Senate Republicans Announce Reform Agenda

Earlier this week Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and the Senate Republican caucus announced a package of government reform bills that could result in potential savings of more than $2 billion.

Senator Bishop called 2010 the “Year of Reform”.  We at SBAM welcome the package.  This fits in with what we have been working to achieve for most of the past 6 months.  The Senate’s reform package encompasses many of the reforms that we have been calling for.

The state faces a $1.8 billion deficit for the coming fiscal year.  Passage of these reforms will help achieve our goals of reforming government and passing a budget that does not include tax hikes.

The 10 Senate Republican initiatives cover six key reform areas for an estimated total savings of $2.24-2.6 billion:
  • Public employee health care ($615 million in savings);
  • Local police and fire ($70-118 million); 
  • K-12 school spending ($363-663 million); 
  • Medicaid spending ($160-500 million); 
  • Government efficiency (indeterminate); and 
  • Public employee compensation ($1.2 billion).
SBAM looks forward to working with both the House and Senate to see these proposals become law.

Gubernatorial Candidate Rick Snyder Meets With SBAM Board in Lansing

Michigan entrepreneur Rick Snyder was the latest gubernatorial candidate to stop by SBAM headquarters in Lansing. He addressed SBAM’s board of directors on Jan. 21.

Candidates Sheriff Mike Bouchard and Rep. Peter Hoekstra have also visited SBAM in the past few months.

Snyder told the SBAM board that he has a “Top Ten” list of principles for reinventing Michigan, including reforming Michigan’s tax system, fixing Michigan’s broken government and creating more and better jobs. Read the rest of his principles here.


Health Care Reform – Dead or Alive?

(News analysis by health insurance expert Scott Lyon, SBAM’s Vice President Small Business Services)


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Prior to Tuesday night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid and representatives of the White House were working behind closed doors to merge the differences between the House of Representatives’ version of health care reform and the Senate’s version.  But the upset win by Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election for the Senate (the seat previously held by Ted Kennedy) throws a rather large wrench into their plans. 

Why is that?  Because as soon as Brown is sworn in, the Democrats no longer will hold a supermajority of 60 votes in the Senate necessary to get past a Republican filibuster.  As a result, Democratic health care reform advocates are scrambling to decide on a course of action  by weighing the political message of the Massachusetts election against their desire to pass comprehensive health care reform.

The following are possible scenarios currently being discussed:

  • The House of Representatives could pass the Senate bill under an agreement that high priority items of concern between the two versions would be addressed in separate legislation under budget reconciliation rules, which require only a simple majority vote. Examples of what the House would like to see addressed under budget reconciliation include the deal unions made with House and Senate leaders to delay for five years the “Cadillac Tax” on health insurance for their members, as well as the administration and House preference for a national health insurance exchange over a state-based exchange.
  • Continue negotiations with congressional leaders and the administration with the expectation that they can reconcile House-Senate differences, send a final bill to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring, and allow the bill to be posted for 72 hours before a final vote is taken.
  • Scale back a bill that can garner Republican votes in the Senate and pass in the coming weeks or months.
  • Let the bill die altogether and start over.

House and Senate leaders spent the better part of 2009 attempting the massive overhaul of the health care system. President Obama made it his number one domestic agenda item beside the stimulus legislation. Going forward, each option listed above comes with its own barriers and political consequences. Now congressional leaders will have to weigh the consequences of not passing a bill ,where so much political capital has been spent, versus passing some form of health care reform in the face of  the historic election in Massachusetts.

While much has changed in the last 24 hours, what has not changed is the need for health care reform.  For the small business community finding a way to make quality health insurance affordable is still the number one priority.  SBAM and our national affiliate the National Small Business Association (NSBA) will carry that message and our suggestions on a reasonable health care reform bill that serves the needs of all small business owners and their employees.

Small Business Champion Podcast: GOP Budget Reform Ideas (7:10)

In this week's Small Business Champion podcast, SBAM's Vice President Communications Michael Rogers talks with Vice President Government Relations David Palsrok about the Senate Republicans' package of budget reforms that include a 5% pay cut for state employees.


Click here to listen to this week's podcast.



Number and Quality of “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” Nominations Robust Despite Struggling Michigan Economy

The number of companies nominated for 2010 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch, a part of the Michigan Celebrates Small Business Awards program, is at the highest level in the six year history of the program.

“We expected a good number of companies to answer the call for applications, and in the end we received 174 application submissions, resulting in 119 finalists,” says Joy Kitamori, manager of the Companies to Watch program for the Edward Lowe Foundation. “Not only did we get a near record number of applications, but the quality of the companies is really impressive,” Kitamori says. “We think this demonstrates that second-stage companies are well-situated to thrive and expand despite Michigan’s economic circumstances.”

Michigan Celebrates Small Business is a premier annual program to recognize entrepreneurs and small business supporters in a variety of categories. The program is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Small Business Administration – Michigan, the Small Business Association of Michigan, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center and the Edward Lowe Foundation.

The Michigan 50 Companies to Watch program is sponsored by the Edward Lowe Foundation and each year recognizes and celebrates the contributions, innovation and energy of 50 diverse second-stage companies in Michigan. Winners will be recognized April 29, 2010, at the Michigan Celebrates Small Business event and dinner at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing. For more information, go to

Underwriters for this year’s Michigan Celebrates Small Business event are National City (now a part of PNC), Clark Hill PLC, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Certified Development Corporation, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, IBM and Dynamic Edge Inc.

