August 18, 2005--Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) called for a number of reforms to aid small business owners, including health care reform and easier access to loans, while addressing a luncheon for the National Federation of Independent Business in Texas on Tuesday.

Hutchison, a former small-business owner herself, is a co-sponsor of the Small Business Health Fairness Act introduced by Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. The bill would allow businesses with only a few employees to participate in associated health plans as an alternative to more expensive group plans.

In her speech on Tuesday, Hutchison cited U.S. Census Bureau statistics that reported a 2.4 million person increase in the number of uninsured Americans between 2001 and 2002, growing to a total of 43.6 million people. Increased health care costs coupled with a decrease in employer-sponsored health insurance were the two main factors in the increase.

While discussing the upcoming congressional agenda, Hutchison also argued for less red tape when growing businesses apply for federal loans through the Small Business Administration.

In reviewing the work of the 109th Congress so far, Hutchison cited the passage of national highway and energy bills as victories to small businesses by aiding transportation infrastructure and reducing dependence on foreign energy sources. Hutchison also commended Congress for passing the Central American Free Trade Agreement which she said will open trade to new markets and create jobs.