In the following op-ed, Philip Bradley explains the harm that targeted tax increases will bring on small businesses in Kansas. Bradley is a lobbyist — a member of a group of people widely criticized for obtaining special governmental favor for their clients. After spending quite a bit of time in Topeka this legislative session, I’ve realized that many lobbyists are simply trying to prevent their clients and their businesses and industries from being harmed by excessive taxation or harmful regulation. That’s certainly the case described below.
For so many small business owners in Kansas, it has been nearly a two years since we started experiencing the toughest economic times ever. So many customers have quit coming into our establishments and those who have come will spend much less. Some small business owners have had to cut back employees and many more have reduced employee hours. And, worst of all, the personal investment portfolios built up for our futures have been cut in half.
These crippling economic times do not bode well for this state where 70% of employees work for the small business owner. But for those of us who have owned our own shops for many years, 2008-2010 have not been the only years of tough times. Often, simply making the weekly payroll is a tough proposition regardless of how the rest of the economy is doing. That is why I believe the small business owners of Kansas will get through these rough times.
Unlike many others, we do not ask for a “bail-out” or “stimulus package” from Washington or Topeka. We simply want to be treated fairly and be allowed to operate our businesses with the full rights of private property owners. We have been fortunate in Kansas that state and local government has not often dealt us a untenable heavy hand either with taxation or overregulation.
But right now in Topeka, there is a threat on the horizon that could make it even tougher for some small business owners to make ends meet during this recession.
As a representative of the Kansas Licensed Beverage Association, I encourage all owners of bars and taverns throughout our state to urge members of the Kansas Legislature to especially forget raising targeted taxes. How could any elected official who has met with any business owner in his district or any of the thousands of people who are laid off — even give any new taxes one thought?
And why do the owners of bars and taverns care about new targeted taxes? It’s simple. On any given night, up to 50% of bar patrons are fixed or limited incomes. And many of them are blue collar workers or lower income retirees. If the Kansas Legislature nearly doubles the rate with new taxes targeted at specific businesses to solve the whole states spending shortfall as proposed, it will be another financial jab at some of our best customers. If our best customers have less to spend, then that really impacts hospitality venues even more and the already large tax burden we have.
Legislators are being pushed by professional advocates with a tax spending agenda, regardless of the consequences to businesses and despite making the rough economic climate rougher. I hope legislators will listen to the taxpayers and not these lobbyists. We are not against education, schools, social programs or government. We are the first and usually the last folks that those groups come to for assistance in our local communities. And we give and help! We have and we will in the future, for we are not battling each other but working together to help our state weather this, just another storm.
So, if new taxes are voted in, it means that state government has made a key contribution to worsening the personal and business situation of our members. And that is something that state government should not do to small business or any business in Kansas. Instead we all should and will create jobs, build communities and climb out and upward!
I want to encourage all our bar, restaurant and tavern owners to quickly contact their members of the legislature and urge them to vote against all new targeted taxes that would punish selected businesses and reward others. Also, urge your customers to do the same. Right now, legislators are under a lot of pressure from tax receiving group’s lobbyists. Don’t let them shout you down!
Philip Bradley, pbc consulting
Representing Kansas Licensed Beverage Association, Kansas Viticulture & Farm Winery Association, Craft Brewers Guild of Kansas and Equal Entertainment Group.