Did you watch President Obama's speech before Congress last night? According to CNN.com's Quick Vote, 27 percent of the nearly 140,000 survey respondents didn't watch. I have to confess that I'm one of the 27 percent. As I've said in the past, I prefer to read a speech rather than watch or listen as it's delivered, so that I can tune out the applause and commentators' remarks.
Near the end of the speech, after outlining broad plans for recovery, Obama said, "History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And the twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and the explosion of technology that still shapes our world.
"In each case, government didn't supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousand of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive."
This is a great idea—catalyzing private enterprise and helping it adapt, thrive, and remain private. Can it happen on the national level? I have no clue, given how much the federal government is doing that smacks of more government control in some sectors as opposed to fostering true private enterprise. But individual states have begun their own stimulus plans to attract and aid new businesses and beef up their rapidly diminishing coffers.
WSJ's Independent Street recently published a list of several states with stimulus plans that potentially could help small-business owners.
In Colorado, a pending Senate bill would create a loan fund for small business. A pending House bill would give small businesses dealing with clean energy technology certain tax breaks. Republicans are pushing to phase out the personal property tax for business, which is a big accounting headache for small firms. Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. wants to start a $5 million fund called the Colorado Credit Reserve, which should back banks that give small-business loans.
In Florida, small businesses with 10 to 99 employees would be eligible for 2 percent interest-rate loans of up to $250,000 to be used for expansion, which could include capital purchases, employee training, and new position salaries.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's proposed budget plan includes $70.3 million for business-development programs to assist small and minority businesses, plus $15 million for small-business health insurance.
Minnesota's governor is calling for business tax cuts that include tax-free zones for companies that create "green jobs." He also is pushing for a 25 percent refundable tax credit for small-business owners who reinvest in their businesses. He wants a 100 percent exemption on sales tax for equipment purchases by all small businesses.
New Jersey's stimulus plan includes grants and tax incentives for small businesses to hire and expand. Those that hire and retain a new employee for at least one year are eligible for grants of $3,000 per position. They also may be eligible for sales tax credits for capital investments over $5,000.
I want to hear from small business owners, both those who have benefited from local and state grants and tax incentives and those desperately looking for help. Do you want federal government aid? What incentives would give you the lifeline you need? You may leave a public comment on this topic by clicking the Read comments and/or reply link below. If you don't want to leave a public comment, you can e-mail your thoughts to me at email@example.com.