Dems blame Bush for small-biz woes

House Democrats charged today that Bush administration policies are making the business climate unfriendly to small firms.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, said that her party's "Small Business Index" slid in the first half of 2004. The index, created in 2003 by the Democratic members of the committee, amalgamates 17 factors that affect small businesses, such as energy costs, health insurance, the budget deficit and credit conditions.

When they first released the index last September, the House Democrats had backtracked the indicators to chart changes since 1998. They made 1998 a baseline with a score of 100, which grew to 110 in 2000. Since then, the index has been on a downward arc, finishing the second quarter of 2004 at 71.

After first releasing the index a year ago, Velazquez said, "Conditions began to improve, and the [index] began to rise. [It] benefited from lower gas prices, in addition to an increase in net farm income, an improving stock market and stable interest rates. It appears those gains were short-lived."

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