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With as much as I’ve featured Richard Koo and his “Balance Sheet Recession” theory here it should be obvious  which side I come down on in the great austerity debate. You just can’t cut spending during a severe recession – unless, of course, you’re trying to make matters worse. And you certainly can’t increase taxes on those that can’t afford them.

Sadly, it seems this is exactly what Oregon and Bend, specifically, are trying to do to small businesspersons right now. In the midst of the worst recession in at least a generation local and regional governments have implemented new fees and taxes and seemingly cracked down on already tough regulations.

An article that appeared in the Bulletin over the weekend about a gentleman who was fined for posting a Craigslist ad promoting his yard services got me thinking about this. Because he is not a licensed landscape contractor and used the word “sprinkler” in his ad the Contractor’s Board is hitting him with a $500 fine.

Now does that seem like a reasonable response to a man simply trying to earn an honest living during the worst recession in decades?

Add this kind of oppressive regulation to the new minimum excise tax on all entities doing business in Oregon, the new City of Bend business license program and the City’s business property tax assessment on all equipment put to use in normal business operations and it’s hard to make the case that Bend is very friendly to the smallest of small businesses.

A business with over $500,000 a year in revenue may find these fees and taxes inconvenient but a guy who got laid of at that company and is now trying to make a living on his own may find all this antagonizing if not prohibitive to his efforts.

I understand that local and regional government have a pretty big hole to fill in their budgets right now. But just because the smallest of small businesses don’t have the lobbying ability of their larger competitors doesn’t mean we should look to them to fill it.

In fact, because many of these folks are only turning to self-employment out of desperation they should be the very last group to be picked on by politicians reluctant to look elsewhere for additional revenue or spending cuts.

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