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Iowa City small businesses concerned about health care costs, economy ahead of election

BY NATHANIEL OTJEN | OCTOBER 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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The results of the upcoming election will affect small businesses across the nation, with several Iowa City small businesses primarily concerned about health-care costs and the economy when electing the next presidential candidate.

The George Washington University and Thumbtack.com released a monthlong survey of more than 6,000 small businesses nationwide last week.

The survey found that 39 percent of small businesses nationally say President Obama is the most supportive candidate of small business. Thirty-one percent said the same of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Twenty-eight percent of small businesses are still unsure about which candidate is more supportive.

“Small business is the engine that drives the economy,” said Bill Brandt, the president of Brandt Heating and Air Conditioning, 1203 Highland Court.

The Affordable Care Act enables small businesses the eligibility for tax credits that can save an average small business with 10 workers $35,000 a year, and that will increase to $50,000 when those tax credits expand in 2014, according to Obama's campaign site.

Romney wants to repeal and replace the current health-care plan and proposes a system in which consumers would have “portable” insurance plans that they could take from job to job and are subsidized through tax deductions. He also wants to partially privatize health care.

The survey found that 78 percent of Iowa small businesses stated health-care costs are important to the success of their business. Twelve percent of small businesses in Iowa indicate that Obama’s health-care policy helps their business.

This finding rings true in Iowa City.

Brandt Heating employs more than 30 people, all of whom are offered health care.

“That is a very, very big concern of mine,” Brandt said. “How does a small business absorb a 20 to 25 percent health-care increase?”

City Councilor Terry Dickens, a co-owner of Herteen and Stocker Jewelers, 101 S. Dubuque St., said health care is also the biggest issue when choosing the next president.

“A lot of [businesses] have gone to bigger deductibles or are not offering [health coverage] at all,” he said.

Other Iowa City businesses agree that the costs of health care are concerning.

“Health-care costs are a concern,” said Catherine Champion, the owner of Catherine’s Boutique, 7 S. Dubuque St. “Every year, we get an increase in health-care costs — anything that costs money is a concern.”

The results of the survey also showed that Iowa small businesses rate self-employment tax costs as the single most burdensome cost to their business — even more burdensome than personal income tax or gas and fuel costs.

“We may be selling different goods, but it’s the same,” Champion said. “We are still supporting ourselves, putting money back in the economy, and putting food on the table.”


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