Small Business Tax Rankings Released

The “Small Business Tax Index 2017: Best to Worst State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship and Small Business” ranks the 50 states according to the costs of their tax systems for entrepreneurship and small business.

View an interactive U.S. map of “Small Business Tax Index 2017” results.

Raymond J. Keating, chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship (SBE) Council and author of the report, said: “While there is much discussion in Congress and the Trump administration about making the federal tax system more competitive, these issues obviously reach down to state and local levels as well. That’s the focus of SBE Council’s ‘Small Business Tax Index 2017.’ Specifically, which states are among the least burdensome in terms of taxes, and which inflict the weightiest burdens on small businesses?”

The SBE Council pulls together 26 different tax measures, and combines those into one tax score that allows the 50 states to be compared and ranked. Among the taxes included are income, capital gains, property, death, unemployment, and various consumption-based taxes, including state gas and diesel levies.

According to the “Small Business Tax Index 2017,” the 10 best state tax systems are: 1) Nevada, 2) Texas, 3) South Dakota, 4) Wyoming, 5) Washington, 6) Florida, 7) Alabama, 8) Ohio, 9) North Carolina, and 10) Colorado.

The bottom 10 include: 41) Connecticut, 42) Oregon, 43) New York, 44) Vermont, 45) Hawaii, 46) Iowa, 47) Minnesota, 48) Maine, 49) New Jersey, and 50) California.

Since last year’s report, several states have made significant tax changes.

Five states – Arizona, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and North Carolina – have improved their tax climates by reducing their personal or corporate income tax rates. Other states – such as New Mexico and Tennessee – have scheduled changes that will improve their tax climates for entrepreneurship, business and investment in coming years. Unfortunately, all of the news is not good. Kansas, Maine and New York have made tax changes that are negatives.

Give Me Liberty! Give Me a 51st State

A television station in Washington state recently reported that representatives there would like to divide their state — with the eastern half becoming the state of Liberty. Legislation includes the following: “Since statehood, the lifestyles, culture and economies of eastern and western Washington have been very distinct and dramatically different.”

The TV outlet reports a tech, service-oriented economy in Seattle and Olympia (the capital), while Spokane anchors the east with roots in mining, forestry and agribusiness.

Not surprisingly, forming a new state is not a simple process. But shockingly, at least 12 new states have been proposed at one time or another (according to State Legislatures magazine). Among the offerings: South Alaska, South Florida, North Maine and Superior (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula).

Behind Indiana’s Impressive CEO Ranking

Many of you likely saw the news yesterday about Indiana maintaining its No. 5 overall ranking – and tops in the Midwest – in Chief Executive magazine’s 13th annual Best & Worst States for Business survey. A few things that might have been missed:

  • As the name indicates, these rankings are based on CEO perceptions. It’s good for Indiana to be regarded so highly overall by the group making ultimate business decisions, but it also leads to few changes for most states
  • Texas was No. 1 for the 13th straight year and Florida No. 2 for the fifth year in a row. North Carolina (despite the turmoil over its since-repealed transgender bathroom issue) and South Carolina also topped Indiana
  • At the bottom, California was at No. 50 for the sixth year in a row. New York and Illinois were next in line
  • There has been some movement, however, in the middle. Ohio, now at No. 11, was No. 41 in 2011 and No. 22 just two years ago. On the other end of the spectrum, Louisiana was No. 7 in 2015 and No. 33 this time around
  • Indiana’s individual category rankings included: Workforce quality, No. 8 (although we know there is much work to do in this area); taxes and regulation, No. 14 (we would have expected to be a little higher there); and living environment, No. 16
  • Industry rankings were also part of the survey. Indiana was second in manufacturing and 10th in energy

Larry Gigerich, executive managing director of Fishers-based Ginovus and chair of the Indiana Chamber’s economic development committee, was quoted in the release of the rankings. He said simply, “The top-ranking states have continued to implement public policy supporting economic development to ensure that they remain as leaders.”

