Hartford: Living in An Upside Down World by State Senator Toni Boucher

April 14, 2014

Finally, there is some good news for Connecticut’s businesses. During a legislative session filled with job killing anti-business bill proposals, propagated by a labor committee seemingly bent on punishing our business sector, the finance committee voted down HB 5069. This bill proposal was the only one of its kind in the nation.
Starting January 1, 2015 this bill would have assessed a quarterly fee on employers with 500 or more employees. These employers would be required to pay a $1 per hour work fee for each person paid wages less than 130% of the state’s minimum wage. At the same time, the bill prohibits covered employers from trying to avoid the fee by designating an employee as an independent contractor or temporary employee, reducing an employee’s work hours, or terminating an employee. This would tie the hands of our large employers and be further disincentive to remain in or locate to our state.

As unbelievable as this may sound to anyone who understand how a business works, it was nonetheless brought up for debate in the Finance Committee, where many of us spoke out against it. This bill would not only affect large businesses, it would also affect our public and private colleges and universities, further driving up tuition costs.

Why would Connecticut continue on its path to make itself even more anti-business or risk losing more jobs?

A proponent of the bill stated that it was necessary due to the high cost of living in Connecticut. Yes, there is no doubt that the cost of living is high in Connecticut, as is the cost of doing business. But I maintain that the high cost of labor is the major contributing factor, since high labor costs increase the cost of goods and services.

Turning Government on its Head

Another argument in favor of the bill was that because government is subsidizing low wage earners through welfare payments, the Earned Income Tax Credit, rental assistance, food stamps and other services, businesses should shoulder some of the cost of these services. This is turning government on its head. Who is responsible for what? And, if in fact this is the purpose of the bill, then the fees collected from this penalty should go into a special fund for low income workers, rather than the general fund, where it can be used for any purpose. Throughout the debate, the bill’s supporters were unable to say what these funds will be used for. It is my view that government should stick to its core functions and stay out of business.

Living in an Upside down world.

The heavy presence of unionized workers in the audience today was an indication of the special interests fueling this proposal and others like it. It felt like I was living in an upside down world. These proposals confuse the proper roles of the public and private sector, arguing that government is responsible for creating opportunity, while business must be responsible for public welfare services. In reality it is the private sector that creates opportunity. A strong economy, with plentiful jobs and opportunities for advancement, is the product of economic policies that reduce costs, cut red tape and remove barriers to the open market.

Although the bill’s proponents failed to win the committee’s support, the state of Connecticut cannot continue to entertain similar bill proposals, when it is already known as one of the worst state for doing business, for job growth and the cost of living. The persistence of job killing legislation shows that the business sector needs a bigger voice in our state and I am determined to continue to provide it.