On October 15th, registered voters will begin receiving their mail-in ballots. Long before that we will no doubt be tired of the political mailers, billboards, and media advertising. This year in particular, it seems that every board meeting since early summer we have wrangled with one or more of the fifteen ballot measures (state and local) that will be voted on along with candidates for state and local office.
We sometimes hear from members that we are too “political.” Why should the Chamber of Commerce be involved in endorsing or opposing ballot measures? Why should the Chamber be endorsing candidates? The answer is simple…because on some level it will impact the ability of your business to operate at a profit and be successful. There are numerous examples of that in this fall’s election. Probably the most glaring one is Proposition 112 which seeks to establish a 2500-foot setback from all buildings and unique features such as rivers. It will literally put between 85% to 99% of property in the state (depending on which county you are in) off-limits for oil and natural gas development. And if you think that will only impact companies engaged in that activity, think again. It has been estimated that up to 16,000 retail jobs and up to 12,000 health care jobs could be lost. Beyond the jobs, the funding that industry provides through taxes to K-12 education ($700 million statewide in 2016 and 2017) would have to made up by the rest of us somehow or our schools will see drastic cuts in their operating budgets.
And, speaking of education, the Chamber Board also voted to oppose Amendment 73, a measure that seeks to increase funding for education through a constitutional amendment that introduces a progressive income tax on individuals based on income and increases corporate income taxes by 30%. In an attempt to mollify business interests the measure also gradually decreases the assessment rate under the Gallagher Amendment. However, that then puts special districts that depend on property taxes in a bind as they see their tax base decline, but none of the funding raised by the amendment. This Chamber supports quality education but this amendment has just too many unintended consequences.
Finally, there are the candidates. Why does the Chamber even get involved? And, don’t we always go by party anyway? The answer is simple here too. We need people who understand business and the consequences of their actions on the business community making decisions that affect our bottom line. As we often note, we look for the “B” not the other two initials behind the names of candidates in political races. We look at each individual running in each race and examine the platforms and ask them questions related to business issues.
So, we’ve done our homework…now it is time for you to do yours. Please take the time to carefully study the issues and the candidates. Discuss them with your friends and associates. Then VOTE! It is probably the most important thing you can do for your business this fall.