The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Small business owners: Here’s what we want most from Washington in 2015

What headline would your company like to see this year out of Washington? Share your ideas below. (©Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Congressional leaders and President Obama have given little indication that they're likely to find much common ground in the new year. And if history is any indication, there's little reason to expect them to make headway on the country's most pressing but polarizing issues in 2015.

But that doesn’t mean business owners can’t hope, right?

On Small Business asked entrepreneurs and small employers from around the country to share with us the one headline they would most like to see coming out of the nation’s capital this year, be it from Congress, the White House, the Small Business Administration, or any other corner of Washington. Here’s what they had to say.

Jason Holstine, owner and chief executive at Amicus Green Building Center, a home improvement store and sustainable design center in Kensington, Md.:

Headline: SEC implements JOBS Act; businesses free to crowdfund

Why? We are regularly receiving unsolicited queries from customers about whether we are interested in accepting investors. Under current regulations, we couldn't accept them if they are not accredited investors. We also regularly receive requests to open in other communities. We see a huge opportunity to use online crowdfunding to leverage community support for our growth. Certainly, if the people in a community have a vested interest in a local business, it can underpin its success and impact on the community.

Tom Curtis, tax matters partner at FSP and Associates, a tax and financial planning firm in Gaithersburg, Md.:

Headline: Congress passes, president signs corporate tax reform

Why? The corporate tax rate is too high, especially for professionals who must pay a 35 percent tax on their net earnings while many large corporation pay essentially nothing. A better approach would be to impose a gross receipts tax of 2 percent on worldwide income with no exemptions. This would eliminate depreciation for oil companies and other tax breaks that favor very large businesses at the expense of small businesses.

Mike Moloney, founder of FilterGrade, an image editing software start-up in Boston, Mass:

Headline: Immigration reform finally announced for start-ups

Why? Making visas and green cards more accessible for foreign workers will help bring the best talent to the United States. Without these restrictions, the top engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs can come to the U.S. and further grow our economy. I think as a whole it will help small businesses and start-ups alike.

Timothy Fahey, president of Dirigo Agency, Inc., a branding and design company based in Rockville, Md.

Headline: SBA announces innovative review process for prospective contractors

Why? The current process of doing business with the federal government is incredibly time consuming for small businesses. Instead of submitting excessively time-consuming documentation before meeting with government agencies, why not allow qualified creative and marketing companies to meet face-to-face either in person or Skype call to talk about their capabilities and the needs of multiple federal agency? As companies gain recognition and build their past performances, they can proceed through the normal process of gaining access to bigger contacts.

Paul Saginaw, co-owner and founding partner at Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, which runs a delicatessen, restaurant, creamery, and several other ventures in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Headline: Congress amends constitution abolishing corporate personhood

Why? This could end corporate contributions to candidates, parties and lobbyists. Big money would have less direct control of public policy, and as a result, Congress could pass legislation in the interest of the middle class, which is the entrepreneurial class — the nation's real job creators.

Lawrence R. Jensen, owner of Jensen & Associates, a law firm in San Jose, Calif.

Headline: Congress OKs tax reform, gutting corporate welfare, capital gains reductions

Why: Shifting most of the tax burden back to big businesses and the wealthy would allow for room to reduce the portion of the tax burden allocated to small businesses and the middle class. The cost of subsidizing corporate giveaways and an insular class of super wealthy billionaires has burdened the ability of all small businesses, including mine, to raise salaries and wages, hire more staff and otherwise expand.

Tim Wulf, president of JJ of Reno, Inc., a Jimmy John’s franchise in Reno, Nev.

Headline: Affordable Care Act defunded by Congress

Why? Some economists anticipate the cost of implementing Obamacare to be at a minimum $1 per labor hour. Many small businesses are positioning themselves to minimize the impact of this law and are hopeful that the Supreme Court will essentially defund the law when they hear the case this year. Congress could also act to save jobs and our economic recovery by defunding the ACA, even if it means temporary shut down of government.

Donna Partin, president of Merry Maids, a professional housecleaning company in Mechanicsburg, Pa.:

Headline: Feds crack down on tax cheaters

Why? Being a law-abiding, tax-paying business is expensive, and there are some who choose to cheat all of us who pay our fair share, which runs up the federal deficit. Think of the tax revenue implications if our government would more aggressively go after those "under the table" businesses and individuals, rather than harassing businesses that are trying to play by the rules and pay our fair share with more rules and red tape.

Ann Thariani, co-owner of Gilden Tree, Inc., an eco-friendly footcare and towel product manufacturer based in Omaha, Neb.:

Headline: Congress moves to protect net neutrality

Why? We're just one of the thousands of small businesses that keep the economy humming along and for us the Web is still a pretty level playing field. Although technology keeps changing, we keep learning and adapting so we can reach the customers who want our products. But if bigger players control access and load speeds, suddenly the rules of the game change, and not in our favor. No matter how hard we try, we can't compete with bigger players.

Sean Higgins, co-founder of ilos Videos, a video creation software start-up based in Saint Paul, Minn:

Headline: Government launches one-stop online portal for start-ups

Why? Starting a business is hard enough without figuring out how incorporate, register for the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, get unemployment insurance, or navigate the 20 other government Web sites that you have to sign up for along the way. I know certain functions are state specific, but I would love a centralized resource that maps out what I need to do both federally and locally to get started. Think of it like Turbotax for a new business.

