GrowSmart Maine Testifies in Opposition to LD 1764 to Relocate Maine’s Small Business Advocate to DECD

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine in opposition to LD 1764

January 24, 2018

Senator Paul Davis, Representative Danny Martin and members of the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government, my name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine.  We are a statewide non-partisan, non-profit, membership-based organization working to create lasting prosperity without sacrificing the quality of life that defines Maine. I am speaking in opposition to this bill for two reasons.  First, because the current location for the Small Business Advocate makes sense, and secondly because I have seen the effectiveness current small business advocate in my role as a member of the Maine Broadband Coalition.

Learn more & get involved: Maine Broadband Coalition

The autonomy of this position, housed in the Office of the Secretary of State, is at the cornerstone of its effectiveness.  By way of example, a similar position exists at the Federal level, with the Small Business Advocate within the SBA.  Maine’s own Senator Lynn Bromley served in this position 2012 to 2017. Senator Bromley would have lent remarks and offered herself as a resource to the committee if she weren’t currently out of the country. Below is her perspective:

Independence is a cornerstone of the federal Advocate position. Even though it sits in SBA, it is distinct from the SBA with a separate budget and its own Chief counsel, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Often as advocates we had to complain about SBA; sometimes their fees were too high, sometimes their processes were too slow, the Government Contracting rules weren’t fair. In the end the Independence of the position was key.

We are the only part of the federal government that does not carry the agenda of the President, instead we uphold the agenda of the small business sector in general. We were specifically empowered by Congress for that very reason.

Here’s a good case in point. When the Obama Administration was proposing the Affordable Care Act, one of the funding mechanisms would require all businesses, even small businesses, to prepare 1099’s for any money expended; even the local gas station, if it was over a certain amount. The Office of the Advocate opposed that piece of our President’s signature legislation as overly burdensome. We did that because we were speaking for small business not the administration.

New England led that fight from the beginning, as New England has the largest percentage of small businesses in the country. It would be a shame if right here in Maine, where that Independence paid off in a tangible and money-saving way for small business, this strategy was abandoned.

I have seen that same level of impact noted by Sen. Bromley at the federal level from our current state-level Small Business Advocate, in her role leading the Maine Broadband Coalition.  The Coalition supports positions that can run counter to the current administration, and we are making strides, slowly but surely toward broadband that meets the needs of all Mainers.  If this position were to be moved to DECD, we forfeit that ability to truly represent the concerns of Maine’s small businesses.

I ask the committee to dismiss this proposal.