“The Michigan Celebrates Small Business event plays a key role in seeding and growing Michigan’s new economy businesses,” says Don Lee, Chief Marketing Officer of Clark Hill PLC. “Clark Hill represents a diverse range of clients ranging from individuals and new economy businesses to Fortune 500 corporations.  There is a synergy between the event and Clark Hill, this is why we’ve supported the event since its inception six years ago.”

Media partners for Michigan Celebrates Small Business are MiBiz, Crain’s Detroit Business, Upper Peninsula Business Today, the Traverse City Business News,, WWJ Newsradio 950 and the Greater Lansing Business Monthly.


SBAM and Other Business Groups Applaud Leadership By Senate Republicans on Reform

SBAM, along with other business and trade organizations from around the state, today applauded the leadership displayed by Senate Republicans in their announcement of 10 bold reforms that could trim state spending by more than $2 billion. Taxpayers are demanding that elected officials be good stewards of their money and Senate Republicans are living up to that expectation by putting forth a comprehensive plan that can facilitate passage of a balanced budget without increasing taxes.
Rob Fowler, President and CEO of SBAM said, “Business owners large and small are making tough decisions to remain competitive in a down economy, so we are glad to see Senate Republicans are stepping up to the plate to force the state to live within their means.”

“Michigan is facing unprecedented economic challenges and enacting these reforms is exactly what Michigan needs to reduce cost barriers and be competitive in the global economy”, said Mike Johnston Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Michigan Manufacturers Association.

In September, statewide business and trade organizations released a list of 19 suggested reforms that the Legislature should undertake in an effort to combat chronic structural budget deficits. “We have been meeting regularly with Legislators in both chambers and both parties to urge them to reform and revitalize Michigan, these are exactly the kind of reforms we support and Legislators have indicated they would like to see enacted,” said Bill Martin, CEO of the Michigan Association of Realtors.

“The Senate’s bold agenda of reform demonstrates that tax increases are not necessary and the best path to job creation and a revitalized economy is by making government smaller and more efficient,” said Jim Holcomb, Vice-President of Business Advocacy and Associate General Counsel of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Members of the coalition (which also includes the Detroit Regional Chamber, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Lansing Regional Chamber, Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Association of Home Builders, Michigan Bankers Association, Michigan Association of Insurance Agents, Michigan Business & Professional Association, NFIB, Michigan Distributors and Vendors Association, Michigan Grocers Association, Michigan Soft Drinks Association and the Michigan Restaurant Association) look forward to working the Legislators on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol to enact cost-saving reforms that will move Michigan forward.

The 10 Senate Republican initiatives cover six key reform areas for an estimated total savings of $2.24-2.6 billion:

    * Public employee health care ($615 million in savings);
    * Local police and fire ($70-118 million);
    * K-12 school spending ($363-663 million);
    * Medicaid spending ($160-500 million);
    * Government efficiency (indeterminate); and
    * Public employee compensation ($1.2 billion).

Click here for more details.


SBAM in the News

SBAM President and CEO Rob Fowler is quoted in today's Detroit News in a story healdlined "Small businesses in distress." Excerpt:

Businesses that are closing for lack of credit run the gamut, said Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan. No one is safe, and there is no protection from banks that suddenly demand loans be paid back, even if the business has no cash to repay it. "This is an acute problem that's happening at a higher rate than last year," Fowler said. "It's very serious, it's very real."

Read the entire story here.


Union Tax Deal a Slap in the Face to Small Business

The announcement late yesterday that the White House brokered a deal with unions to exempt them from the proposed excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” plans delivered a stinging punch to small business. SBAM’s national affiliate the National Small Business Association (NSBA) has repeatedly called on Congress and the administration to seek alternative methods of paying for the bill as the excise tax will more than likely be passed on to small businesses.
“Contrary to all the pro small-business rhetoric we’ve heard from Congress and the White House, this back-room deal with unions sends a loud-and-clear message to America’s small businesses: we have other priorities,” stated Todd McCracken, president and CEO of NSBA.
As reported, the White House agreed to exempt unions from the excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans until 2018, while small business would be forced to pay it starting in 2013. The deal would raise slightly the threshold for the 40 percent tax to plans that cost more than $8,900 for individuals and $24,000 for families. The agreement also included the exclusion of vision and dental from the overall calculation—a minor concession.
For many months, NSBA has been warning against this tax because it will punish small businesses with plans that cost more simply due to the make-up their workforce. There is no specific prohibition against insurance companies avoiding the tax by charging higher premiums to all small businesses. Small-business owners will have to complete detailed and complex reports on every single company they use for their benefit plans. Finally, this tax is NOT indexed for medical inflation and will begin to ensnare more and more small businesses every year.
From day one, NSBA has been calling for a more reasonable and fair method of paying for this bill by simply limiting the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance.
There is little disagreement that small businesses have been hit the hardest when it comes to rising health care costs—back in 1995, 67 percent of small businesses offered health insurance, today that number is down to 38 percent. According to NSBA’s 2009 Year-End Economic Report—to be released Jan. 20—health care costs are becoming a larger barrier to job growth than they were just six months ago.
“Small businesses are barely staying afloat in this terrible economy and few of us can afford quality health insurance,” stated Keith Ashmus, NSBA chair and co-founding partner at Frantz Ward, LLP in Cleveland, Ohio. “Now that this agreement has let expensive union plans off the hook, small businesses are very reasonably apprehensive that we’ll be left paying their share of the bill.”