A group of 15 small-business owners spent two hours at the White House on Tuesday, nearly an hour talking with President Barack Obama and the rest with his top economic advisers about the fiscal cliff and what should be done about it.
Obama stressed the need for tax cuts for the middle class, and the group discussed what should be done about tax rates for high-income Americans. Most of the group agreed with Obama on taxes, although some said they feared higher taxes could affect investment in small business.
Tax Code Too Complex?
David Ickert, the founder of Air Tractor Inc. in Olney, Texas, and first vice-chair of the National Small Business Association, said most of the group agreed on a middle class tax package. Some of the group, though, feared higher taxes on higher-income Americans could impact small business, both in terms of shrinking the pool of investors and because 83 percent of small businesses pay taxes on their business at the personal income level.
A bigger problem, he told the President, is the complexity of the tax code itself.
“More small businesses cite complexity and administrative burdens as the biggest problem with the tax code than those that cite the financial burden,” he said.
Lisa Goodbee, president of Goodbee & Associates, an environmental and civil engineering firm in Centennial, Colo., was another Washington veteran at the meeting. In September, she was part of a group of 14 the Small Business Majority flew in for two days of meetings with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chair Mary Landrieu, and members of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“Business is picking up as the economy recovers, but my clients could take a big hit if we fall off the so-called fiscal cliff, and that could be devastating for my business,” she told The Business Journals. “It’s really important for my clients and my own business for Congress to take a balanced approach to this problem, and find a sensible solution that both generates revenue and cuts expenses.”
Other small business participants included Deb Carey, co-founder of New Glarus Brewing Co. in New Glarus, Wis. Carey is both an Obama supporter—she appeared in a video in 2011 to support his American Jobs Act—and a critic of both Wisconsin’s Republican governor and the state’s Republican legislative majority. Previously, she was named a White House Champion of Change.
Ickert said of the meeting: "There was just a back and forth discussion between the group and the president." He said there was an "openness and honesty there that was very genuine.”
Chris Yura, a former Notre Dame football player who founded recycled clothing company SustainU, tweeted: “I had the unique and amazing pleasure of talking with President Obama and Vice President Biden." (See the full list of meeting attendees.)
The conservative National Federation of Independent Business expressed dismay that more conservative small business groups were not at the table.
"It's becoming clear that the president only wants to hear certain views on the issue," NFIB spokesman Kevan Chapman told The Business Journals. "We'd welcome the opportunity to allow him to hear from some of our members."
photo: Getty Images