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Small business group polls Colorado members to determine lobbying positions

Tony Gagliardi

Tony Gagliardi, NFIB

Phil Castle, The Business Times

 The budget, unemployment benefits and labor laws likely will rank among the top issues for a small business advocacy organization lobbying at the Colorado Capitol during the upcoming legislative session.

The answers to five questions posed to members of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in the state will help determine how the group lobbies on those issues.

“This kind of gives me a direction of where to go and what my members are thinking,” said Tony Gagliardi, state director of the NFIB in Colorado and Wyoming.

Each year the NFIB polls its members on state and federal issues affecting small businesses to determine its lobbying positions. The group sent state ballots to its 7,000 members in Colorado in November.

Gagliardi expects to soon receive enough responses to constitute a statistically valid sample and publicize the results. “We should see a very significant response, I believe.”

Gagliardi said the five questions on the Colorado ballot address issues he expects to arise during the upcoming legislative session in Denver based on proposed legislation, measures that were unresolved during the last session and developments in other states.

Two questions relate to what Gagliardi anticipates will remain a big issue.

“The budget, again, is probably going to be front and center.”

One question asks NFIB members whether or not they’d support an expansion of state sales taxes to include business and professional services to generate additional revenue to fill budget gaps. Such a measure ultimately would require voter approval, Gagliardi said.

  Another question asks members whether or not the state should privatize some bridges, highways and tunnels as a way to reduce costs while speeding construction of needed transportation projects.

Still another questions relates to state funding for unemployment benefits and asks NFIB members whether or not they’d support a reduction in maximum benefits if the unemployment trust fund nears bankruptcy.

The state covers the first 26 weeks of unemployment benefits using money collected from employers. High levels of unemployment in the state in the wake of the recession drained the  state fund and forced the state to borrow federal funds to continue to pay benefits. Colorado subsequently assessed some employers additional charges to help pay back the federal loans.

State legislation enacted last year is designed to reform the unemployment trust fund, Gagliardi said. But additional measures could be needed to maintain the solvency of the fund, he said, including bonding or a reduction of benefits.

A fourth question on the Colorado ballot asks NFIB members whether or not they’d support legislation making it illegal for employers to discriminate against unemployed applicants in making hiring decisions.

Gagliardi said the issue has come to the forefront on the national level and in several states as the duration of unemployment for some job applicants stretches to years. At that point, employers must decide whether or not such applicants could require additional training to re-enter the work force, he added.

A fifth question on the ballot deals with labor unions and asks whether or not the NFIB should support reforms that would require unions to get annual written permission for members prior to using a portion of their union dues to fund political activities.

Overall, small business owners remain most concerned about economic uncertainty in conjunction with increasing government spending and regulation, Gagliardi said.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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