Skip to comments.Connecticut's measures leave business feeling resentful
Posted on 03/15/2012 4:58:51 PM PDT by DeaconBenjamin
HARTFORD Larry Cafero, the Republican minority leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives, believes all workers should have access to paid sick days. Like most of his Democratic counterparts here, Cafero thinks workers should not be forced to choose between losing a paycheck and reporting to work sick, particularly if they are waiters or waitresses and come into contact with food that will be eaten by others. Paid sick leave is very hard to argue with, he says.
But last year, when it came time to vote on a bill that would make Connecticut the only state in the nation to require paid sick time for private-sector employees, Cafero and most of his fellow Republicans voted no. Timing is everything, Cafero explains of his decision, which did not prevent the measure from becoming law. It has been in effect since January.
The way Republicans and many business owners in Connecticut see it, lawmakers could not have chosen a worse moment to impose the law, a step previously taken only by individual cities, such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Not only did Connecticut approve the measure as the state was beginning the long climb out of a recession, it passed it alongside the largest tax hike in state history, with the Democratic-run General Assembly raising income, sales and a host of other taxes [in hopes of gaining] more than $1.5 billion. Businesses also have seen their unemployment taxes go up this year, since Connecticut is one of many states that has borrowed money from the federal government and now must pay interest on its federal loan.
The combination of tax increases and a broad new mandate on businesses during a nascent economic recovery is the worst message that could ever be sent to the investment community, says Mark Soycher of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the main business lobby in Hartford. Soycher, a human resources lawyer, has been advising companies about the sick leave law, which requires most private employers with 50 or more workers to provide up to five days of paid sick leave each year a burden they predict will cut into their profits and create administrative headaches. Companies have been calling Soycher and the Connecticut Department of Labor to ask whether and how they are affected by the law.
But while Republicans and many of their allies in the private sector may feel besieged by some of the economic policies that have come out of Hartford over the last year, Democrats make no apologies for their agenda, even if it upsets those who write the paychecks. In effect, they are making a counterargument to the policies favored by Republican leaders in other states. They say helping the working class will do more to boost the economy than providing tax cuts to businesses or individuals at the top of the income ladder.
This year, House Speaker Christopher Donovan is spearheading an effort that would raise the states minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $9.75 an hour by 2014, even though Connecticut already has the second-highest wage floor in the Northeast, after Vermont. Donovan is teaming up with Democratic House speakers from New Jersey and New York to pursue a unique, regional push for increased minimum wages, hoping to fend off attacks from Republicans who say that raising just one states wage would make it less competitive economically. Donovan, who is running for Congress, says the broader economy will benefit if those with lower incomes have more money in their pocket.
If we want to rebuild a strong economy, we need jobs that can support families and get consumers back into stores, purchasing goods and services again, the speakers wrote in a recent op-ed published in all three states. Strengthening the buying power of low-wage workers is especially critical given that the majority of jobs that have been created in the wake of the recession are concentrated in low- and mid-wage occupations.
Meanwhile, Dannel Malloy, this states first Democratic governor in two decades, proudly points to other efforts to help the workforce in Connecticut, including the creation last year of an earned income tax credit that will provide [tax dollars] to an estimated 190,000 workers, even as lawmakers raised a host of other taxes. Like Donovan, Malloy frames the tax credit as a boon to the state economy, telling Stateline in a recent interview that the money returned to the working poor through the credit and its federal companion will pump $500 million into our economy.
As for paid sick leave, the governor contends it is a pro-business thing to do to give workers the protection of sick days, since he believes restaurants, child care centers and other employers will not benefit if their workers show up sick. On the question of timing, Malloy has little patience with those who say that the state should have waited for the economy to stabilize before enacting the law. In Connecticut, we havent had much (job) growth in the last 20 years, Malloy told Stateline. Was I supposed to wait another 20 years?
Employees vs. employers?
Few people in Connecticut would accuse Malloy of waiting too long to pursue his legislative priorities. The governor with the narrowest winning margin in the nation in the 2010 elections 6,400 votes, out of more than a million cast had a first year in office that recalled some of the contentious debates playing out at the same time in the Republican Midwest.
Malloy infuriated businesses by raising taxes and signing the paid sick leave law, which was approved by the General Assembly by the slimmest of margins. But he also alienated public-worker unions by requiring deep concessions to balance the state budget. This year, he is further stoking tensions among another key Democratic constituency teachers by seeking to hold them more accountable, including by overhauling tenure rules.
Malloy says he prefers to take a balanced approach to governing, spreading out the pain of difficult policy decisions so one group is not affected disproportionately. That applies to the private sector as well. While businesses did not approve of the tax hikes and paid sick leave law, many of them cheered a bipartisan, $626 million jobs bill that Malloy signed late last year, one he touts as the most comprehensive jobs package that any state legislature has passed. The plan invests heavily in infrastructure and in tax credits for emerging industries, including rewards for large companies that create jobs in Connecticut.
Republican lawmakers voted for the jobs plan almost unanimously, but Cafero contends that Democrats are sending a schizophrenic message to business by simultaneously pushing policies such as paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage. Cafero says those measures pit workers against their employers and inject the state into the private sector at a time when the private sector should be left alone.
Cafero is not the only one accusing the state of an arbitrary and unpredictable approach. Nicole Griffin, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, questions why the paid sick leave law affects only businesses with 50 or more workers. If I own a restaurant with 10 employees, theyre allowed to come to work sick, but if I own a restaurant with 50 or more, theyre not? she asks.
