The stakes are high for President Obama as he approaches the podium Tuesday night to make his State of the Union Address. In an all-important election year, some say the president has a lot of ground to cover for any chance of clinching the entrepreneurs’ vote this November.
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Ray Keating, chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, said he isn't expecting much from the commander-in-chief, despite what's at risk this year.
"We have been down this road a few times," Keating said. "It's hard to imagine he will suddenly change his stripes and come up with a pro-growth, small business agenda."
Small business owners would like to see the administration follow through on promises such as cutting down regulation and keeping tax rates low, Keating said. If, for example, capital investment expensing were to be made permanent, that would be a huge sigh of relief for small business owners, and a signal for them to start investing and hiring.
"Because it's an election year, we will hear about small businesses and how important they are to the economy," he said. "Then, what will be the carry through in terms of substantive changes in policy to help entrepreneurs and investors? It will be completely different."
Dan Danner, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, said business owners are hoping Obama will step up his game and put his past promises into action this year. Taking on regulatory reform and addressing the uncertainty surrounding tax policy would be a great place to start, he said.
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"We'd like to hear the president pledge that he isn't going to raise their taxes," Danner said. "They like to hear him say he understands the difference between an S Corporation, LLC and General Electric, and that rates matter."
Keating echoed that frustration, saying business owners would be unfairly hit if the Obama administration were to raise tax rates on upper income individuals.
"You will raise taxes on investors and entrepreneurs," he said.
The deficit and government spending are also of major concern to business owners, according to Todd McCracken, CEO of the National Small Business Association.
“The number one concern of small business today is the deficit, with tax and regulatory burdens close behind. Making a bold statement in support of comprehensive tax reform—not merely corporate reform which would help only a handful of small businesses—would address all three of these critical small-business priorities," McCracken said in a statement. "This ought to be a no-brainer for the president and all members of Congress—regardless of party."
Committing to creating a balanced budget would also help entrepreneurs get behind Obama, Danner said. The NFIB's members have supported a balanced budget amendment for years, he said, and disagree with the notion of raising the deficit and allowing government to continue borrowing, especially in an economy where they are struggling to secure loans.
"For them, it's pretty simple, you can't run a business if you are spending more than you are taking in," Danner said. "It's the proverbial, 'Walk the walk.' If anything, they are scared that this president will make things worse, not better."