Top 3 Issues Oregon Small Business Owners Need to Know About in 2016

Date: December 15, 2015

After a tumultuous 2015, here’s what to look out for next year.

Wage increases and environmental regulations continue to be among the top issues on Oregon’s 2016 docket, according to State Director Anthony Smith.

With plenty to be concerned about this year alone, including the passage of a mandatory paid sick leave law and a permanent low-carbon fuel standard—not to mention poor unemployment rates—small business owners should keep their eyes on the following issues in 2016.

1. Minimum wage (again)

Oregon may have avoided statewide minimum wage hikes this year, but “labor advocates are pushing a multitude of proposals” for the upcoming legislative session, Smith says. That includes “a closed-door deal with Gov. [Kate] Brown, the labor unions and a few business groups that are willing to accept a bad deal.”

Ballot measure proposals already on the table include a $13.50-per-hour minimum wage plan from the Raise the Wage coalition and a $15-per-hour initiative from 15 Now Oregon.

2. Higher energy costs

“We’re also expecting to see a state cap-and-trade bill from the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in the coming session,” Smith says. The bill would cap greenhouse gas emissions and essentially put a tax on fossil fuels, which could cost Oregon $250 million a year, Republican Sen. Alan Olsen told KATU News.

3. Gross receipts tax

C-corporations—those that are taxed separately and in addition to their owners—could be forced to pay a 2.5 percent sales tax on gross receipts exceeding $25 million if Initiative Petition 28 passes next year. “Even though most of our members would not have to pay the tax directly, the new tax would certainly affect supply chain costs and consumer prices,” Smith says.

On the Plus Side

So what can possibly fuel Oregon small business owners’ optimism in 2016? One positive issue is a proposal from Common Sense for Oregon to repeal the estate tax, protecting all family gifts from state or local taxation. “The estate tax is particularly burdensome for small businesses because many of our members face very difficult financial decisions during their most trying times—during the loss of a loved one,” Smith said.

Another positive note: the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case, which is set for a United States Supreme Court hearing on Monday, Jan. 11. The case challenges state rules that require government workers to pay union fees regardless of their stance on the issue. “This could be a game changer for states like Oregon that are dominated politically by the power of the public sector unions,” Smith says.

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