Complete rankings are available online.

Utah Tops List of Where Growth is Happening

Utah’s population topped three million people in 2016, with the state being the fastest growing in the 12-month period starting July 1, 2015. The western flavor continued with others at the top of the list including Nevada, Idaho, Florida and Washington.

Now, approximately 38% of the population lives in what the Census Bureau identifies as the South, with 24% in the West.

Kiplinger goes a step further, with cities where it expects job creation to thrive going forward. At the top of that list (with a reason or two cited) are:

  • St, George, Utah: magnet for tourists visiting Zion National Park and retirees seeking pleasant weather
  • Bend and Redmond, Oregon: also strong in tourism and drawing retirees
  • Cleveland, Tennessee: home to a wide range of manufacturing operations
  • Prescott, Arizona: cooler climate makes it an attractive alternative to Phoenix
  • Savannah, Georgia: home of the fourth-busiest ocean port, which will grow once its harbor is deepened to handle larger vessels

Waiting … and Waiting on a Highway Funding Fix

30449450Federal highway funding is running low. Nothing new there. The Indiana Chamber, and many others, have called for long-term solutions from Washington instead of short-term fixes that simply extend the uncertainty.

How are states reacting to the current dilemma. According to the Kiplinger Letter:

  • Arkansas, Georgia, Wyoming and Tennessee have postponed 440 projects totaling more than $1.3 billion
  • Iowa, South Dakota and Utah have increased gas taxes. Others that may follow include Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Carolina
  • Seeking funds from advertisers: Virginia sells space on highway rest stop signs to GEICO; Travelers Marketing sponsors highway patrols in Massachusetts
  • Partnering with private investors: Florida is seeking private funds to rebuild portions of Interstate 4; New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia are seeking similar ventures

Kiplinger editors add:

But states can only do so much on their own. Ultimately, Congress must act. Odds favor another temporary fix this fall. A long-term solution will likely wait until 2017. Congress and a new president will have a fresh opportunity to tackle broad tax reform, including a possible hike in federal fuel taxes, which no longer approach what’s needed to pay for highway work.

Not what many want to hear in terms of the time frame.

Illinois Woes Continue to be Indiana’s Gain

Indiana has had more than a little success in attracting businesses to head immeditely east — from Illinois to the Hoosier state. A Rockport Register Star political reporter says the numbers show just how bad the situation is in his home state.

The Land of Lincoln is a tough place to do business to be sure.

For example, Office Depot has been capturing plenty of headlines. The company recently merged with OfficeMax, and its executives were pondering whether to use OfficeMax’s Naperville headquarters or Office Depot’s Boca Raton, Fla., site.

The Sunshine State won out. It’s not hard to figure out why.

Just consider:

  • Illinois has a corporate tax rate of 9.5 percent (7 percent income, 2.5 percent personal property replacement tax) while Florida has a 5.5 percent corporate tax rate.
  • Illinois has a personal tax rate of 5 percent while Florida has none.
  • For every $100 worth of payroll, Illinois employers pay an average of $2.81 for workers’ compensation insurance, compared to $1.84 in Florida.
  • Illinois’ minimum wage is $8.25 per hour, compared to $7.79 in Florida.

You see, it’s not just Florida that Illinois has trouble competing against. It’s just about every state that has a leg up on the Land of Lincoln.

Just consider:

  • A study conducted by the state of Oregon found that Illinois has the fourth-highest workers’ compensation rates in the nation.
  • Illinois also has the fourth-highest minimum wage in the nation.
  • Illinois’ corporate tax rates rank, you guessed it, the fourth-highest in the nation.
  • Given these numbers, it’s little wonder that Illinois has the 11th-lowest rate of entrepreneurship in the U.S., according to the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Index.

And small businesses are the major job generators in the economy.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small firms employ just more than half of the private sector workforce and created nearly two-thirds of nation’s net new jobs over the past 15 years. Please keep in mind, every big company started out small.

