If small-business owners could get the ear of Bill Clinton, they would whisper two phrases -- "cut taxes" and "deregulate banks" -- according to a telephone survey done the day after the presidential election.

The survey of 100 owners of small and midsize businesses, done by National Small Business United and Arthur Andersen's Enterprise Group, found that entrepreneurs were keenly sensitive to the effects of bank regulation on their ability to get credit.

10% Favor Deregulation

Asked to name the most important action the new administration could take to stimulate small-business growth, 10% of respondents mentioned "deregulating banks," according to the survey.

That's almost as many as the 15% who said that cutting taxes -- particularly the capital gains tax -- should lead the new President's economic-stimulus agenda. Another 10% picked rising health-care costs as the chief problem that Mr. Clinton should address.

The business owners expressed optimism about the coming year. Six of 10 respondents expect sales to increase during the next 12 months. That contrasts with 52% who gave the same answer when asked about their 1992 outlook and 45% who expected sales increases during 1991.

The responses on excessive bank regulation are in accord with the results of a survey of more than 600 small-business owners published last July by the Enterprise Group and the nonprofit association of small-business owners.

Twenty-three percent of those who said they had difficulty obtaining loans last summer blamed the problem on "tighter bank regulations."

45% Get Funding with Ease

That compares with 12% who said banks were "not interested" in their type of businesses, 4% who claimed that banks are "not lending in general," and 3% who complained that their community banks had closed.

A surprisingly high 45% of respondents said they had no problem getting funding.

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