By Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
DENVER — Sen. Michael Bennet brushed a dog last week to help make his point that Senate Republicans should stop blocking legislation aimed at freeing up credit for small businesses.
During a stop last Thursday at The Wag Shop, a Capitol Hill dog grooming parlor, Bennet visited with a bushy Australian Shepherd mix named Sadie and heard from the store’s owners, who said the tight credit market is stalling plans to expand their business.
Bennet used the occasion to call on Ken Buck, his Republican opponent, to support the Small Business Jobs Act — a piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives but bunched up in the Senate for months because of GOP opposition — but this week a spokesman for Buck said he would decline the offer.
Wag Shop owner Deidre Hered said she recently spent months applying for a loan from her business’s community bank but was only able to pry loose $10,000 — half what she’d requested — to hire more employees, add health insurance benefits and update her shop’s equipment and furnishings.
“I think we could get a personal credit card and put $20,000 on it faster than we could get a loan for our business,” Hered said. She added that there appears to be plenty of consumer demand to warrant growing her business but the tight credit hampers those plans.
The bill establishes a $30 billion fund to encourage community banks to lend to small businesses and sets $12 billion in tax cuts and credits for small businesses, as well as expanding the Small Business Administration loan guarantee program. Proponents say it’s one piece of what’s needed to spark the moribund economy.
President Barack Obama pleaded this week with Congress to pass the bill after the August recess. “I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade,” Obama said in remarks delivered from the Rose Garden on Monday. Republicans say the bill won’t accomplish what Democrats promise, but Obama claimed “there’s no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics.”
“My hope is when we go back in September the first piece of business will be to debate and pass this bill,” Bennet said last week. “It’s high time we stop playing these political games and actually did some things that would have a material affect immediately on small business owners like Deidre.”
Buck disagreed. “The bill aims at trying to answer the right question,” said Buck campaign spokesman Owen Loftus. “Unfortunately, it gives the wrong answer.” He said the bill creates “a top-down approach with strings attached,” and suggested Bennet should reexamine the Democratic agenda if he wants to spur small business activity.
“What they should do is, Bennet should drop supporting Obama’s plans to raise taxes on small businesses representing 20 million workers, stop running a deficit and work on a health care bill that provides certainty to small business,” Loftus said. “Those are the main things we need to do in order to create jobs here in Colorado.”
At The Wag Shop, Bennet blasted Senate Republicans for using “partisanship and abuse of the rules” to stall consideration of the bill, which he said is “perfectly targeted” toward businesses like one filled, at that moment, with wet dogs. He also said any concerns about the cost of the bill are misguided. “This bill is completely paid for — no deficit attached to this bill whatsoever. Part of what getting out of these deficits is about is generating economic growth.”
Regardless of what happens, Hered likely has another customer. Bennet, who lives nearby, said he and his wife have told their three daughters they’ll get a dog after the election — whatever the outcome — though he added that he’s not prepared to discuss what kind of dog just yet.
“Win or lose, they get a dog,” he said.