 

Higher Ed: Putting a Dollar on Degrees Off to a Slow Start

College costs are the theme today. We've written before about the desired $10,000 degrees in Florida. The options appear to be limited with few takers thus far at the 23 state colleges (formerly known as community colleges). The savings for students would typically come at the end of their academic experience. The Sun-Sentinel reports:

A highly touted program to offer $10,000 college degrees is off to a slow start in South Florida.

The region's three state colleges accepted a challenge from Gov. Rick Scott in January to offer low-cost degrees this school year in fields where there is high job demand. But the degree options are limited, the eligibility requirements are often tough and the marketing efforts have been light.

Broward College opened the program up a month ago, but so far no one has signed up for any of the 80 open slots.

"We've gotten some interest. We haven't gotten any applications," said Linda Howdyshell, Broward College's provost. "We just started getting the word out.''

Palm Beach State hasn't started accepting applications yet. The college is still determining eligibility requirements and only plans to offer the $10,000 degree in one field, information management.

Both colleges have decided against offering discounts in nursing, one of the most popular high-demand degree fields.

"We only offer three bachelor's degrees, and the nursing one is extremely expensive," said Grace Truman, spokeswoman for Palm Beach State. "We felt the information management degree was the most workable."

Randy Hanna, chancellor for the state college system, said it's too early to measure the success of the program. He and a spokeswoman for Scott said they were pleased all 23 community colleges that offer bachelor's degrees agreed to designate at least one $10,000 degree.

"You have to have time to structure programs that meet the needs of students and the local workforce," Hanna said.

The $10,000 price tag is about $3,000 cheaper than the normal cost of tuition and fees for a bachelor's degree at state colleges, formerly known as community colleges. It's less than half of what four-year public universities charge.

Each college determines how to derive the $10,000 cost. Some schools, including Indian River State College, require students to take dual enrollment classes in high school to qualify.

At Broward College, students can sign up now, but they won't see any savings until their final year. Students must pay full tuition for their first three years, which totals about $10,000, and then they get their fourth year free.

Ad War Winner is TV Stations in Key States

Combined television advertising spending in the presidential race is on pace to top $1 billion by Election Day. And while you might think you’re seeing more than a few attacks and the occasional "I have an idea" spot here in Hoosierland, we’re actually barely a blip on the radar screen.

Residents in the battleground states are being bombarded. Just last week, the tally came to an estimated $14.3 million in Florida, $13.9 million in Ohio and $9.3 million in Virginia. Colorado and Iowa have also been part of the mix since the summer.

In fact, before the campaign was even in full swing, here were the 10 media markets as defined by most gross rating points (an advertising measure that, in simplied terms, means  reach times frequency) for just July and August.

  1. Colorado Springs
  2. Roanoke-Lynchburg
  3. Richmond-Petersburg
  4. Denver
  5. Des Moines
  6. Columbus
  7. Cincinnati
  8. Cleveland
  9. Tampa-St. Pete
  10. Cedar Rapids

I guess one can always switch the channel, but there’s no guarantee you won’t be "attacked" there as well. Good luck and remember there are only two more weeks to go.

There’s Only So Much (Political Advertising) a Person Can Take

Who doesn’t enjoy a good campaign commercial? With politicians lambasting their opponents, blaming them for the recession, mortgage failure, tax crisis, Midwest drought and McDonald’s taking away the McRib sandwich (okay, those last two are a bit facetious – obviously no one controls the weather), what’s not to love?

And no doubt you’re already saturated with political campaigns. “How can this be?,” you proclaim. “It’s only August!”

You are not wrong in your exasperation. The sheer number of television campaign advertisements shown so far this year is shocking (with three months to go before the election, even) and the amount of money spent by candidates and Super PACs is astounding.

Think you’ve had enough? Be glad you don’t live in Ohio. Or Florida. Or North Carolina. The money spent on the presidential election alone in this cycle has been $37.2 million in Ohio on TV ads; $36.3 million in Florida; and $20.4 million in North Carolina.

