For Small Biz Owners, Taxes Are Priority in NJ Gov's Race

For Small Biz Owners, Taxes Are Priority in NJ Gov's Race

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BELLEVILLE, N.J. -- A month before the governor's election, Freddy Durán, a New Jersey resident and small business owner, says he has not yet decided which candidate to vote for.

For Durán and many of other small business owners in the state, a candidate’s personal politics is less of a priority than who can secure their bottom line.

"The most important proposals for a small business owner are taxes. What will candidates do to reduce the high taxes that are paid in the state," says Durán, who says he has always voted in elections.

Durán is a Venezuelan immigrant who came to the United States in 1994. He studied at the Rutgers University Business School and graduated in Finance and Accounting. He worked for seven years as an insurance salesman and in 2004 started his own insurance agency.

From his office in Belleville, Durán says the state needs to do more to encourage workers to choose employment over staying in their homes collecting unemployment insurance and benefiting from other social programs.

"Two years ago it was very difficult for me to find workers. Nobody wanted to work," says Durán, adding that he pays his workers more than $ 15 dollars an hour, and offers benefits like two weeks paid vacation.

"The government should help unemployed people, but there must be a limit, otherwise people get used to the help and prefer to live on state programs than go out to work."

In that sense, Durán supports the proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 dollars per hour, provided that it is staggered over a considerable period of time. "You can not double the minimum wage overnight. This would negatively affect business and many would have to close,” he warns.

Durán also supports equal pay for both men and women for the same work. "We are in the 21st century … employees must be paid according to their individual capacity."

As a small business owner, access to capital is one of Durán’s main concerns. He believes that whoever is elected as the new governor, that person must create policies that will facilitate greater access to capital to expand local businesses.
"Small businesses are the major employers in the state. If the government supports them by giving them access to capital, reducing taxes, it would create more jobs and strengthen the state's economy," explains Durán.

Another measure that Durán considers beneficial to small businesses is the stabilization of commercial leases. "This would allow small business to better control their costs and avoid surprises that negatively affect them."

To do that, Durán says the state needs to work with local governments to gain control over rising property taxes, which he says are the main cause for increases in rents.

Conversely, Durán says he does not support proposals by various community organizations that would grant employees ten paid days off per year for personal or family illnesses. He says such a law is likely to be abused by workers.

"We're talking about almost a day a month ... in my case, with the two weeks of vacation that I offer, we are talking about a month without work. This would negatively affect the productivity of my business. "

Durán, who is the father of three young children, believes New Jersey is a good state to do business. He recognizes that the cost of living in the state is one of the highest in the country, and that there are more possibilities to earn money than in other states, creating opportunity for profitable enterprise.

In the end, he says that no matter who wins the governor's election, he plans to stay in New Jersey and go on with his business.

This story was produced as part of the Voting Block collaborative project in New Jersey, a statewide collaborative reporting project to encourage political discussion and more informed voters in neighborhoods across New Jersey ahead of this fall’s gubernatorial election. Voting Block is funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.