HAYWARD -- Small businesses in economically distressed neighborhoods could put off paying payroll taxes for their first year, under the first House bill introduced by freshman Rep. Eric Swalwell.
Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, stood Friday on a windy corner outside a vacant former bank building in downtown Hayward to tout his Main Street Revival Act, a targeted tax-relief plan for small business.
"Hayward is a city that knows a thing or two about comebacks," he said, citing the city's hardscrabble Gold Rush-era start and its growth after an 1868 earthquake.
Now Hayward and many other cities across the nation need help bouncing back from the devastating effects of the Great Recession, which have left too many still jobless and without access to business credit, Swalwell said. "I'm committed to helping Hayward experience another economic comeback."
The bill would let certain small businesses defer paying payroll taxes for their first year, and then repay the taxes in installments over the next four years. The back taxes would become due immediately if the business files for bankruptcy or otherwise halts operations.
The program would be open only to businesses expecting to hire no more than 25 people in their first year and located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones identified by the U.S. Small Business Administration. These "HUBZones" are low-income census tracts in metropolitan areas and low-income nonmetropolitan counties. Swalwell said six such zones exist in his 15th Congressional District.
Elizabeth Echols, the Small Business Administration's regional administrator, introduced Swalwell on Friday as "a strong partner" of the SBA who understands how entrepreneurialism can bring new life to ailing downtowns.
Two Hayward City Council members praised the bill, too. Barbara Halliday said ideas like this could help offset the loss of redevelopment funds that were seized by state lawmakers to help balance California's budget. Al Mendall acknowledged "the most difficult time for any business is those first couple of years."
Swalwell unseated 40-year incumbent Rep. Pete Stark, a fellow Democrat, in November. As a freshman backbencher from the House's minority party, he might face an uphill battle in anything he does; introduced Tuesday, the bill so far lacks any co-sponsors.
But Swalwell said Friday that support for the bill from either side of the aisle "should be a no-brainer for anyone who wants to support small business."
The bill goes first to the Ways and Means Committee -- the powerful purse-strings panel on which Stark had been the longest-serving Democrat. Swalwell said committee member Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, who also chairs the House Democratic Caucus, has been advising him on how to keep the bill moving.
Swalwell will take part in a forum on getting money out of politics at 1 p.m. Sunday in the IBEW Local 595 hall at 6250 Village Parkway in Dublin, hosted by the Tri-Valley Democratic Club, of which he's a longtime member. Topics will include efforts to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, as well as state legislative bills on transparency in campaign finance. The event is free and open to the public.