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Policy Points: Healthcare, Elections, and Tax Changes That Help 3BL Businesses

Voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives and social enterprises are essential, but are not game changers by themselves. In addition, we need laws and regulations that guide our economy toward sound, long-term decision-making, with full recognition of social and environmental externalities. As business leaders, we can and must support policy change to help make the economy more sustainable. Here are three important policies to consider supporting – and specific actions you can take:

Small business wins with expanded Medicaid

Medicaid is the largest source of funding for health-related and medical services for low-income persons in the United States. Battles are currently raging in many states over whether to expand Medicaid eligibility as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Governors and state officials opposing the expansion cite cost as their primary reason. But there are small business cost factors associated with not expanding Medicaid that are important to consider.

What’s at stake

Small businesses pay about 18 percent more than larger companies for comparable health insurance policies. Medicaid expansion offers several important ways to reduce costs for small businesses.

First, there is a significant cost to a small business when workers are not on the job because they are sick or have to care for another who is ill. Expanding Medicaid to cover some low income workers will economically benefit their small business employers – even those that don’t offer insurance.

Second, small businesses that want to offer health insurance to employees will find it more affordable and easier if some of their workers are covered under a Medicaid expansion. Fewer workers to cover means lower premium cost, but reduced workers are eligible for the private group health insurance, making it easier for employers to meet required participation levels.

The third benefit of a Medicaid expansion involves the new requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees either offer health insurance or pay a penalty. Workers who qualify for Medicaid under the expansion are not counted, letting many businesses that are near the 50 employees ceiling put off offering plans for a few more years.

What you can do

Campaign finance reform will help responsible businesses

Lost in the pomp and circumstance of this past Inauguration Day was a much less celebrated, yet equally important event: It was also the three-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which unleashed a torrent of election-related advertising funded by undisclosed donors to support or oppose candidates for federal office.

Recently, Nancy Pelosi and others in Congress have said that reforming this system is a priority. Among the approaches is the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, a near-term solution addressing the lack of transparency in campaign contributions since Citizens United.

What’s at stake

When big donors sway elections they dominate the policy agenda. Giant old-line corporations and their lobby organizations can put in place elected officials who support their policies. And the impact of unaccounted funds doesn’t end when the election is over. It continues by influencing how legislators act (or don’t act) on specific policies.

If you think this might jeopardize policies that would help triple-bottom line and other innovative businesses, you have company. In a survey conducted by ASBC, 66 percent of small business owners said they viewed the Citizens United decision as bad for small business; only 9 percent said it was good for them.

The 2012 election cycle was the most expensive in history, with an estimated $6 billion being spent on all federal races combined. Much of the money that is flooding the system comes from organizations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($36 million in reported expenditures, plus an unknown amount spent on issue advocacy), which works to influence Congress and the Executive Branch on behalf of its largest members. They can implicitly threaten elected officials with massive financial support of an opponent to keep issues of narrow interest out of the public debate.

What can you do

Corporate tax reform in play

Despite the fiscal cliff deal reached by President Obama and congressional leaders on New Year’s Day, the nation’s finances are still a major focal point for policymakers. A three-month debt ceiling bill was enacted averting the first possible showdown. Next up, however, is the sequester – automatic spending cuts to programs that are vital to keeping our economy on firm footing and defense spending. The sequester, originally part of the Budget Control Act, was intended to force lawmakers to come to the negotiating table and make a deal on revenues and spending. If such a deal is not done by the end of February, sequester cuts will automatically kick in.

What’s at stake

Most economists agree that the drastic cuts in the sequester are a real threat to the recovering economy. To avoid this hit, Congress and the President are considering a number of measures to bring in new revenue to pay for essential government investment and services.

One set of corporate tax reforms would end tax loopholes that allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes with offshore tax havens.  These fixes would begin to address basic fairness in the tax code that favors multinational corporations over small- and medium-sized businesses that invest and create jobs in the U.S.

If we are to invest in an economy that sustains businesses, families and communities, we need all our nation's businesses to pay their fair share. Multinational corporations should not be rewarded for disguising U.S. profits as foreign earnings through clever accounting maneuvers; they should not be rewarded for shifting jobs and investment offshore.

What you can do

Policy Points is produced by the American Sustainable Business Council. The editor is Richard Eidlin, Director – Public Policy and Business Engagement.

[image credit: 401K 2013: Flickr cc]

American Sustainable Business Council headshotAmerican Sustainable Business Council

The <a href="http://asbcouncil.org">American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC)</a> is a network of companies and business associations. Its column, Policy Points, identifies public policies where a business voice, grounded in principles of innovation, fairness and environmental stewardship, can make an essential difference in the advocacy process. The goal is to arm readers with information and specific actions to take. As business leaders, we can and must support policy change to help make the economy more green and sustainable. The column editor is Richard Eidlin, ASBC's Vice President - Public Policy and Business Engagement.

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