It’s official. Hillary Clinton has announced that she will make a second run at the White House, ending months of all-but-certain speculation and cementing her position as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2016.
While the former first lady, senator and Secretary of State is perhaps best known for her record on foreign policy and social issues, Clinton has made it clear that her economic agenda will be front and center during this campaign. And if recent remarks are any indication, that agenda could include proposals intended to bolster new and small businesses.
During a speech earlier this year in Canada, Clinton called “the slow rate of small- and medium-sized business formation” the most pressing short-term problem slowing America’s economic recovery. “Our economy, historically, and job creation, has been driven by small- and medium-sized businesses, and we’re just not seeing that start up again,” she added.
How would she turn that around, and how would her policies affect employers and entrepreneurs? Here’s an early look at what small businesses can expect from a Hillary Clinton White House.
She’s serious about a minimum wage hike
During her Senate tenure, Clinton was a staunch supporter of a higher minimum wage, several times floating legislation tying congressional pay raises to mandatory increases in the federal wage floor. Clinton has recently reaffirmed her position, adding that raising the minimum would particularly help women, who still fill a disproportionately high number of low-wage jobs.
Holding down the federal minimum wage, and thus holding back women in the workplace, she says, hurts our economy. In September, she slammed Congress for not yet taking action on wage-related legislation.
She wants to close tax loopholes and cut breaks for the wealthy
Clinton has long been critical of the current tax system, particularly of loopholes that benefit corporations and wealthy individuals, but she has not yet outlined the particulars of a plan to reform the tax code. It’s worth noting that her husband made news recently by saying the United States must lower its corporate tax rate, which is now among the highest in the world.
Small business groups have been critical of plans to overhaul the corporate tax code without also lowering the individual rate, which determines the amount paid by owners of small businesses organized as pass-through entities (such as S Corporations). In addition, some business groups have warned against the effects of proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy, arguing that a significant number of small employers fall into the country’s top tax brackets.
She’s open to tweaking the Affordable Care Act
Clinton has repeatedly defended the president’s health care law and ripped Republican efforts to repeal it altogether. However, she has expressed support for revising certain provisions of the legislation that don’t appear to be working, including some of the most important rules affecting small businesses.
During a speech last year in Orlando, for instance, Clinton questioned new rules that treat small businesses of 50 or more employees as large firms, a threshold that requires them to provide health care or pay a penalty. She added that different standards in the law for full-time and part-time workers have been detrimental, prompting some firms to start “moving people from full-time work to part-time work.”
House Republicans have on several occasions pushed through legislation that would address those very concerns, but the bills have been brushed aside by the Obama administration and the previously Democrat-controlled Senate. A Clinton White House, though, coupled with Republican control of both sides of the Hill could breathe new life into those proposed revisions.
She wants more contracts for women-owned businesses
During her first run at the White House, Clinton issued a statement concerning new rules proposed by the Small Business Administration under then President Bush that she said would make it even harder for women-led companies to compete for government work. She noted that, “as it stands, female entrepreneurs are not getting their fair share of federal contracts,” pointing out that they represented at the time one-third of all small businesses but only received about 3 percent of federal contracts.
“There is no excuse for this chronic under-representation,” she added.
Seven years later, not much has changed. Women-owned businesses still represent about one-third of all American companies, according to the latest Census data, yet they received only four percent of federal contracting dollars in 2013, shy of the federal government’s annual goal of 5 percent.
“As president, I will ensure that women-owned small businesses receive the federal contracts they deserve and that the SBA expands opportunities for women business owners,” Clinton said in 2008. Will she make the same pledge this time around? We’ll see.
She has lobbied for more “high-skill” visas
During her first campaign, Clinton threw her support behind proposals to lift the annual cap on H1-B visas. The visas are generally awarded to highly skilled workers in technology fields such as computer science and engineering, where some economists believe – and many tech leaders and start-up founders say – there are not enough qualified U.S. job candidates to meet demand.
Currently, the number of H1-B visas is limited to 65,000 per year. In recent years, applications have blown past the limit in matter of weeks, prompting members of Congress from both parties to call for an expansion. Labor groups have pushed back, warning that lifting the cap will result in a flood of cheap foreign labor that will take even more jobs away from American workers.
“Let’s face the fact that foreign skilled workers contribute greatly to what we have to do to be innovators,” Clinton said at the event.
It’s worth noting that the limit was temporarily raised twice by Congress in the late 1990’s, first to 115,000 per year and then as high as 195,000. Both times, the increase was the result of legislation signed by then-President Bill Clinton.