In fact, across nine “battleground” states (the three listed, along with Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire), the presidential campaigns and Super PACs have spent $174 million on television spots alone. And that amount was just for nine states through the beginning of July.

Let me put that into perspective: According to ESPN, in 2012 the average cost for a 30-second television ad during the Super Bowl was $3.5 million. That $174 million spent so far on presidential advertisements in nine states equals about 50 Super Bowl commercials. (Unfortunately, politicians don’t include the Budweiser Clydesdales or barking dogs dressed as "Star Wars" characters in their ads.)

It’s not just which states you are in, but also the networks you watch. For instance, if you are a regular Fox News viewer, chances are you’ve seen a number of the 479,055 advertisements that have aired on the network thus far. CNN is next with 191,027 campaign ads and another news network, MSNBC, aired 75,207, according to NCC Media.

You can’t really avoid it by changing the channel, either. ESPN, TNT, USA, Lifetime, HGTV, and the Weather Channel, to name a few, top the list of number of ads aired this election cycle. Even Food Network viewers can’t escape the barrage (33,118 ads so far interspersed between Paula Deen and Bobby Flay).

It’s safe to say that as the election draws closer, we will see even more of these ads. But, are they effective? Americans that are planning to vote most likely have decided which candidate they will support – but there are always individuals that can be wooed at the last minute.

One thing is for sure, however: The broadcast television industry must really love election time.

‘First, Do No Harm’ Should Apply in Schools

Far, far too many times criticism of K-12 education is seen as an attack on teachers. In the vast majority of cases, it’s not the educators in the classroom (or anywhere in the school building for that matter) who are standing in the way of what is in the best interests of students.

Consider these recent cases from around the country (courtesy of the Education Action Group):

  • For one Michigan educator, the annual costs of “non-membership” in the local, state and national teacher unions total $544.28. Andrew Buikema has been trying to leave the union since last spring, when he realized that union leaders were uninterested in helping the district control costs, even in the face of a multi-million dollar deficit.

 
“They keep asking for more and more, even though the school district can’t afford it,” he told EAG. “They’re concerned about taking care of the adults and have no consideration for the kids. I don’t want to be part of an organization that says one thing and does another,” he said.   

The union responded to his resignation request last month by sending approximately 150 pages of documents. The upshot of all those documents is this: Buikema can technically quit both unions, but he must still pay them $544.28 in “service fees,” which equals 67.7 percent of a normal union membership.
 

  • These days a lot of school budgets are being held together by the accounting equivalents of bailing wire and duct tape. But one Pennsylvania school district is so broke that it needs the state to provide the wire and the tape.

The Chester Upland School District began this week with only $100,000 in its savings account, and had no way of meeting its $1 million payroll – that is, until a judge ordered the state to give the district a  $3.2 million advance in its allowance.

The money will allow the teachers to be paid and the lights to remain on, at least for a few more weeks. The district is on track to be $20 million in debt by the end of the school year.

Since 2006, Chester Upland’s enrollment has dropped by almost 1,000 students. During that same time, the district has increased its workforce by 145 employees and its budget by $28 million.

  • Florida’s Marion County school district drew national headlines last summer when it announced that it was switching to a four-day school week as a way to save money. 

Other school officials took a more conventional route by laying off teachers and cutting student programs, all the while blaming Gov. Rick Scott for underfunding Florida’s public schools.

Now comes a report that finds 946 school employees in the Sunshine State earned at least $100,000 in 2010. That’s up 818 percent from 2005, according to the Foundation for Government Accountability.

The foundation also finds the percentage of non-school employees who earn at least six-figures has increased by only 7 percent during that same period.

 “During these five years, you have flat student enrollment, the biggest recession since the Great Depression and skyrocketing six-figure salaries – that adds up to a raw deal for Florida parents and taxpayers,” says Foundation CEO Tarren Bragdon.