In State of the Union Address, President Outlines Ways to Help Small Business

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In his first State of the Union address, delivered on Wednesday, January 27, President Obama declared that jobs must be the nation's top priority in 2010. Stressing that job creation begins with small businesses, the President outlined proposals to help small businesses, including better access to capital and tax breaks.

"Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses, but government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers," President Obama stated. "We should start where most new jobs do, in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss."

The president proposed that the government take $30 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money that has been repaid from the national bank bailout program and use those funds to help community banks give small businesses the "credit they need to stay afloat." Obama also proposed a new, small-business tax credit that would go to more than one million small businesses that hire new workers or that raise wages.

"While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small-business investment and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment," Obama added.

Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) praised the president's commitment to make small business a key priority. "Tonight President Obama made it clear that investing in our Main Street businesses is the quickest way to improve our economy and create jobs," she said in a statement. Landrieu stressed that the fastest way to boost small businesses' ability to create jobs is by providing them with greater access to capital and tax credits. With that in mind, she is urging an increase in the cap limit on small business loans, "something that President Obama has encouraged, and that I, along with 18 Republican and Democratic senators, have included as part of S. 2869, The Small Business Job Creation and Access to Capital Act," Landrieu stated. "In addition to raising the cap on loans, this bill extends important Recovery Act provisions that have helped to create more than 500,000 jobs in the last year."

In a press statement, the National Retail Federation welcomed President Obama's emphasis on job creation in the State of the Union address, and noted that jobs are the key to economic turnaround for the nation's economy and retail in particular.

"President Obama's focus on the economy and job creation needs to be Washington's highest priority," NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin said. "As the industry that employs one out of every five Americans, we stand ready to work with the president and Congress to enact legislation that will allow our nation's economy to improve and put Americans back to work. Jobs are truly the key to economic recovery, and that is seen no more clearly than in the retail industry: Consumers don't shop if they don't have jobs, and there's no market for the goods produced by other industries if consumers aren't shopping. The economy simply isn't going to get back on its feet until the employment situation improves."

The president also addressed health care reform in the address. "I took on health care because of the stories I've heard, from Americans with pre-existing conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage, patients who've been denied coverage, families, even those with insurance, who are just one illness away from financial ruin," he said. "After nearly a century of trying -- Democratic administrations, Republican administrations -- we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans." While not offering a specific proposal for action, the president said, "As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed," noting its support among doctors, nurses, and health care experts. But he also stated that if anyone "has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know."

President Obama underscored that he believed the current health care proposal would "give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market." --David Grogan