Yesterday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), incoming Chair of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, outlined some of his top priorities for the 110th Congress by introducing four bills that will help small business owners around the country. These bills will improve the government's Disaster Loan Program (details of the bipartisan bill at:, reduce health care costs for small firms, reform the Alternative Minimum Tax, and expand entrepreneurship opportunities in minority communities (details below).

Kerry Introduces Health Care Tax Credit, AMT Reform Bills for Small Firms

On January 4, 2006, Sen. Kerry introduced tax credit legislation that will help small businesses lower their health care costs and encourage more small firms to offer health coverage. Kerry also introduced legislation to reform the Alternative Minimum Tax

“One of my top priorities is to reduce the skyrocketing cost of health care in this country. When it comes to small business, owners should focus on what they do best – creating jobs and contributing to the economy – instead of worrying about whether they can afford to provide health benefits. This legislation to help small businesses is a good interim step towards helping all Americans by lowering health care costs.”

Kerry's Small Business Health Care Tax Credit Act of 2007 provides small firms with less than 50 employees a refundable tax credit to help with the cost of health insurance for employees earning $5,000 -- $50,000 a year. In order to receive the credit, the employer must pay at least 50 percent of the health care insurance premium.

Kerry's plan to reform the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is the same as S.2826, which he introduced last year. The bill expands and extends the individual AMT exemption amount for 2007 and allows nonrefundable credits against the AMT for 2007. It is revenue neutral and is offset by repealing the lower rates on capital gains and dividends for 2009 and 2010.

“Reforming the AMT is critical to keeping small businesses competitive and successful. Over the last few years more many Americans, including small firms, have become trapped by the AMT. We need to raise the exemption amount to level the playing field. ”

Kerry Priority: Increase Minority Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Sen. Kerry also introduced legislation to help increase loan, contracting and entrepreneurial development opportunities for current and potential minority business owners.

“The priorities of the nation are set at the beginning of a new Congress. As the incoming Chair of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I want to create more opportunities for Americans to start and grow businesses of their own. I have introduced the Minority Entrepreneurship Development Act to encourage more development of entrepreneurship in minority communities and give them the opportunity to build their own piece of the American dream,” said Kerry.

Specifically, the legislation establishes an Office of Minority Small Business Development at the Small Business Administration to give minority entrepreneurs an advocate in the agency.

The legislation creates the Minority Entrepreneurship and Innovation Pilot Program to foster a passion for entrepreneurship in high-achieving young people at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Hispanic Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges. In addition to inspiring a desire to own a small business, this program also gives students the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the business world.

Senator Kerry's bill also creates the Minority Access to Information Distance Learning Pilot Program which enables distance learning programs for small business owners, and reauthorizes the Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Business Program, which increases small businesses' ability to compete with larger firms by providing a Price Evaluation Adjustment.