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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Service Tax Outrage
(wgvu) - Speaking out

Nov. 1, 2007

By Mark Sanchez

Already moving to give greater voice to business interests locally and
in Lansing, the Kalamazoo Regional Cham ber of Commerce has found
fertile ground.

Frustration among employers over a number of issues most notably
the new six percent tax on services has many business owners who are
very heated and passionate stepping forward, wanting to become
involved in the chamber's advocacy initiatives.

The service tax, in fact, has given significant momentum to the
Kalamazoo chamber's advocacy role, senior vice president Martin Dodge

We're getting a groundswell of folks that are very upset, Dodge

The chamber is among a number of business groups seeing or expecting to
see the movement grow.

Driving them to step up, business advocates say, is frustration over a
year that has seen a pitched political battle to rewrite Michigan's
main business tax and the state's continuing chronic economic and
budget woes.

Throw on top of those the new state services tax that has drawn the ire
of many business owners.

All of it combined has provided the catalyst for business owners to
step up when they previously were reluctant to do so.

It's the nudge. This is giving folks that were sitting on the
fence before the impetus to say, You know, we need to be a little
more active,' Dodge said.

If this can happen now, it can happen in the future. If we're
going to be prepared as a business community, then we're going to be
cursed to live this over and over again.

Of all the issues and problems facing the state, the services tax
appears to have done the most to mobilize business owners.
That point was driven home recently during a press conference when the
Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce joined a coalition seeking to
repeal the services tax.

Among the business owners speaking out was Michael Ritsema of i3
Business Solutions Inc. in Grand Rapids. Ritsema said he's never been
particularly involved in the political process until now.

This definitely lit me up and I'm getting involved, Ritsema

Business advocates say grass-roots advocacy can come in many forms
from simply attending periodic breakfast or lunch sessions with local
lawmakers that many chambers of commerce host, to joining telephone and
letter-writing campaigns on a specific issue, to donating to candidates
or political action committees.

Jared Rodriguez, vice president of government affairs at the Grand
chamber, sees the frustration also translating into increased giving to
political action committees that many business organizations operate.

The business community is going to be hit awfully hard as a result
of the services tax and they're certainly going to have to invest in
candidates, Rodriguez said.

The services tax alone has raised the level of involvement and
inquiries to a point that many trade groups and chambers have never seen
before, said Matt Resch, a vice president for the pubic relations agency
Sterling Corp. in Lansing.

Whether the movement is sustained or temporary depends on what happens
next, said Resch, who served in former Gov. John Engler's
administration and speaks for the Ax the Tax Coalition.

The answer lives in the hands of the governor and the
Legislature, he said.

If they continue to come after businesses with bad policy, you'll
only have more involvement.
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