– January 30, 2015

Obama pressing business and labor on fiscal cliff

Obama said that he was not going to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that have the least positive impact on the economy.Obama said that he was not going to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that have the least positive impact on the economy.(AP) — In a challenge to Republicans, President Barack Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to extend expiring tax cuts immediately for all but the highest income earners as a way to eliminate half of the so-called fiscal cliff that threatens to send the economy back into recession.

"What I'm not going to do is to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that we can't afford and according to economists will have the least positive impact on the economy," the president said at his first news conference since winning re-election last week.

Standing in the East Room of the White House, Obama pointedly noted he had campaigned on a platform that called for allowing tax breaks to expire as scheduled on Dec. 31 for the wealthiest income earners.

"A modest tax increase on the wealthy is not going to break their backs," Obama said. "They'll still be wealthy."

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have both said they are eager to compromise with the president to avoid the immediate tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect at the end of the year. But at the same time, they have said they won't agree to raise tax rates for the wealthy.

Boehner arranged a late afternoon news conference in the Capitol to respond to the president's remarks. The congressional leaders are slated to meet with Obama at the White House on Friday for the first time since the election, and are expected to agree to designate aides to begin the search for a compromise.

Obama met on Tuesday with allies from labor and liberal groups, and invited a group of CEOs to the White House for a mid-afternoon session, also to focus on the threat posed to the economic recovery by the combination of tax increases and spending cuts.

At the news conference, he laid out a two-step process for an overall compromise — immediate extension of all the expiring tax cuts except the top rate, followed by a comprehensive agreement in 2013 to overhaul the tax code and the government's big benefits programs, which include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Obama signed legislation two years ago extending the Bush tax cuts in their entirety after saying he wouldn't.

Asked why this time will be different, he said, "what I said at the time was what I meant, which is that this was a one-time proposition."

Now, he said, legislation that keeps most of the cuts in place but not those for the upper-income earners would be "actually removing half the fiscal cliff."

Asked if he viewed it as a deal-breaker if Republicans refused to allow the top tax rate to revert to 39.6 percent from the current 35 percent, he said, "I just want to emphasize I am open to new ideas if the Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn't getting hit, reduces our deficit.'"

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president would bring to the table a proposal for $1.6 trillion in new taxes on business and the wealthy when he begins discussions with congressional Republicans, a figure that Obama outlined in his most recent budget plan. The targeted revenue is twice the amount Obama discussed with Republican leaders during debt talks during the summer of 2011.

Carney said the figure, combined with $1.1 trillion in spending cuts already signed into law, would reduce deficits by $4 trillion.

Earlier, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, part of the Democratic leadership team, said that many "many Republicans believe now is the time to sit down and talk more revenue." Durbin said the number of GOP lawmakers in the Senate willing to work toward accommodation now totals 20.

But Durbin also said "there is a great distance" between Republicans in the House and Senate, "and basically it comes down to the question of whether Speaker Boehner is willing to look for a bipartisan solution."

Durbin told MSNBC he thinks lawmakers should "use this fiscal cliff" to resolve a problem that has plagued Congress for four years.

The president pledged to raise taxes on the rich during his first term but backed off his stance in late 2010 after Republicans seized control of the House in the midterm election. During his meeting with labor leaders, Obama said he was not going to bend on letting tax cuts expire for top wage earners, according to a participant in the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private session. The president said the tax issue was clear during the election and said he had extended those enacted during the George W. Bush administration once and would not do so again, the participant said.

The CEOs have urged Congress to extend the Bush-era tax cuts until a tax overhaul can be reached and prevent the spending cuts from taking place. The executives say the uncertainty over the fiscal cliff is hurting the nation's business climate and preventing hiring.

Obama will meet with several CEOs, including the heads of Aetna, Honeywell, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and Ford.

The participants include members of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a group founded by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles that has pushed for a long-term plan to fix the nation's debt and deficits.

Simpson, a former Wyoming senator, and Bowles, a former White House chief of staff, served as co-chairs of Obama's bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which proposed $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in additional revenues.

Among the CEOs attending the meeting are General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, who chairs Obama's jobs council, and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, who are members of the council.

