Monthly Archives: February 2011

The tip of the iceberg

California is facing a $20 billion deficit and we can all agree that something has to be done so as to not strain essential services in our state, but is this a sign of things to come?  Does this mean that the State is going to turn to tech as a means of plugging the gaping hole that is our state budget?  The tax legislation is aimed at getting companies like Amazon and Overstock to collect on the billions of dollars of purchases that Californians transact via the internet which have to date been tax-free unless consumers themselves report and pay internet purchase taxes on their tax return (as you can imagine taxpayers rarely volunteer such info).  Bricks and mortar operations in California, including web based operations that have a physical presence or nexus in-state, have to collect and submit taxes on every purchase.  Should it be different if you’re shopping from your laptop?  When this same legislation was introduced last year, Overstock, who employs hundreds of Californians through its affiliate program threatened to pull the plug on affiliate operations in the Golden State.  Overstock and Amazon, joined by other web giants including Yahoo, Google and our potential next governor’s company Ebay, opposed the taxes and lined up against independent sellers, the unions and Netflix.  The Governor backed up the revolt and threatened to veto the bill if it reached his desk.  But this bill has legs and although the smart money says it will clear the Assembly – the Governor’s spokesperson has said his boss is likely to oppose it again this time ‘round.

Last week we asked our member companies how do they feel about these proposed new Internet taxes?  (text of questionnaire below)  What we heard is that our membership is pretty evenly split.  One member response, entitled “moving to Nassau” said: “Put my vote in that additional taxes like this punish companies that employee people in California. Legislators have a challenge on their hands – fix a $20B budget shortfall without driving away the world’s most innovative companies. The state should implement policies that encourage company investment in our education system. This includes informed policies like the single sales factor and a 20-year net operating loss carry forward.”  On the other hand, from those wanting a leveling of the playing field, we heard things like this: “We need to balance our state budget and it will not all come from spending cuts.  Internet retail is a mature industry and no longer needs a tax subsidy.  This tax would help level the field for local businesses.“

So what’s a state to do?  We know from our statewide voter survey released earlier this month that Californians believe in the power of the tech sector to create jobs and pull us out of the grim economic situation we find ourselves in.  Certainly Californian’s feel over taxed already but there’s only 2 ways out of this mess – raise revenues or cut services.  I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see:

1. Our schools funded (and how about some tech curricula while we’re at it)
2. Not turning the mentally ill out on the street
3. Hardened criminals staying behind bars
4. And dare I even bring up health care?

So apparently we need to raise revenue – but how do we do that?  By encouraging investment in CA.  We can’t rest on our laurels of being “#1 in tech”, we’ve taken it for granted and for too long. Our once thriving tech sector is suffering and California is slipping behind in R&D intensity.  It’s time the policy makers turn to tech and not merely as a vehicle for taxation (though yes, and I know a bunch of you will disagree, but everyone should pay their fair share of legally assessed taxes) but as a change agent.  This won’t happen in a vacuum; we need help from Sacramento and DC.

We have some ideas and we’re sure you do too – so join in the conversation.  What can the politicians do to support tech businesses?

A. It’s only fair: people purchasing online should have to pay the same taxes that they’d pay if they physically went to the store-Pampers are Pampers whether you drive to the store and buy them or whether you surf your way there.
B. Give ‘em and inch and they think they’re ruler: the web needs to stay a government free zone-this is just one more tax on California’s working families fashioned to clean up a mess created in Sacramento.
C. I’m moving to Nassau: California’s over regulation is going to drive me and my company to a more business friendly jurisdiction-we already pay some of the nation’s highest taxes, I’d like to be a California business but the cost of doing business and living in CA is getting to be too much.
D. Buy Local: why should Amazon or Overstock have a state sanctioned advantage over our local businesses?-taxing these big businesses levels the playing field for the bricks and mortar retailers in California who are vital members of our community.
E. None of the above? So tell us in your own words….

How Telecommuting Lets Workers Mobilize for Sustainability

By Daniel Walsh
Published February 17, 2011

Over the years, telecommuting has proven to deliver significant societal, environmental and economic benefits. Many organizations have recognized the gains as a boon to promoting sustainable business practices and their bottom lines.

