Small Business: Candidates On the Record

Clues show where these firms stand with presidential hopefuls

topics related to women- and minority-owned small businesses.

Immigration

With heightened border control and immigration laws in the works, experts question whether some small enterprises can survive without immigrants who accept below-wage work. In the farming, landscaping, and construction industries, immigrant labor is common. Unless a guest worker program is implemented, some small businesses fear they won’t be able to find employees willing to work for less. Immigration bills continue to fail in Congress, but all three candidates were in support of the most recent bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. One of its provisions was to provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

“To the degree that minority-owned businesses are located in sectors that require low- skilled labor, tightening immigration laws will adversely affect them,” Boston says. “Minority businesses, particularly in the service sector and in construction contracting, use low-skilled immigrant workers. These businesses are likely to suffer the greatest consequences from the immigration bills that are being proposed.”

Obama offered three immigration amendments that were included in the failed Senate bill. His input helped to strengthen the requirement that a job be offered at a prevailing wage with benefits to American workers before it is offered to a guest worker.

In 2005, McCain was among a group of legislators who introduced the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, a bipartisan proposal to immigration reform which also failed in the Senate. His support of a guest worker program and the path to citizenship puts him at odds with many in the Republican Party.

Minimum Wage

According to a 2006 Gallup poll, 86 % of small business owners don’t think that the minimum wage affects their business. The poll also reported that three out of four small businesses said that a 10% increase in the minimum wage would not impact their company. At the time, nearly 50% of small business owners also said that the minimum wage should be increased, and only 16% of owners think the minimum wage should be reduced or eliminated entirely.

McCain, Clinton, and Obama voted to increase the minimum wage in February 2007 to $7.25. The bill also increased tax breaks for businesses like restaurants by $8.3 million. The minimum wage had not been increased since 1997.

Although research has proven differently, many critics, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), have argued that increasing the minimum wage would hurt small businesses. “If you increase the minimum wage it will be a hardship on small businesses,” Butler says. Republicans, felt the tax break would balance that hardship.

According to her Website, Clinton will fight to raise the minimum wage and to peg Congressional pay raises to increases in the minimum wage. Obama has stated that he would like to create a living wage and index it to inflation.

Tax Cuts

Tax increases cut into the profit margin of small businesses, which prevent them from reinvesting in the business and increasing wages and benefits to attract skilled employees.

“The tax structure of America is set up for business enterprise,” Butler says. “The purpose of

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