When each victory is precious, ‘you’ve got to focus on the positive,’
says the legislative advocate for small businesses
By Mark Lifsher
The Los Angeles Times
The job: Advocating in Sacramento for small companies. Hauge is president of Small Business California, a San Francisco organization he helped found in 2005. Since then, the group has become a major player in the statehouse, weighing in on issues affecting the economy, taxes, job creation and the environment.
“Small business employs half of the people in California,” said Hauge, 60. “They create most of the new jobs, they do most of the research and development, and they provide the entryway to the work force for first-time jobs. It’s an overused term, but they are the engine of the economy.”
Small Business California has about 1,300 member companies and an influential e-mail tree that reaches 4,000 employers.
Bay Area roots: Born in San Francisco, Hauge grew up in Marin County and graduated from Washington State University. “It was the only school that did not require I take a foreign language,” said the French-averse Hauge, “and I wanted to stay in the Pacific 8 [Conference] because I follow Cal.” His wife, Jeannie, is an artist, and they live in San Rafael.
After working in large insurance companies, Hauge joined his father at the family’s CAL Insurance & Associates brokerage, where he is now president. The 83-year-old brokerage in San Francisco’s Sunset District sells all types of coverage and employs 29 people.
Early battles: Hauge became a small-business activist in the overheated arena of San Francisco politics of the 1980s. For more than 20 years, he worked to persuade the city government to create the Small Business Commission and the Small Business Assistance Center.
His biggest local victory came in 2004 when he helped lead a campaign that defeated Proposition K, a proposed gross receipts tax on businesses that was supported by Mayor Willie Brown, the board of supervisors, labor unions, large employers and nonprofit organizations.
“San Francisco is an expensive city to do business in, and they wanted to put another tax on top of that,” Hauge recalls. “The amazing thing was we had just about everybody against [us] and we ended up winning, 55% [voting] no to 45% yes.”
Key mistake: After defeating the San Francisco gross receipts tax, Hauge went to Brown for advice on mending fences with the new mayor, Gavin Newsom. Brown said, “Tell them to get over it.” But Hauge instead tried to “extend the olive branch,” only to be rebuffed. “My relations with the mayor’s office were sullied ever since,” he said.
Liberal-conservative: Small Business California helped implement a sweeping overhaul of the state’s costly workers’ compensation insurance system. Yet it also worked to raise the minimum wage, control health insurance costs and ensure that efforts to combat global warming created “green jobs.”
Though a Democrat, a natural condition in a city with less than a 10% Republican registration, Hauge considers himself a conservative. But in Sacramento, he said that he and his group have earned a reputation “as arguably one of the most liberal organizations out there among businesses.”
But Hauge said he tries not to be partisan “so we’re not viewed as dogmatic” and can talk with both Democratic and Republican legislators.
Piece of advice: “You’ve got to focus on the positive,” he said. “With the things I get involved in, the political stuff, I’m going to fail 90% of the time. If I get two or three victories a year, that keeps me going.”
Busy: Hauge has plenty to do when he’s not commuting to Sacramento for small businesses. He runs his insurance brokerage and is getting ready to become chairman of the California Insurance Guarantee Assn., a semi-governmental industry group. He’s also vice president of a new free medical clinic in San Francisco and active in its national parent group, Volunteers in Medicine.
“I sit on 20 boards, commissions and committees,” he said. “I get up at 4 a.m. and get home when I get home.”
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