How often do you shop at Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis?


gordonwebstergordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebstergordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

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Written on 01/30/2015, 12:05 pm by Hannah Esqueda
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Written on 01/30/2015, 11:49 am by Leah
PartnerQuiqLabs What we do:Quiq Labs provides comprehensive mobile Web and app answers for businesses and organizations that have a marketing goal to reach mobile users via Web, email marketing and social media. We help you do it and we help you do it right. Education:I attended Ohio State University mastering in economics and entrepreneurship. Age:45 Family: I’m very single yet super busy. I’m a father of two children and two grandchildren. I have a married brother in Ohio and a sister who lives in Stockton. I really, really love them all and they inspire me to do big things.  Why did you decide to start Quiq Labs?Quiq Labs was an effort to provide a way for companies to reach the increasingly growing mobile phone user base and to be able to track that growth and activity in real-time. Logo branded QR Codes and mobile websites were our flagship products during our launch. Who else is involved in the company’s ownership and day-to-day management?Curlen Phipps is the Chief Technologist and Software Guy. I’m the User Interface and User Experience Architect. Only being two of us, we hold more positions than that. We’re looking to expand this year. What are the biggest challenges to surviving and thriving as a tech start up in the Central Valley?There are many challenges. Most of those challenges involve simply having an opportunity to get in the door to give a dynamic and interactive fifteen-minute presentation. Sometimes the local market does not understand the value in Internet and an online presence so we expand our market while keeping our offices local. Other times small and large companies are working with Web teams from other states, not knowing local web technology businesses are here to help them. We’d love to have the phones ringing from local companies who know we exist and know we are here to help. What is your company focusing on most in 2015? currently; starting February 9th! We’re so excited to announce so many things this year, including, our new hands-on social media training classes. We are going to teach individuals and businesses how to increase their social media exposure, turn “Likes” and “Followers” into customers and the most effective strategies and best practices for using social media, email marketing and so much more. We’ll also be announcing two new office locations and plan on having our first ribbon cutting at the end of February. Here is a Business Journal exclusive! Our current office location is inside Bitwise Industries at 2210 San Joaquin St. Fresno, Ca 93721. Mark your calendars for February 25th! What awards have you or your company received?Our team has won two 59 Days of Code awards for best software ideas in the entire Central Valley. 2013 was our second and biggest 59DOC win and that year we introduced our logo branded QR code solution. 2014 we won the prestigious Rising Star Company Award at the Fresno Advertising Federation’s 2014 honors luncheon in front of our marketing and media peers. How important is it for local businesses to understand and utilize social media?Incredibly important for one super big reason: their customers are there. Every business and organization needs to have a presence where mobile customers are visiting several times a day, every single day. If you’re not there, your competition could be getting your social media presence. Does your company have any type of tie up or relationship with big tech players like Google?Yes! Thanks to our 59DOC win and our strong relationship with the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, California Black Chamber and the U.S. Black Chamber we were invited to Google, featured in a Google video and have connects with two amazing people there. Keep an eye out on some announcements we’ll make this year. What was the best advice you ever received?Never give up. If you stop, you’ll never make it. What are your roots in the Central Valley?My business partner Curlen and I are both from Cincinnati, Ohio so we don’t have roots here per se. However, Curlen’s wife Michele’s family has roots here. Her roots brought them here and I followed to start a technology and graphic design company. What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?McDonald’s. Customer service, hands down. What do you like to do in your spare time?Travel, weight lifting, rock climbing, biking, spending time with friends and family including my nieces and nephews in Stockton, reading, bowling, dinner with a lovely woman, dancing and gettin’ in some controller time on my PlayStation to name a few. I’m working on break dancing again in 2015.
Written on 01/30/2015, 11:43 am by Gabriel Dillard
