Liias proposes bill to bolster small businesses

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State Rep. Marko Liias had introduced legislation with a package of proposals to support small businesses and encourage their growth. Liias, D-Edmonds, has spent the last year listening to business owners and the challenges they’re facing in the recession.

“Small businesses are fighting to keep their doors open right now,” Liias said. “As a state, I believe we need to step in and help where we can to keep them, and the jobs they provide, alive.”

After hearing business concerns, this fall Liias began working on creative solutions and pledged to make it his first order of business this session. His legislation, House Bill 1165, features a small business loan program to help secure or guarantee loans to businesses. It would allow the Department of Commerce to put together a program with up to $100 million in loans or guarantees.

“The credit freeze we initially encountered in 2007 is thawing, but at a very slow pace,” Liias said. “Access to credit is a staple of many businesses, and since good companies are still being denied, we have a problem that will slow our recovery. A state loan program could step in and keep our economy moving forward.”

Liias would also provide a tax credit for businesses adding workers, an idea he’s pushed in previous sessions. Depending on the pay and benefits offered, and annual $4,000 or $2,000 business tax credit would be given.

“If you take an overall look at the benefit of companies putting people back to work, offering a small incentive during high unemployment is a common sense win for the whole state,” Liias said. “Businesses are rightfully tentative to move too quickly, so this is a way to make that any new hiring pencils out for their balance sheet.”

An online portal with information on all of the state programs to help business, and a taxpayer bill of rights are other features of the proposal. The bill of rights focuses on ensuring the state informs businesses upfront what tax codes apply to them, and removes penalties on businesses that unintentionally make mistakes with their tax filings.

“We need to improve the relationship between the state and businesses,” Liias said. “A lot of the angst from the business community can be helped with better information and assistance. These changes will get the state off to a good start with companies, and be compassionate when mistakes occur.”

Liias has begun building support with other lawmakers, and hopes to have a hearing on the bill in the coming weeks. The 2011 legislative session is scheduled to end April 25.

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