With the Republican party about to assume total control of state government, you’d think small-business groups would be crafting a laundry list of Christmas wishes.
Gregg Thompson, who heads the N.C. chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, said his wish list basically boils down to two big-ticket items – regulatory reform and lower tax rates.
No surprise there. That’s like Ralphie Parker from “A Christmas Story” saying he still wants a Red Ryder BB gun.
Thompson, who spent 10 years in the General Assembly until 2003, did say NFIB has high hopes for Gov.-elect Pat McCrory, the first Republican to win that office in 20 years. (NFIB endorsed him each time he ran.)
“Pat McCrory will be good for business in North Carolina,” Thompson said emphatically. “There is no question about that. He will be good for small business.”
As for regulatory reform, Thompson told of a convenience store owner who claimed to have been visited by various state and federal regulators 21 times during a 12-month period. There were building inspectors, food inspectors and inspectors who came to ensure that underground gas tanks were safe and not leaking, just to name a few, he said.
The store owner eventually decided to stop serving hot food, Thompson said, because of all the paperwork that was required – a decision that cost one employee’s job.
So next year, NFIB is hoping that Republican lawmakers will impose a moratorium on new state regulations until an oversight committee can be established.
Thompson said that committee should be made up of lawmakers, not state agency employees, and should assess future regulations or expansions based on need, redundancy and effect.
“Everybody wants clean water, clean air and clean restaurants and so forth,” Thompson said. “But the number of regulations … is killing small business.”
When asked about the Regulatory Reform Act that was passed in 2011 over Democratic Gov. Bev. Perdue’s veto, Thompson called it a “starting point for regulatory reform in North Carolina.”
The 2011 act sought to lessen the regulatory burden on N.C. businesses by forbidding new rules not authorized by federal or state law, adding new transparency to the rulemaking process and by transferring final authority on regulatory matters from state agencies to an administrative law judge.
On the issue of taxes, NFIB wants lower individual and corporate rates. Thompson said both are too high relative to neighboring states, which, he said, makes North Carolina less competitive.
But with the state facing a $2 billion budget deficit, Thompson acknowledged that the budget gap created by tax cuts would have to be closed somehow, and that’s where things could get dicey for small businesses he said.
As North Carolina moves more toward a service economy, pressure will grow in Raleigh to tax those services, he said. (NFIB surveys found that more than 80 percent of its members oppose such a move.) Thompson said tax cuts can and should be funded by reducing the size of state government.
If services are eventually taxed, he said, NFIB will fight to ensure that the new tax would not fall disproportionately on small businesses such as barbershops and landscapers – entrepreneurs who, he said, can’t afford to send teams of lobbyists to Raleigh.