Andrew Lytle, owner of Receptor Sound and Lighting, which provides technical services for indoor and outdoor events in Dunedin, Fla.:

Headline: Obama vetoes Keystone Pipeline, renews focus on renewable energy

Why? Expanding renewable energy operations, specifically solar, will create local jobs and give our consumers added buying power. In addition, shifting our nation's focus from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will also help slow rising sea levels and reduce the potential for oil related accidents that jeopardize the ecotourism that my Florida business depends on.

Lucas Marquardt, managing director of Blue Jeans Capital, a small business capital advisory firm in Denver, Colo.

Headline: SEC revises and releases final rules for JOBS Act crowdfunding

Why? For the past 80 plus years, average Americans have not had the opportunity to invest in their favorite local businesses due to outdated securities laws at the federal level. The JOBS Act of 2012 took a huge step to change those laws, but the SEC has dragged its feet for more than 500 days in releasing the final regulations. Small businesses in our communities have a hard time obtaining capital, even from those investors who believe in the entrepreneur and the business itself. Equity-based crowdfunding with non-accredited investors will change that.

Julia Pitkin-Shantz, owner of Northwestern Mutual, a financial planning firm in Rockville, Md.

Headline: Bipartisan majority passes 2016 budget; Obama ready to sign

Why? This would provide small business owners with some confidence that our elected representatives can put the good of the country above their own individual concerns. Businesses that see certainty have confidence to make decisions to invest in their own business – which will improve economic conditions. Individuals will be able to make plans for their future that they can rely on in the long term.

Dan Focht, owner and president of Bioptechs, a small manufacturer of high-tech microscope accessories based in Butler, Pa.:

Headline: America's domestic productivity and technologies to lead the world again

Why? America's domestic productivity infrastructure is the backbone of our nation, but for the last 45 years, we have been losing our dominance in the steel, auto, plastic, electronic and pharmaceutical industries. We can't afford to lose more of this critical infrastructure. We need legislation that improves our tax laws, eliminates over-regulation and enacts fair — not free — trade laws that enable America to generate the wealth we need.

Laurence Hammel, owner and president of the Longfellow Clubs, a group of tennis and health clubs in eastern Massachusetts.

Headline: Government and small businesses work together to boost the minimum wage

Why? Our business supports an increase in the federal minimum wage because it strengthens the economy by giving families more spending power and creating healthier communities. We've raised the minimum wage in Massachusetts and this legislation is supporting the lives of our staff members who help our small businesses succeed. When government mandates a gradually increasing higher minimum wage it makes it clear to every business that paying a fair wage is part of the "cost of doing business."

Thala Rolnick, owner of the Thala T Rolnick accounting firm in Phoenix, Ariz.:

Headline: Congress restores the IRS budget

Why? In the wake of budget cuts, the IRS cannot as easily respond to business inquiries or assistance. The code is complex and it is very difficult to contact anyone at the IRS, whether it is for technical support or to find out something as simple as verification of a tax payment. The agency also doesn't seem to have the resources to provide information on filing requirements and the tax code to the average taxpayer. In many cases, IRS notice of deficiencies are issued prior to the IRS even viewing the taxpayer's information response.

Bill Hendricks, co-founder and chief executive of Common Form, Inc. a tax software firm in San Diego, Calif.:

Headline: Congress simplifies the tax code

Why? Although it sounds counter intuitive that a tax software company would want the tax code simplified, we very much do. The majority of Americans have relatively simple finances (two-thirds take the standard deduction), yet it still takes them hours and/or costs them hundreds of dollars to get their taxes done due to the length and complexity of the tax code. If Washington would simplify the tax code, companies like ours could help consumers do their taxes in much less time with far fewer headaches and IRS would spend much less time and money processing the returns.

Ken Jarosch, owner and president of Jarosch Bakery, a small retail bakery based in Elk Grove Village, Ill.:

Headline: Obama announces tiered minimum wage structure

Why? A tiered system could, for example, set the minimum at $7.25 per hour for first-year employees, $8.25 per hour for year-two workers, up to, say, $10.10 per hour in the fourth year. This tiered structure would allow employers of young people – typically low margin businesses like grocery stores, bakeries, park districts, retail stores and so on – to keep their expenses manageable, while still providing the type of jobs that young people can perform. Creating a tiered system provides an opportunity to better reward above-average employees.

Ken Lopez, founder and chief executive of A2L Consulting, an attorney-owned and -operated litigation consulting firm in Alexandria, Va.:

Headline: Government moves to "at will" employment; hiring and firing processes now mirror private sector

Why? If we could elevate the quality of those who serve us in government, I am absolutely positive we would get better government. I have run a business for 20 years, and before that I worked in a couple government offices for six years. I was impressed with how very smart and dedicated some of my co-workers were but shocked by how incompetent others were. In the government, letting someone go is inappropriately difficult. We have some amazing people serving us in Washington, and the best thing we can do to reward those talented people is to surround them with others like them.

William Marsh, president of American Bar Products, a steel bar manufacturing company in East Chicago, Ind.:

Headline: Small businesses poised for resurgence, obstacles lifted

Why? After more than five years of anemic growth and a difficult operating environment, fundamentals are finally aligning for small businesses to enjoy a period of strong tailwinds. However, self-inflicted wounds stand between U.S. small businesses and a true recovery. Punitive tax rates and an excessively burdensome regulatory environment are retarding growth. Our company sees tremendous opportunity for growth, but existing, perceived and expected obstacles diminish the likelihood of realizing our potential.

Support any of these ideas? Have your own headlines you would like to see in 2015? Share your thoughts and headline ideas with us in the comments below.

Follow J.D. Harrison and On Small Business on Twitter.