Landrieu Outlines Priorities, Pushes for SBA Cabinet Seat

The push to get the Small Business Administration a seat at presidential cabinet meetings got another boost last week when incoming chair of the Senate panel overseeing small business matters called for the elevation.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who will take the helm of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee in January from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), included the idea in a letter (pdf) to President-elect Obama outlining her priorities and recommendations.

"I believe that your first step for the SBA must be to elevate it to cabinet-level status again," Landrieu wrote. "If empowered by a return to proper rank, the SBA administrator can be a more effective champion for our small businesses." The SBA briefly held cabinet status under the Clinton administration.

Landrieu said the SBA should be a key lifeline for small firms, which make up more than 99 percent of all U.S. employers. There are about 27 million small firms in the United States, according to the SBA's Office of Advocacy. A stronger SBA also would create more opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses, she added.

Landrieu, who also sits on the Appropriations Committee, said the SBA needs funding increases to effectively deliver its lending, technical assistance and entrepreneurship programs. The agency was slashed by about $500 million, or 26 percent from 2001 to 2008, according to Kerry.

Sen. Landrieu also wrote that small businesses should be part of any economic stimulus package that will be considered next year.

Landrieu worked with Kerry and Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the top Republican on the small business panel, to enact disaster reforms after the SBA's poor response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Snowe also has been pushing for an SBA upgrade to Cabinet status.

Snowe and Landrieu next year will be the first two female lawmakers to ever lead a full committee in the U.S. Senate or House.

By Sharon McLoone |  December 22, 2008; 11:45 AM ET Policymakers
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I applaud Sen. Landrieu's efforts to elevate the SBA's Administrator to a Cabinet level position. The SBA needs to awaken after the long sleep caused by the Bush Administrations budget cuts. The Agency needs to regain the district office's focus on effectively lending to small business and down play the recent, misguided focus on social and economically disadvantaged business development such as the unconstitutional 8-A program. A key area of development should be veteran owned businesses who have yet to achieve the mandated goals set forth in executive orders. Veteran's earned their preferences in contract set asides, women and the ellusively defined minorities were simply born into their categories.

It makes good business sense to support veteran owned businesses and it is the right thing to do because of their sacrifice for this country.

Donn Nemchick
Pittsburgh, PA

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