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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Business owner backs income tax initiative

Proposal has benefits for small companies, alliance says

Spokane business owner Janine Vaughn is backing Initiative 1098, the high-earners income tax measure on Washington’s November ballot. So is the Main Street Alliance, a small-business advocacy group Vaughn belongs to.

If voters approve the initiative, Vaughn said it “would help give hours back to my workers who’ve been hit by cutbacks.”

She co-owns Revival Lighting, one of about 50 Spokane businesses that belong to Main Street Alliance’s local chapter.

The organization calls itself an alternative advocacy group for small-business owners, and it is attracting members nationwide.

Main Street Alliance of Washington grew out of the frustration of some small-business owners who found little support from the state Legislature in 2005 for changes in health care insurance rules, said Joshua Welter, director of the state organization, which has more than 2,000 members.

The organization has about 10,000 members nationwide with groups in 15 states, including Idaho, he said.

Vaughn said the growth in Main Street Alliance’s membership has been noticed by government officials. On Monday, when President Barack Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act in Washington, D.C., two Main Street Alliance members were invited to attend the ceremony.

One of those was John Fugere, a Seattle pizzeria owner.

“The more members we have, the more we’ll get noticed,” Vaughn said. “What’s great is that people know about us. Government officials now are coming to us, getting our input as business owners.”

I-1098 has drawn opposition from most business groups and chambers of commerce. It would impose an income tax on those earning more than $200,000. It would also provide a business and occupation tax credit of up to $4,800.

Vaughn said that credit would save Revival Lighting almost $2,000 a year. That, plus $3,000 saved as a result of the 6-month-old health care reform law, will save her retail light-and-fixture company about $5,000 per year, she said.

Those opposing I-1098, including Greater Spokane Incorporated, say a state income tax would be a disincentive to companies looking to move operations to Washington. And opponents fear the Legislature might amend the initiative to expand the income tax to more citizens.

Vaughn said her company and nearly all the other Spokane companies that have joined Main Street Alliance deserve the name “small business.” Federal standards used by the Small Business Administration call some businesses small even if they have 500 workers.

Most Spokane businesses have between one or two workers and 40 or so, she said. That makes them “micro-businesses” and different from larger companies that find their voices already represented by chambers of commerce and other groups, she said.

Vaughn said she joined Main Street Alliance because she has a progressive business attitude, and she saw little support for her viewpoint from other business groups.

“I figured somebody’s got to stand up for businesses like mine, which are struggling. But when you get results, when you see people listening to you, that motivates you,” Vaughn said.

The issues the group advocates are not liberal across the board, noted Vaughn.

“We don’t endorse candidates. It’s all issue-based,” she said, adding that the 50 businesses in Eastern Washington probably lean a bit more conservative than their West Side counterparts.

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