down mom and pops.  There are too many agency representatives out there acting like bounty hunters, instead of finding ways to help – there is no incentive to help businesses when the fines go into agency budgets.  We don’t think this is what the Governor had in mind as a way to keep and attract business here.

Regulatory reform also needs to continue to be a priority for the Governor and those in the Capitol.  We were able to achieve some Prop. 65 reform this year, with Assembly Bill 227 (Gatto), which will allow certain businesses, including restaurants, fourteen days to fix any Prop. 65 warning problems before they can be sued. This is important and welcome because Prop. 65 lawsuits generate twice the revenue for attorneys that ADA lawsuits do.  We need to bring honest science to “green chemistry” and need to stop paving the way for plaintiff’s attorneys to sue small businesses.  Much more needs to be done to hold greedy lawyers accountable and give small business owners more certainty in the midst of all the permits and rules they have to comply with.

Finally, on the legal front, we are hopeful that next year the California Supreme Court will review and overturn precedent in the lower courts that says that business owners must compensate employees at a minimum hourly rate for non-productive time, even if those employees make an annual salary far in excess of what they could possibly make working at minimum wage.  It is time for some levelheaded decisions to be made in favor of small business owners, who treat their employees like family and want what is best for them.

If all else fails and we don’t get what we need from those already in office, small business owners want to see more of their own serving in the Legislature.  NFIB/CA and our members certainly appreciate those currently in office who support small business, but there aren’t nearly enough in the Capitol building.  We need leaders who have had direct experience in signing the front of a check – and who will put Main Street’s interests above unions, trial lawyers, or big corporations.  This is a huge priority for NFIB and is the only way that small business owners will truly be heard and given opportunities for success in this state.

We don’t think  hard working, uncertain mom and pops are asking too much of our leaders in Sacramento these days – simple common sense will go a long way in fixing a lot of the challenges that small businesses face.  Perhaps if our politicians make it a practice to stop and ask themselves, “What would a small business owner do?” we all might find a greater spirit of hope on Main Street – not just during the holiday season but every day of the year.


For more than 70 years, the National Federation of Independent Business has been the Voice of Small Business, taking the message from Main Street to the halls of Congress and all 50 state legislatures. NFIB annually surveys its members on state and federal issues vital to their survival as America’s economic engine and biggest creator of jobs. NFIB’s educational mission is to remind policymakers that small businesses are not smaller versions of bigger businesses; they have very different challenges and priorities. Learn more at www.NFIB.com/ca.