No one likes playing in a game where the rules are constantly changing. The coach can't effectively plan if a play is allowed in the first quarter, then penalized in the fourth. It's the same way in business. Companies need to have a clear picture of what's allowed. Otherwise they're stuck in a holding pattern, unable or unwilling to hire, because they don't know what changes they might have to make to meet new regulations from year to year.
“Give me the rules, interpret them the same every year and we'll be ok.” That was how Bill Saxman, owner of Shenandoah Spring Water, answered Virginia Attorney General and candidate for governor Ken Cuccinelli when asked how the state and federal government could help his business. There was no request for incentives, no demand for tax cuts. All Saxman asked for was consistency, to help him plan. He told Cuccinelli that if six different inspectors came to his company in six straight years, they would each give different interpretations of the regulations and how to follow them. Those differing opinions cost the company money, as each time he has to bring things into compliance.
That's a complaint we have heard from several businesses in Waynesboro and throughout Augusta County. They're concerned and it's partly because no one knows what to expect from state and federal regulations. What is allowed one year becomes a penalized action the next. Just like in athletics, it's hard for companies to maintain their performance when they don't know what's coming.
One example of this is the constant change going on with the Affordable Care Act. Now small business employees won't have options to pick their own medical insurance plan next year. There will just be one option, at least for 2014. Under the original plan, workers at any company under 100 employees were to be able to pick from a variety of plans. Now that's been pushed to 2015 and again, we see the uncertainty affecting the workforce.
Saxman also told Cuccinelli Friday that he's running out of space at his Staunton facility and he would like to expand, but he can't afford to right now, because he doesn't know what his costs will be next year, when the new healthcare system takes effect. Currently, he spends more than $300,000 a year on health insurance for his employees. The federal government hasn't released details of next year's insurance plan, including how much it would cost. It's hard to expand or hire more employees for a business when you don't know if you'll have to pay more to keep the ones you have now.
Our recommendation, both to those candidates running for office and those already serving, is to listen to the business community. Just give them the rules and keep them consistent.