NFIB director: Talking to members key to advocacy process

Tony Gagliardi NFIB
Tony Gagliardi NFIB

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Tony Gagliardi believes it’s crucial to meet with the small business owners who belong to his organization.

That’s because a lot of what small business owners tell him about the problems they face, Gagliardi in turn tells state legislators as he lobbies for measures to address those problems.

It’s a process that carries more weight in the Capitol, said Gagliardi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “This is what our members are saying. I’m speaking for my members.”

Gagliardi spent several days in the Grand Valley meeting with members of the small business advocacy group — both during scheduled appointments as well as impromptu visits to their businesses.

Gagliardi also met with the directors of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Club 20 to discuss interests those groups share with the NFIB, including econonomic development and transportation.

In an interview with the Business Times, Gagliardi said some NFIB members told him the local economy has rebounded, while other members said business conditions continue to lag.

The cylical nature of energy development has affected not only that industry, but also support businesses and the ultimately the overall economy, Gagliardi said. But he said he’s hopeful exploration and production activity will pick up and the sector will regain recognition for the high-paying jobs and lower utility rates it provides. “We’ve got to stop the attacks on it. They’re not the bad guys.”

Meanwhile, many of the most pressing concerns NFIB members cite remain unchanged, Gagliardi said, including regulations and taxes.

Regulatory reforms remain a priority for the NFIB given the cumulative and disproportionately large effects of regulation on small businesses, he said. “It’s not one regulation. It’s the layers and layers of regulation,” he said.

At the last legislative session in Colorado, the NFIB supported a measure required that when a state agency determines a small business commits a minor violation of a rule, rather than impose a fine, the agency notifies the business in writing and gives the business 30 days to cure the violation. The measure wouldn’t have applied to violations that threaten public health, but to minor violations that often occur inadvertently, Gagliardi said.

The measure failed, however.

On a national level, Gagliardi says he’s hopeful the Trump administration will be able to fulfill campaign promises to reform regulation and taxes.

Proposed cuts in corporate tax rates alone won’t help small businesses, Gagliardi said. Most small businesses don’t pay corporate taxes. Rather they’re what are known a  pass-through entities in which their owners pay income taxes on earnings.

In Colorado, Gagliardi is involved in a task force studying ways to simplify the collection and reimbursement of sales and use taxes, including the possibility of a single point of collection and remittance.

Gagliardi said Colorado operates one of the most complicated and inefficient tax collection processes in the country with more than 700 taxing districts in the state. That imposes additional paperwork and costs on businesses. “We really need to clean it up.”

The task force is expected to offer recommendations early in 2018, he said.

Health care and the rising cost of  health insurance presents another concern for small business owners, Gagliardi said.

While the NFIB initially supported the creation of a health insurance exchange in Colorado, that hasn’t worked out well and members now want to discontinue it, Gagliardi said.

Health care reforms have yet to address a key issue for which the NFIB long has advocated, and that’s affordability, Gagliardi said. Small business owners want lower health care costs and, in turn, lower insurance premiums. They also want flexibility and predictability, he said.

As for the upcoming legislative session in Colorado, Gagliardi expects many of the same issues to arise. That includes  funding for transportation — an important matter for small businesses, especially in rural areas.

Because 2018 is an election year, Gagliardi also expects a lot of symbolic legislation crafted to send a message, but with no expectation of actual passage.

Whatever comes up, Galgiardi said he’ll continue to convey what he hears from small business owners that belong to the NFIB to legislators to address those issues. Those business owners are often better informed than legislators, he said. “My members over here know what’s going on in this state.”