It appeared to be a profitable year for some of the Central Valley’s larger community banks, though not all enjoyed the year-over-year growth that shareholders like to see.Here’s an overview for local banks that have released fourth quarter financial information. They are placed in order of year-over-year growth in net income. Fresno First Bank2014 income: $2.12 million2013 income: $26,000Year-over growth: 8,053 percentLast year was a big year for Fresno First Bank. It completed the formation of its parent company, Communities First Financial Corp., and once again was a top performer in terms of Small Business Administration lending. The bank’s annual income growth rate was astounding, though it probably illustrates that 2013 was more an anomaly for the young bank when it reported $26,000 in earnings.In fact, net income for 2012 was $1.1 million.Notable quote: “We accomplished a lot during 2014. Breaking through $2 million in net income for the first time, once again posting double digit growth in loans, deposits and assets, and the formation of our holding company are all things we are proud of as we continue our work to enhance shareholder value,” stated Rick Whitsell, president and CEO of Communities First Financial Corp.Security First Bank2014 income: $2 million2013 income: $393,000Year-over growth 408 percentSecurity First Bank was among a number of local banks celebrating record net income in 2014. The bank saw noteworthy growth in the year in categories including total assets, loans and deposits.Notable quote: “The focus of the board and management in improving our bottom line has provided Security First Bank with the funding and strong capital position used to support our significant loan growth. We’re very pleased with our bank’s progress and continue to be optimistic about the bank, its performance, and future prospects,” stated Steve Jones, president and CFO of Security First Bank. Bank of the Sierra2014 income: $15.2 million2013 income: $13.4 millionYear-over growth: 14 percentLast year was a pivotal one for Sierra Bancorp, parent company of Bank of the Sierra. It launched a new succession plan, a conversion in its core banking system, a rebranding and a bank acquisition (Santa Clara Valley Bank on the Central Coast). Bank officials cited the bank acquisition as one factor that tempered earnings for 2014, but Bank of the Sierra continues its unbroken run of positive annual income. Notable quote: “Acquisition costs negatively impacted our financial performance, but those costs were lower than originally projected and were largely offset by other favorable variances. We’re very pleased with the robust financial results achieved in 2014, including a dramatic reduction in nonperforming assets, strong loan and deposit growth, and increased net income,” stated James C. Holly, CEO of Sierra Bancorp. Valley Business Bank2014 income: $4.3 million2013 income: $4.1 millionYear-over growth: 5 percentValley Commerce Bancorp, parent of Visalia’s Valley Business Bank, reported a fourth-straight year of record annual earnings. The bank saw favorable growth in net loans and total deposits last year of 13 percent.Notable quote: “It is my privilege to report a fourth straight year of record earnings. Our 2014 earnings reflect growth in our loan and investment portfolios, increased non-interest income, and prudent control of non-interest expenses,” Allan W. Stone, president and CEO, Valley Commerce Bancorp. Premier Valley Bank2014 income: $7.2 million2013 income: $6.5 millionYear-over growth: 10 percentPremier Valley Bank is another institution making moves last year, including the commencement of a $3 million stock repurchase plan. Record earnings followed. Bank officials are confident promising times lay ahead.Notable quote: “We are pleased to report that 2014 was the most profitable year in the history of the bank, the fourth consecutive year we have been able to make this statement. These results have allowed us to increase our quarterly cash dividend from $.07 per share to $.08 per share and actively maintain our Share Repurchase Plan, under which the Bank is authorized to repurchase PVLY shares from shareholders who may wish to sell,” stated J. Mike McGowan, president and CEO, in a statement. United Security Bank2014 income: $6.2 million2013 income: $7.2 millionYear-over growth: -14 percentAs a bank that reported losses in the height of the financial downturn, shareholders must be happy to see positive earnings again, even though year-over totals showed negative growth. Last year was also important for the bank because it marked the end of regulatory agreements with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Dating back to 2010, the agreement was intended to improve the overall condition of the bank through measures including increased board oversight, monitoring of asset quality and prohibition of capital-reducing measures, including cash dividends.Notable quote: “2014 was an exceptional year for us with the termination of all formal regulatory agreements. We grew our loan portfolio over $60 million and continued to see positive momentum with reductions in non-performing assets and a year-over-year increase of 20 percent in core earnings. We are well positioned going into 2015 for continued success,” Dennis R. Woods, president and CEO, United Security Bancshares.

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