Business owners weigh in on local politics | NevadaAppeal.com

Business owners weigh in on local politics

Becky Bosshart

It’s lunch time at The Cracker Box restaurant on East William Street, and the warm air is a haven from the cold drizzle outside.

Newspapers are laid open on the front counter. The hum of conversation is as heavy as the fried-food scent.

As Election Day nears, politics is all around – even over lunch. Owner Jerry Massad is behind the counter ringing up the ticket of a customer who is wearing a red, white and blue button expressing her endorsement of John Kerry.

Carson City small-business owners go to the polls with their own concerns and favored candidates.

Massad, who has run The Cracker Box for the past 25 years, said he crosses party lines depending on the candidate and the issue, but opined there aren’t local issues this year that stand out to him as a business owner.

The Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce has taken positions on the 2004 ballot questions its leaders see as affecting business. Massad said he hasn’t reviewed the positions, and he’s not necessarily going to vote one way or another because of a group’s endorsement.

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“I definitely like to be a free thinker,” he said.

This Nevadan “independent streak” is apparent in many Carson City residents.

Sales tax

Shear Designs hair salon owner Pam Perondi has read about all of the eight state and two city ballot questions. She is eager to vote on Tuesday. For her, the most pressing issue is probably about sales tax, which is Carson City ballot question 1.

Perondi also said she votes how she believes, not based on any particular endorsement.

This ballot question asks if the Carson City Board of Supervisors should be authorized to ask the state Legislature to amend law to allow the city to impose a sales tax to support storm water operation and maintenance.

“After reading the argument against it, it said the city has already collected so much money,” she said. “If they get this they’ll collect way more money then they need. So what are they going to do with that money?”

In contrast, chamber of commerce leaders support the passage of Carson City Question 1. Their position is that this would spread the utility cost over a wider base.

“Failure to pass the advisory question would require the city supervisors to find other methods of funding the required programs,” according to the chamber newsletter.

John Bullis, a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist with Bullis and Company CPAs, shares many of the same positions on ballot questions as the chamber of commerce.

He supports the Carson City sales tax for storm water operation and maintenance. Bullis reads the chamber’s opinions, but “its not a major part of my decision process.”

But he is wary of Question 8.

This question proposes an amendment to the Sales & Use Tax Act to exempt from tax the sale or use of used vehicles, among other things.

“That’s cleverly written because it will tend to attract people who sell used vehicles and farm machinery and racing vehicles,” Bullis said. “But, if you notice, right in the middle is the exemption for works of fine art for public display.”

Bullis said this exemption might affect Southern Nevada casinos that buy expensive paintings and then put them on display.

The chamber of commerce is also against Question 8 because its policy opposes exemptions to the tax act “reflecting the belief that taxes should be as broad-based as possible and not favor or penalize one taxpaying segment over another,” according to its newsletter.

Minimum wage

Carson City Florist owner Tom Jones said the ballot question proposing to raise minimum wage is important to him.

“The chamber opposes it, but I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “People are starving in this country and it’s hard to live off minimum wage.”

Federal minimum wage since September 1997 has been $5.15 an hour. The ballot question proposes to amend the state’s constitution to require employers to pay Nevada employees $5.15 per hour worked if the employer provides health benefits, or $6.15 per hour if not.

The chamber opposes this change to the constitution. Chief Executive Officer Larry Osborne argues that if this amendment passes, any future adjustments to federal minimum wage would cause a proportionate increase in the minimum wage Nevada employers must pay. But that’s only if those employers don’t have any employee medical benefits.

He said if the federal minimum wage went to $7 some Nevada employers would have to pay $8 and hour.

“Nevada would always have to pay $1 higher than the federal minimum wage,” Osborne said. “The Nevada minimum wage would at least be a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage, whatever it may be.”

U.S. Department of Labor spokeswoman Deanne Amaden said Wednesday that the federal minimum wage is the lowest wage that employers have to pay. States can set a minimum wage above that. Twelve states, including California, Oregon and Washington, do.

Amaden said if Nevada did change its minimum wage to $6.15, and a federal law passed increasing that, Nevada would have to raise its minimum wage to match that.

Carson City’s chamber of commerce has about 1,300 members. Osborne said its political action committee reviews each ballot question and then makes a recommendation to the chamber’s board of directors. It then considers and decides which positions the chamber will take. Those decisions were published in the chamber’s October newsletter.

“The chamber of commerce is a business organization, so all positions recommended we feel are in the best interest of business,” Osborne said.

Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

• To read the Carson City Chamber of Commerce’s positions on ballot questions, visit http://www.carsoncitychamber.com/ then click on “view all news articles.”

• To read the state ballot questions, visit

sos.state.nv.us/nvelection then click on general information