Federal issues a big worry for state businesses

By Chris Dickerson | Sep 9, 2009


CHARLESTON – A new survey reveals that federal issues are the chief concern among state businesses.

The survey, conducted by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, found that state employers also are concerned about health insurance and the state's litigation/legal climate. Business taxes and energy costs round out the list of their top-five concerns.

"The survey is representative of the state's business community, particularly from among small employers, and those defined as 'small business' by the federal government," said Steve Roberts, president of the state Chamber. "The survey results show the significant shift that has taken place among the state's employers, in that they are very concerned about the policy focus and legislative proceedings going on in Washington."

The respondents in the survey were a mix of large, medium and small employers. The Chamber said 46 percent of the respondents employ 50 or few employees, 24 percent employer 51 to 250 employees, and 30 percent employee 250 or more employees.

When asked what kind of impact the new leadership team in Washington is having on current business activity, 48 percent of those surveyed said negative, 6 percent said positive and 45 percent said none or not sure.

Also, 90 percent said they oppose an increase in the federal deficit, and 85 percent oppose cap-and-trade (64 percent strongly oppose).

Other results:

X Federal stimulus spending: 60 percent oppose; 25 percent support;

X EPA's action against coal mining: 62 percent oppose;

X Preserve current federal income tax cuts: 78 percent support;

X Cut federal business taxes: 79 percent support;

X Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA): 83 percent oppose (73 percent strongly);

X Health Care Reform: 77 percent oppose employer penalty, 67 percent oppose public option, 70 percent oppose employer mandated coverage, 57 percent oppose individual coverage mandate.

When asked about 12 general issues, those surveyed generally were pessimistic. But at the top of the list were environmental regulations, health care/insurance, energy costs, business taxes and compliance/paperwork.

Also, 87 percent said the national recession has had a slight or significant effect on overall business activity. The respondents also said they don't foresee a recovery in the near future. About half said the state's economy will decline further next year, 36 percent said it will remain the same and only 12 percent thought the economy will improve next year.

When it comes to the "direction" of the state, those surveyed were slightly more excited. Nearly half (48 percent) said they were optimistic, 25 percent were negative and 28 percent were neutral.

"I urge our state's congressional leaders to give serious consideration to the views of the men and women who provide the jobs and economic activity in our state," Roberts said. "Now is not the time to be enacting laws and pushing policies that will hurt our state's economy."

With more than 5,000 members, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce represents all business sectors in every region of the state, ranging from small business enterprises to Fortune 500 companies. For more information, visit www.wvchamber.com.

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