Letters to the Editor: Tax reform must make big business pay fair share

Who doesn’t love the Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day”? The movie portrays the irreverent shenanigans of a man bumbling his way through the same life event stuck on repeat. He tries desperately over and over, but no matter what he does to change the outcome, he awakes the following morning to the frustration that he must do it again. So, in vain he attempts to change the ludicrous outcome time and time again. Sounds like tax day to me!!
Today, only $1 out of $9 of federal revenue comes from corporate taxes. Sixty-five years ago, it was $1 out of $3. This is especially troubling given Donald Trump’s proposal to slash corporate tax rates by nearly 60 percent — a move that would cost $2.6 trillion over 10 years in lost revenue. And now, with the failed Affordable Care Act repeal at their feet, Republicans will try harder than ever to push through “tax reform” and “deliver,” as promised, relief for primarily the wealthiest Americans. Trump and his allies, with their questionable motives and self-serving goals, have made their intentions clear, and this Tax Day, we need to make sure we are all paying attention.
I am the chef/owner of 3 Square Café in Vergennes. As a small business owner, I recognize that paying my fair share of taxes to local, state and federal governments is my responsibility and a part of doing business. I know that my tax dollars fund important investments at the local, state and federal level. Many small business owners across the country proudly pay their fair share of taxes, while large and multinational corporations use tax loopholes to shelter their profits outside the U.S., depressing the very system and economy they benefit from. But the absurdity doesn’t end there: most of what they’re doing is actually legal.
Last year, around Tax Day, the “Panama Papers” exposed international off-shoring and tax avoidance at a scale few believed existed and with political figures at the highest levels of government. Some of the same institutions involved in this scandal were also major players in the U.S. financial collapse of 2008. Yet, since then, conversation has faded, and little has changed.
We need a tax code that levels the playing field between small and large employers and ensures that businesses of all sizes pay their fair share. However, I have little to no hope that this Congress and President will enact meaningful reform that will benefit small business and the working class. So, in the meantime, I look to my state legislature to move smart, state-level policies forward.
One such proposal moving in Vermont’s legislature that would help level the playing field for small businesses is family and medical leave insurance.
I own a small business, and my modest bottom line doesn’t allow me to make choices about whether to provide paid family and medical leave. I am pleased to see the House taking the proposal to create a family and medical leave insurance pool seriously.
Vermont is a small business state, and without smart public policy, like family and medical leave insurance, it is next to impossible for small businesses to compete with larger businesses for employees that are committed and hardworking. It’s no secret that, as a state, we are having difficulties attracting and retaining talented workers. I’ve had conversations with many people who want to stay or come here to build their lives, but one of the biggest challenges for them is finding a job with generous enough benefits packages to sustain their families. With 80 percent of Vermont’s employers having 10 or fewer employees and many of these businesses operating with razor thin margins, it’s impossible for them to offer a benefit like paid family and medical leave on their own. I see the implementation of this program as a vital tool for the cultivation and success of Vermont’s future economy.
It’s time to consider: “What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was the same, and nothing you did mattered?”
Even Bill Murray’s character knew that in order to solve the problem he needed to become more creative in his approach. We must realize that the status quo is not working, and we, as a society, need to rethink our approach. While we wait for a shake up at the federal level that will allow our leaders to take tax reform seriously, we must continue driving proposals like family and medical leave insurance forward in our state. It will not be an easy task, but desperation spawns ingenuity, and I know we are up to the challenge.
Matt Birong

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