Saying their survival is important to the growth of new jobs in Maryland, owners of small businesses from across the state appealed to lawmakers in Annapolis yesterday to lower taxes and offer relief from regulations they view as overly burdensome.
Business owners delivered their message during an annual lobbying day organized by the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation's largest small business advocacy group.
"We really want less government," said Vaughn Foxwell Jr., owner of the Capital KOA Campground franchise and Heritage Tours in Millersville. "This state has been anti-business so long, it is difficult to make the transition."
As the economy has shifted from manufacturing to service-based over nearly three decades, small business has played a greater role in spurring economic growth and now generates most new jobs, labor statistics show. Small businesses make up 98 percent of all American businesses and employ nearly 60 percent of the work force, the federation says.
"It is absolutely essential we move toward a more business-friendly attitude in this state," said Eamonn McGeady, who sits on the federation's board and runs Martin G. Imbach Inc., a marine and heavy construction company in Curtis Bay. "The regulations in this state almost seem like they're doing everything they can to prevent you from doing something instead of facilitating business growth."
Yesterday, McGeady was among business owners from 16 counties and the city -- members of the federation's 7,000-business Maryland Chapter -- who met with home-district legislators.
Some came, in part, to boost their visibility.
"I'm on a crusade now to save small business from failure," said Joe Shafran, owner of Annapolis-based You're On the Air public relations agency, which caters to small businesses.
"Small businesses need to do more of what we're doing today to involve themselves in the legislative process," he said. "We are so caught up in the beginning of the business, the financing of the business, of being concerned about running it, that we neglect to keep ourselves in the public eye."
The federation, which takes positions based solely on membership polls, supports a proposed 10 percent income tax cut, as a way to promote growth of small businesses. But the group opposes expanding the sales tax base to include services such as funeral services, hair cuts, auto repairs and extended auto warranties.
The membership has also come out against a bill that would change the state's current system of awarding damages in civil suits. Now, people who file lawsuits cannot recover damages if they were even partially responsible for their injuries. A House of Delegates bill would allow a plaintiff's award to be reduced by the percentage of his responsibility for injuries.
The federation is also backing a House bill that would limit damages to back pay in Circuit Court wrongful discharge cases against employers of fewer than 15 employees.
The business owners started the day hearing from national federation President Jack Faris.
"We need regulations and we need taxes, but we have let the pendulum swing so far over and when we have to pull it back a little, it's seen as extremist," he told them.
Political clout will come when small business owners unite as a group, rather than merely identifying with their own trades and industries, Faris said.
The national group plans to create a small business logo, "Small Business Works For America," for use by its 600,000 members, Faris said.
Pub Date: 2/13/97