Tax cuts top businesses’ legislative wish list
The holidays are over, but that isn't keeping local business groups are taking out their lists and checking them twice.
Business leaders are upbeat on prospects for change in an election year that has all 51 members of the House and half of the Senate's 25 members up for election. They are again tackling topics including unemployment insurance premiums, worker compensation costs and taxes for the session starting Wednesday.
Sam Slom, (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) president of 1,500-member Small Business Hawaii, said he will continue to focus efforts on reducing taxes for small businesses.
At the top of his list is the general excise tax, which went up half a percentage point last January to 4.5 percent in the City and County of Honolulu to fund a $4.6 billion mass transit system. He is also targeting the corporate income tax, which reached 6.4 percent in 2007, the real property tax and the beverage container tax.
"What we want is a reduction of the tax burden, which falls heaviest on small businesses in this state," Slom said.
The Hawaii chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, which has 1,200 members, is repeating its call for lower worker compensation costs this year and will again ask for the elimination for a requirement for owners of limited liability companies to provide worker compensation benefits for themselves.
"We are concerned about increasing costs for employers, which will affect the amount of employees we can have," Hawaii NFIB Director Melissa Pavlicek said.
The group will also be pushing for workforce development to help ease the state's workforce shortage.
"We are on the front lines of facing that small businesses are not able to find and keep quality employees," she said.
The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 11,000 members, said in its annual legislative agenda released earlier this week that its top priorities for the year fall under three categories: cost of doing business, infrastructure improvements and workforce availability.
"We are going to be focusing more this year on the airport modernization plan," President Jim Tollefson said. "The business community has expressed a higher concern in the need to work on and fix the infrastructure."
Other items on the Chamber's agenda include affordable workforce housing, education initiatives such as the 3R's program and improvements to the health care system.
Slom said he supports convening a constitutional convention to help give small businesses a greater voice, as well as tackling Hawaii's "hostile" business climate.
"We've got a government that overspends, overtaxes and over-regulates and cripples any new initiative we have," he said. "Despite the (Gov. Linda) Lingle administration's mantra that the open for business sign is on -- the sign may be on but the bulbs are burnt out."