Restaurateurs Find A Mixed Washington Outlook

restaurateurWhile early signals from the incoming Obama administration seem positive, some of the issues expected to be addressed in Washington next year could pose challenges from the restaurant industry's standpoint, according to National Restaurant Association SVP of Government Affairs and Public Policy John Gay. 

The president-elect's appointees are seeking input from the business community and appear to have a pragmatic, problem-solving approach, Gay said during the association's recent 2009 industry forecast press conference.

Obama appears to be in favor of economic stimulus measures that would help put more money in consumers' pockets--always a good thing for restaurants. Furthermore, the restaurant industry--a "jobs machine" that's projected to account for 9% of all jobs next year--is critical to his stated goal of creating 2.5 million new jobs, said Gay. Obama's apparent support of eliminating capital gains taxes on small businesses and giving tax credits to U.S. companies that create jobs here instead of outsourcing abroad would also work to restaurants' advantage, he said.



On the other hand, two areas apparently supported by the president-elect would not be positive for the industry, said Gay. Increasing taxes on upper-income households could hurt many small restaurant operators who report their business income as part of their personal tax statements, he said, while supporting corn ethanol as an alternative energy source could result in further increases in food prices.

Key Congressional legislative challenges for the industry in 2009 include proposals to increase the minimum wage and institute a sick-leave mandate, as well as the "Employee Free Choice Act" bill. That "Free Choice" bill would replace the current election system overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, in which employees use private ballots to decide whether their companies will be unionized, with a "card-check" system in which employees simply sign a card in favor of union representation.

The association and other opponents maintain that doing away with the private ballot in union elections in favor of using cards would pose the risk of employees being open to coercion. The Act was passed by the House, but not the Senate. However, the last Senate vote drew 51 of the 60 votes needed for passage, and organized labor has made the bill's passage its top priority, according to the restaurant association.

Next story loading loading..