The small business community's fight for resources

I have learned a great deal about Illinois politics since co-founding the Small Business Advocacy Council.

One initial observation was that drafting and filing legislation is not remarkably difficult. Small business advocates come together, share ideas, formulate policies, secure a bill sponsor, and legislation is put on file. With the assistance of a lobbyist and politicians inspired to support small businesses, the process of filing legislation in Springfield was quickly demystified.

The path to pass a bill is also not overly complicated. Legislation moves through committees, passes both the Illinois House and Senate, and advances to the Governor.

This has been the process by which several bills championed by the SBAC have been enacted, including legislation addressing health insurance premiums and lowering LLC fees. This is not to say that passing any legislation is easy, because even with extremely robust support from the public and legislators, passing a stand-alone bill remains difficult. The process is relatively transparent however, and people can follow the progress of a bill on the General Assembly's website and by talking with lawmakers.

The process becomes more difficult to navigate when legislation must be supported by a monetary appropriation. For instance, last year the SBAC championed legislation providing relief for local chambers of commerce negatively impacted by the pandemic because of the crucial role they play supporting small businesses and their communities.

The program asked for relatively modest but meaningful appropriation. While this legislation did not pass on its own, the program and funding were included in the budget.

On the other hand, the SBAC previously pushed for an extension of the small business job creation tax credit program, which provided important support for small businesses before it expired. The cost was higher and that program has not been extended.

There are many bills filed in Springfield that rely on government resources and very few of them pass. Instead, advocates must fight to have their priorities included in a large legislative package put together by designated policymakers at the close of each session.

Negotiations ensue the last several weeks and it's nearly impossible to know whether a particular program will be included and funded in the budget. The goal of advocates like the SBAC is to talk with as many policymakers as possible and ask them to urge the legislators engaged in budget negotiations to prioritize programs that will support small and local businesses.

It has proved difficult to prompt policymakers to include small-business centric programs included in the budget. This is not a unique problem for the small business community. Most advocates struggle to have their priorities funded because there is only so much money the government can responsibly spend.

This does beg the question however: If it is so difficult for the government to fund programs supporting the viability and growth small businesses, why should larger corporations receive massive tax incentives to locate or expand in Illinois?

Politicians provide government agencies with funds to support the growth of our economy, and we intend to advocate for significantly more of those resources. There is certainly a benefit and allure to fostering the growth of larger enterprises in our state.

However, the local and small businesses that drive our economy should receive a fair share of government resources allocated to growing the economy. Larger companies that receive tax incentives should also spend much of those funds with Illinois small businesses.

This will be a priority in 2024. Learn more about our efforts at

• Elliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.

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