Small business group seeks regulatory relief

Tony Gagliardi

Tony Gagliardi spends his winters and springs lobbying at the Colorado Capitol and his summers and falls talking to small business owners across the state.

One thing has everything to do with the other.

As state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, Gagliardi bases his lobbying efforts on what he hears from owners who belong to the advocacy group.

What he hears about most these days, he said, is the uncertainty that prevents owners from expanding operations and hiring employees. “Small business needs certainty and predictability, and we just don’t have it right now.”

While it’s difficult to do much about the economic uncertainty business owners face, Gagliardi said the NFIB continues to push for more regulatory certainty —preferably in the form of less regulation.

On a national level, the NFIB has launched a coalition to promote regulatory relief and inform Congress about the costs to small businesses — as well as the federal government — of imposing new rules.

The coalition, called Small Businesses for Sensible Solutions, seeks to ensure that the federal regulatory process includes an independent analysis of the long-term effects of new regulations on jobs and economic growth.

A total of more than 350 businesses and organizations in six states have joined the coalition so far.

Blanche Lincoln, a former U.S. senator from Arkansas, serves as chairwoman. “Small businesses have long carried a disproportionate share of the federal regulatory burden,” Lincoln stated in an NFIB news release. “While some regulation is essential, there are more than 4,200 new environmental, financial, labor and other regulations pending at the federal level today which are causing uncertainty and ultimately harming small businesses and their ability to create jobs. This is simply unsustainable in our struggling economy.”

Citing the results of a study conducted for the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, the NFIB said government regulations cost the U.S. economy $1.75 trillion annually, more than 12 percent of the value of all goods and services produced in the country. In the last five years, there’s been a 60 percent increase in pending federal regulations defined as “major” or “economically significant” in costing the economy $100 million or more.

Dan Danner, president and chief executive officer of the NFIB, said the average small business pays more than $10,000 per employee to comply with government regulations.

On a state level, Gagliardi said the NFIB will continue to lobby for measures that make it easier for small businesses to operate and grow.

Gagliardi said he’s heartened by the pronouncements of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to that end, including a major goal in a new economic development plan for the state to find ways to cut red tape. “We believe he’s stepping up and wants to curtail regulations.”

The difficulty, Gagliardi said, is the governor doesn’t promulgate regulations — state agencies do. Consequently, he said it’s important that agencies only impose those rules that are essential, while eliminating rules that aren’t.

One measure that could help, Gagliardi said, would standardize the form for filing sales tax revenues with the thousands of taxing authorities in Colorado.

At the same time, Gagliardi said he’s concerned about the ramifications of a measure on the November ballot that would impose mandatory paid sick leave for full- and part-time employees of companies located and doing business in Denver. If the measure passes, Gagliardi said he’s worried a statewide rule could follow.

While the majority of small businesses already offer paid sick leave in one form or another, Gagliardi said the ballot measure could affect the flexibility employers and employees now enjoy. And for sole proprietors considering expanding their operations, the measure could serve as yet another deterrent to hiring employees, he added.

In the meantime, the uncertainty swirling around the economy and regulations continue to impose their own effects in hampering business and job growth, Gagliardi said. “Uncertainty is huge. It really is.”