By Ken Hoover

Hector V. Barreto Jr. was sworn in July 27 as head of the Small Business Administration after being confirmed unanimously by the Senate.

Barreto, who previously owned a financial services business in Los Angeles, avoided controversy by avoiding specifics at his confirmation hearing. He promised to listen to small business concerns about SBA programs, expand access to capital and encourage more contracting opportunities for small businesses.

Politicians and interest groups with a stake in SBA programs have plenty of advice for Barreto, however.

Reversing the Bush administration's proposed SBA budget cuts was top of mind for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., ranking Democrat on the House Small Business Committee.

"Mr. Barreto is joining an administration, that, rather than working to strengthen small business, has at every turn failed to support this cornerstone of our economy," Velazquez says.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., the ranking Republican on the Senate committee, used Barreto's confirmation as an opportunity to take another not-so-subtle swipe at Aida Alvarez, who headed the SBA during the Clinton administration. Bond's statement focused on how much the SBA could accomplish "with proper administration."

"The SBA needs an administrator who will concentrate on the sound management of its operations and existing programs rather than expanding its reach with new programs," Bond says.

The nation's largest small business advocacy group, the National Federation of Independent Business, says it looks forward to working with Barreto to strengthen the SBA's Office of Advocacy, the "official voice of Main Street within the executive branch of government."

And the National Commission on Entrepreneurship suggests that Barreto follow the lead of Kerry, who added "Entrepreneurship" to his committee's name.

"It is my hope that Mr. Barreto not only works to aid traditional small businesses, but that he also focuses on the unique policy needs of entrepreneurial growth companies," says Patrick Von Bargen, the commission's executive director.

These companies represent less than 5 percent of all businesses in the United States but create two-thirds of all new jobs, he says.

Poll shows workers think Bush favors businesses A survey of American workers commissioned by the AFL-CIO found that 49 percent think the Bush administration cares more about protecting the rights of businesses than it cares about protecting the rights of workers.

Around 35 percent felt the administration cared equally about businesses and workers. Only 4 percent felt Bush cared more about workers than he did about businesses.

The 801 workers were selected at random and included professionals, managers, white-collar workers, blue-collar workers and farmers. Fifteen percent were union members. Business owners were excluded from the sample.

The survey also found that two-thirds of the workers trust Bush only some or not at all to look after their interests on workplace issues.

"The margins in the findings are telling, though not completely surprising, given the president's record on workplace issues such as ergonomics, the minimum wage and his tax cut for the wealthiest Americans," says the AFL-CIO's Gerry Shea.

GOP leaders push to make tax cuts permanent House Republican leaders promised to push legislation to make this year's $1.35 trillion tax cut permanent.

Because of what Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., calls "Alice in Wonderland Senate rules," the tax cuts in the legislation will expire in 2011.

Business lobbyists say this sunset provision makes it difficult to plan for the future. For example, the estate tax is fully repealed in 2010 but returns in 2011 unless Congress takes additional action.

Representatives from the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors met with the House Policy Committee to urge Congress to make the tax cuts permanent when it returns after Labor Day.

The chances for such legislation are slim in the Senate and doubtful in the House. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., says it "doesn't make sense ... to prejudge a budget question" when Congress doesn't know what the government's revenue will be in a few years.

TVA best, NASA worst for new contractors The Tennessee Valley Authority may be the best placeto to go for companies that want to enter the government contracting market.

An analysis by Eagle Eye Publishers found that TVA awarded 30 percent of its $4.3 billion in prime contracts in fiscal 2000 to businesses that had received no contracts in the previous three years -- the highest share for new contractors of any government agency.

NASA was the toughest agency to crack. Only 0.55 percent of the space agency's $10.9 billion in prime contracts went to new contractors last year.

For women-owned businesses, the Department of Housing and Urban Development was the most lucrative agency. HUD awarded women-owned businesses 11.8 percent of its prime contracts, more than twice the government's 5 percent contracting goal for women.

But only six of the federal government's 23 agencies met this goal. The worst performer was the Department of Energy, which awarded only 0.25 percent of its $16.9 billion in prime contracts to women-owned businesses