Signs of a rift
A common argument around the Connecticut Capitol is that Democrats know some of their policies could have a negative effect on businesses, but that they are more interested in winning the support of their political backers in the blue-collar segment of the electorate.
Donovan, for instance, faces an August primary in his race for Congress, and he has made support for the minimum wage his leading issue this session. Malloy, for his part, made paid sick leave a campaign promise during his run for governor, and wasted little time putting it on the agenda after winning office. Voters in Connecticuts Working Families Party, which had supported the proposal for years, provided Malloy with 26,000 votes, or more than four times his margin of victory.
But there are signs of a rift in the Democratic alliance this year. Malloy and Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams have been cool to Donovans push for a higher minimum wage, suggesting that frequent Republican criticisms of Connecticut as anti-business may be turning into a political problem and that the issue of timing may be a real concern. Raising the wage floor is not my proposal, Malloy pointedly told Stateline, declining to say whether he would sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.
At the same time, Malloy accuses Republicans and industry groups of coordinating with one another to hammer home the message that Connecticut is unfriendly to business, even though the states unemployment has declined from 9.3 percent to 8.0 percent on his watch. If you have a political party (that) is heavily invested in telling people why they should be unhappy, Malloy says, then we shouldnt be surprised at the results we get.
I’ve seen CT evolve for 40 years and it’s truly sick the way the electorate has embraced liberalism. CT cities are a mess and the countryside holds no employment without punishing and expensive commutes, loss of family time and unreasonable cost of living.
As a life long Cter, I’m sad to report that Republicans are beaten dogs.
There is no hope.
“CT cities are a mess and the countryside holds no employment without punishing and expensive commutes, loss of family time and unreasonable cost of living.”
NJ did the same thing, and when the price was clear Christie was elected to fix it. Not only was it a terrible business climate, but American taxpayers were fleeing with the jobs, leaving behind illegalaliens and the permanent (unemployable) underclass. Look at all of the cops laid off in NJ recently(1/3 in some cities, which were unsafe even with the bloated departments) - it merely reflects the dearth of taxpayers & businesses to support them and the lack of “legal” residents to protect.
I’m sure like northern NJ southern CT lost it’s share of financial jobs, and those will never come back.
We’re hanging on (barely) in NJ, but it doesn’t look good. On a positive note, there is no reason to assume that these NE states that are doing so poorly will support Obama - within one year of carrying NJ and MA, Governor Christie and Scott Brown respectively won statewide races. They may not be ideal, but they are better than the alternatives.
Connecticut ( I live here) calls itself the land of steady habits. For too long and for the foreseeable future it will continue to vote for democrats. The only hope is that somehow democrats can be persuaded to act responsibly. There is a tiny bit of hope for this.
I have direct knowledge that about a third of all the money received from the state income tax comes from just 30-35 very, very wealthy Connecticut taxpayers. The head of the revenue services department has advised the governor that he is free to do anything he likes but if what he does causes these three dozen folks to leave the state, all will not be well.
“Ive seen CT evolve for 40 years and its truly sick the way the electorate has embraced liberalism. CT cities are a mess and the countryside holds no employment without punishing and expensive commutes, loss of family time and unreasonable cost of living.”
hmmm, are you my neighbor, or do you have a tracker on my car? I drive about 40 minutes each way to work. My wife does as well. Living in the town/cities of our jobs is unthinkinkable, and in opposite directions from one another New London/ Hartford. One day when I can afford to take the loss on this house of mine, I will leave and not look back. When I was assigned here in 2006, I never thought I would be so long.
Our last Dem governor (Corzine) actually started the paring back of state worker benefits, furloughs and such (very soon after most of them had supported him for election); he admitted that without illegal aliens NJ had lost population (which is reflected in the fact that we just lost an electoral vote), and the writing was on the wall.
Here in NJ those wealthy people can simply move into a neighboring state (much as they can in CT); the state is small enough to give us some options. Thankfully at least Governor Christie capped our property tax increases; they were the real source of the exodus of taxpaying corporations and individuals. We are regressing into a Third World country in terms of the conditions of our roads and such, but at least we can afford to stay for the time being (those of us still working).
Attending a wedding in NJ a few years back. I was absolutely shocked that the town it was held in seemed to be populated by hordes of illegals. If it wasn’t so damn cold, would have thought it was a Southwest border town.
We are chock-full of illegals; anyone who kids themselves that this is just in our cities is delusional. They’re all over the farms and towns of western NJ as well, and have displaced many Americans in the NYC metro area. Whole sections of towns (some of which had been nice in the past) now resemble Medellin or Bogota, in the sense that all businesses’ signs are only in Spanish or Portuguese (we’ve had swarms of Brazilians as well), and while towns release data saying they are 90% “white” the playgrounds and maternity wards are 90% other (and that is much more telling about where we are headed).
“As a life long Cter, Im sad to report that Republicans are beaten dogs.
There is no hope.”
What this man said.
I’m in CT, too. The state has progressed from “the land of steady habits”, to the land of steady leftists. The political atmosphere has leaned so far leftwards, that it has toppled over, never to be “righted”.
As I told a good and very conservative friend who will never leave (because his wife will never permit it): if you choose to live as a conservative in Connecticut, you also consent [by that choice] to be ruled by leftists. There is only one alternative, and that is to get out.
Recently retired, myself. Looking to get out if I can, but not yet certain I will....
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