When I finally caught up with Suzanne Budge, Idaho director for the National Federation of Independent Business, it was on Fox 12’s television set for the Idaho Business Review/Better Business Bureau “Business at its Best” show.
She has been extremely difficult to get a hold of because the Legislature has been in session. It’s one of those hazards that come with the job.
This year’s session hasn’t done a lot of good for small business, she said. There’s been several items which have made their way into the various committees, but not much has happened.
Key components of this year’s session included immigration reform and tax increment changes.
She said the biggest worry for most of the state’s small businesses isn’t something state lawmakers are dealing with directly, but rather something the congressional delegation has been working on for the past year – health care reform.
All four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation have vowed not to support any health care reform package that is being pandered in Washington, D.C.
“This is something that has got to be stopped,” she said. She said she hears almost daily from small business owners who are pleading to stop this reform.
Budge said she hears from small business that the reform puts too much pressure on business – small companies more than larger companies.
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On March 17, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed a measure that put Idaho in the lead of a nationwide fight against any health care overhaul. The measure would require the state attorney general to sue the federal government if residents – small business – are forced to buy health insurance.
Otter, speaking to reporters at the time of the bill signing, said, “The ivory tower folks will tell you, ‘No, they’re not going anywhere.’ But I’ll tell you what, you get 36 states, that’s a critical mass. That’s a constitutional mass.”
Similar legislation is pending in 37 other states.
The fact there are other states falling into line with similar measures may be an indication that there is a growing frustration with President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
The proposal would cover some 30 million uninsured people, end insurance practices such as denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, require almost all Americans to get coverage by law, and try to slow the cost of medical care nationwide.
Small Idaho companies are suffering most, the Main Street Alliance is reporting. Nancy Snodgrass, Idaho director said small business is where everyone is expecting to see job growth, and typically the small business sector has pushed the nation out of recessions. Their survey shows workers typically are paying more or getting less coverage, or none.
Businesses with fewer than 50 workers employ half of the state’s labor force. Seventy percent of businesses with 10 to 50 workers provide insurance. Just 40 percent of businesses with 10 or fewer workers do, according to the Alliance.
The percentage of employers who offered health insurance to full-time workers dropped to 56 percent in 2009, according to the 2009 Idaho Fringe Benefit Survey conducted by the state Department of Labor.
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a Republican, said he believes any future lawsuit from Idaho has a legitimate shot of winning, despite what the naysayers say.
However, with all the statistics showing that there is already a cutback in the number of employers NOT offering coverage, does it really make sense to slow down the insurance process?
Small business may be the ones who suffer the most in this battle, whoever the victor may be.