As a small business owner who frequently testified in Salem advocating for Oregon small businesses, I can sympathize with Sen. Chuck Thomsen's guest column that appeared in the May 25 edition of The Sandy Post.
I too have experienced the frustration of partisan politics relating to bills targeted toward Oregon's small businesses. Here are a couple of the bills that are stuck in committee with votes split along party lines:
• HB 3452, Oregon Economic Development Finance Authority: The original intent was to create an Oregon State Bank (SSB 889 and HB 3452) which would free up resources by backing community banks and credit unions in offering loans to small business.
The Oregon Economic Development Finance Authority is designed to consolidate existing loan programs of four agencies into a single portal. Under this plan, the state achieves efficiencies by reducing duplication of services, standardizing the application process and providing flexibility in the distribution of these funds to the programs as needed.
Of course this also will enhance the ability of small businesses to access these funds, removing one of the biggest barriers to new job creation in Oregon during the economic downturn.
The Oregon Bankers Association immediately opposed the original intent as well as the revised version, and the bills will not pass out of committee unless the bankers association approves it. As they say in Salem, the bill is now 'gutted and stuffed,' a process calculated to render it completely ineffective.
• SB 99A, the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange: In its current form, the exchange is not allowed to negotiate with insurance companies for the lowest premium rates and highest-quality benefits.
Only with the authority to negotiate will the exchange be able to ensure small-business owners and their employees have better access to high quality, affordable health insurance.
Small businesses owners have been stating for years that they cannot sustain double-digit, annual increases in insurance premiums, and something needs to be done if small businesses are to continue to offer health insurance for their employees.
Many business groups oppose it, including groups that are allegedly working on behalf of small businesses, such as the National Federation of Independent Business/Oregon.
Of course, this bill was opposed by the insurance providers who will find themselves disadvantaged by any pooling of bargaining power on the part of their small business clients.
Since the start of the economic recession, we've heard continually from all quarters that small businesses are the backbone of the economy here in Oregon and nationwide.
Now is the time for Oregon lawmakers to help small businesses, but partisan politics still seems to trump rhetoric when addressing small businesses and job creation.
Small businesses rely on their legislators to act as a counter balance to the funds and power of those who can withhold donations or mount media campaigns that favor their own interests over the interests of Oregon small businesses.
- Christine Chin Ryan is a Sandy resident. She is chairwoman of Oregon Small Business for Responsible Leadership, and is former chairwoman of the Governor's Small Business Council.