Who says you can't fight city hall? Certainly not Leo Bowman of Richland, Wash., who struggled for more than a year to correct inequities in the state's unemployment tax code that penalize small businesses-including his own.
By refusing to knuckle under to an unfair tax system and lobbying to change it, Mr. Bowman has set an example dealers and other small-business owners would do well to follow.
When his dealership, Leo's Line-Up & Tires, was hit last year with a 600-percent increase in unemployment taxes after laying off just one employee, Mr. Bowman demanded to know why.
The situation arose, he learned, because the state's unemployment insurance tax is ``experience related''- meaning an employer's tax rate increases whenever he fires or lays off employees.
At the same time, the amount of the resulting increase is determined by the percentage of the company's workers receiving such benefits. Thus, while Mr. Bowman may have laid off only one employee during the year-that still amounted to 20 percent of the dealership's work force and his tax rate shot up accordingly.
Refusing to accept the situation as inevitable, Mr. Bowman lobbied state legislators to get them to modify the law. He testified before committees in both the state Senate and House of Representatives-even phoning and writing committee members to plead his case.
Ultimately, this work paid off. On May 11, Washington Gov. Mike Lowry signed into law House Bill 1350.
The new law, which takes effect with the 1996 tax year, will offer employers the chance to ``buy out'' their unemployment insurance experience by paying the amount of the employee's claim plus a 10-percent surcharge.
As a result, the employer's tax rate will remain the same as before the ``experience.'' In Mr. Bowman's case, it would have saved the dealership about $13,000.
Mr. Bowman didn't labor alone in this cause, but observers say his example put a ``human face'' on the problem. His effort made a difference.