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2014 small business agenda goes beyond minimum wage

By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG AP Business Writer

Publication: The Day

Published January 26. 2014 4:00AM

New York - Minimum wage may be getting most of the headlines, but other issues that affect small businesses will be debated when state legislatures convene around the country this year. Tax cuts will be high on many agendas as will various kinds of leave.

A look at some of the issues lawmakers are expected to take up in 2014:

Taxes

Expect small business groups to lobby for tax cuts. State and local revenues have increased as the economy recovered from recession and more people worked and paid taxes. The total amount of taxes collected by state and local governments nationwide was up 7 percent during the second quarter of 2013 from a year earlier, according to the most recent figures available from the Census Bureau.

Governors and legislators will likely be willing to lower taxes. There are 36 gubernatorial elections this year, and legislative seats in 46 states are also expected to be on the ballot.

The taxes that will be targeted will become clear as governors give state of the state addresses in the coming weeks, says Steve Woods, senior vice president for state operations for the advocacy group National Federation of Independent Business. Real estate tax cuts are on wish lists of many businesses. Groups are also going after specific business taxes. Indiana's Chamber of Commerce wants a repeal of the state's tax on business property including machinery and equipment. Kentucky's chamber is seeking an end to a tax on inventories.

Family, sick leave

Connecticut, Illinois, and New York are among the states where bills about family or sick leave are expected to be introduced.

Three states - California, New Jersey and Rhode Island - have what are called family and medical leave insurance laws that provide for employees to receive some of their salary when they take leave. A state insurance pool, which workers but not their employers contribute to, funds the payments. In New Jersey, for example, workers will pay a maximum of $31.50 into the pool this year.

Paid sick leave bills, meanwhile, would require owners of many businesses to grant workers paid days off for illness or to care for a sick relative. Such laws are in effect in Connecticut and cities including New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore.

Minimum wage

The minimum wage will be debated across the country. In 2013, bills to raise the minimum wage were introduced in more than 30 states and Washington, D.C. Lawmakers in four states including California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island approved increases.

States where a minimum-wage hike has the best chance of approval include Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, according to Holly Sklar, director of the advocacy group Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. But states whose neighbors have higher minimums may be pressed to raise their wages to compete for workers.

Groups opposing a higher wage say increases will hurt small businesses like retailers and force some to cut jobs. But company owners surveyed last year by the advocacy group Small Business Majority supported a higher minimum wage. Two-thirds wanted the wage increased from the current federal minimum with annual adjustments for inflation. Eighty-five percent said they paid their employees above the minimum.

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