President Bush's State of the Union address tackled everything from the war in Iraq to education at home. But small-business groups weren't paying attention to his shout-out to Dikembe Mutombo. Instead, they were closely watching how he weighed in on the ongoing debate about how to lower healthcare costs.
Bush proposed payroll tax deductions for people with health insurance, rewarding those who work for companies that provide it or choose to purchase it on their own. He also supported channeling federal funds to states to help cover the uninsured. The small-business lobby, which tends to lean right, breathed a sigh of relief at the measures.
"We are very encouraged by President Bush's proposal to provide small businesses and the self-insured the same tax incentives big corporations receive," says Todd Stottlemyer, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, in an email. "Healthcare remains our members' No. 1 concern. This is no abstract or academic issue, but a matter of survival."
Unlike other ideas, including the plan of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the president's proposals take the burdens of providing health insurance off businesses and place them on individuals. So smaller companies, which say they struggle to meet the costs of providing health insurance and don't have the benefit of large pools of employees like big companies, would not be forced to provide employees health coverage. And what small-business group wouldn't like lower taxes?