While a recent survey found that less than 4 percent of U.S. private sector workers actually work from home, that figure could reach as high as 30 percent by 2019, according to TechCast, a George Washington University–based virtual think tank.

What’s behind this coming workplace revolution? Quite simply, “work” no longer needs to be defined as a place you go. We’re witnessing the emergence of a next generation workforce that is always-on and hyper-connected via broadband, with a proliferation of connected devices and access to on-the-go Internet-based applications and cloud-based services that make working from anywhere possible.

According to Gartner, this drive to mobility will become a $1 trillion market in the next four years. The analyst and research firm predicts that within this decade, most, if not all workers will be mobile to some degree.

The potential environmental impact of “mobilizing” the U.S. workforce could significantly contribute toward tackling some of the nation’s biggest challenges, including conserving energy, avoiding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reducing traffic congestion.

While the majority of U.S. workers are employed in jobs that depend on their physical presence, a recent independent study of telecommuting found that 40 percent of the workforce, representing 33 million Americans, have jobs that either be performed remotely partially or completely. Adopting telecommuting on this scale, according to this same study, holds the potential to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by up to 107 million tons a year and save nearly $43 billion in gasoline costs each year.

Given that transportation represents approximately 26 percent of GHG emissions worldwide, telecommuting is potentially the most promising opportunity for businesses to capture significant emissions reduction benefits in the near term, with a relatively minimal investment in technology equipment and infrastructure.

AT&T has enabled nearly half of its total workforce with mobile and remote access technologies that allow them to telework from a variety of locations, including a significant percentage approved as telecommuters. AT&T defines telecommuting as a formal work arrangement in which people work from home at least one day each week.

We recently surveyed the AT&T telecommuter population to ascertain the environmental impact of the program, as well as to measure its effectiveness and ancillary benefits. The survey asked a series of questions related to  transportation method, commute distance, number of telecommuting days/week, vehicle type, and year and number of errand miles.

Using that data, as well as the Fuel Economy Guide from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, we found that by reducing their commute, AT&T’s telecommuters avoided 175 million total commute miles, saved approximately 8.7 million gallons of gasoline, and avoided total GHG emissions of 76,000 metric tons, “equivalent to removing 14,788 passenger vehicles from the road for a year.”

Saving, on average, 54 minutes of commute time per employee, approximately 85 percent of survey respondents agreed that increases in productivity and work-life balance were the top reasons why they telecommute. More than 95 percent of telecommuters surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that they are more productive when working from home, and an equal number similarly agreed that telecommuting is important to their job satisfaction.

Combating Rogue Websites

The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing today on rogue websites called “Targeting Websites Dedicated To Stealing American Intellectual Property.” Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) invited Verizon, Go Daddy, Visa, Rosetta Stone and The Authors Guild and others in the online community to appear to give their views about legislation he is preparing to reintroduce in the Senate this year. Kudos to the companies listed above for showing up.

As you might already know, bi-partisan legislation to combat rogue websites was introduced last Congress. S. 3804 would have provided the U.S. Department of Justice with additional tools to go after the worst rogue Internet websites dedicated to distributing counterfeit goods and/or facilitating copyright theft.  We believe this legislation is a critically important step to help address a problem that adversely impacts so many industries. Last Congress, rogue sites legislation was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) received unanimous bipartisan support and passed out of committee with a 19-0 vote.

Support for rogue sites legislations continues to broaden. Yesterday, a coalition of over 130 businesses, professional, trade, and labor organizations— representing over 1.5 million jobs and workers—sent a letter to Congress urging for the enactment of the bill. The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy recently launched the effort “Fight Online Theft” to further the campaign against rogue websites. Be sure to check out for latest information on this important legislation and how to take action against rogue websites.

The general consensus at the hearing was that something must be done to protect American jobs and our economy and safety against these illegal rogue websites. We agree! We are encouraging the Members of Congress to introduce a similar bill this new session. Take action HERE.