Beyond Salary: The Real Cost of a Job in Connecticut

Issues & Policies

Business Day attendees urge state legislators to help them create jobs by avoiding costly labor, healthcare mandates

Dozens of state legislators and Connecticut employers packed a Legislative Office Building room for the Connecticut Business Day breakout session on labor and healthcare costs. Their mission? To discuss some of the most potentially harmful proposals raised so far during this legislative session.

Dubious Priorities

Lawmakers and employers alike questioned the timing of proposals, such as the SustiNet bill, given the urgency of the state’s economic and fiscal problems.

The SustiNet proposal would establish a state-run public healthcare option that would cost taxpayers an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion per year, put the state in the risky role of self-insurer, and put the state in competition with the private-sector insurance marketplace, which provides thousands of good jobs in the state.

“It seems that every day [at the Capitol], it’s an all-out onslaught to push people out of business,” said Rep. Christopher Coutu (R-Norwich). “The fact that the legislative body, with the fiscal crisis that we have, is focused on proposals like SustiNet and other things like paid sick leave just shows how lost the people in this building have become.

“My greatest concern for the business owners is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a real concern or a real proactive approach to focus on the budget. Unless we turn that ship around, and [legislators] start focusing on the budget, we’re going to have another billion dollars in new tax increases two years from now.”

“Why are we even discussing [mandated paid sick leave] year after year after year?” asked Susan Baum, director of human resources at Orange Research Inc. in Milford. “Where are the priorities here?”

Healthcare Mandates

Many participants spoke about the impact of healthcare mandates on business owners’ ability to provide health coverage to their employees. Mandates are laws that require state-regulated insurance policies to cover specific medical procedures and services, and with each new mandate health insurance premiums rise immediately. Connecticut is among the states with the highest number of health coverage mandates.

“The state has gotten out of control in terms of healthcare mandates,” said Rep. Michael Alberts (R-Woodstock). “I will continue to oppose them.”

“Way too many healthcare mandates are crippling our health insurance system,” said Tim Pusch, manager/broker at insurance agency Burns, Brooks & McNeil in Torrington. “Real healthcare reform attacks the way the system works, not just provides coverage for all.”   

Rep. Prasad Srinivasan (R-Glastonbury), a practicing physician, believes that simply avoiding new healthcare mandates is not enough.

“We have 59 to 60 mandates in healthcare,” he said, “that is driving up our costs. And of those 59 or 60 mandates, we know that about four or five are the most expensive part of the entire dollar you pay for healthcare.

“So [we need to] revisit those four or five mandates. Whether we can afford those luxuries in medicine, unfortunately in this day and age, is something we have to come to [terms] with.”

Mandating Paid Sick Leave: Not Everybody Benefits

It is often pointed out that proponents of mandated paid sick leave don’t consider the deeper ramifications of such a measure. The bill currently up for consideration requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide paid sick time in increments of one hour for every 40 hours worked, at a maximum of 40 hours per calendar year with carryover of up to 40 hours.

“I know right now that talking against the paid sick leave bill is a challenge, because it’s become very popular,” said Lelah M. Campo, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Connecticut. “But I promise you that if you pass that mandated paid sick leave bill, there will be unintended consequences.

“It will be through good intentions that our legislators might vote to pass that bill. I think what they fail to recognize is that…some businesses will flat-out not grow; they will look at the [50 employee] threshold and say they are not going above that. In addition, other businesses that already offer other benefits will simply decrease those benefits. The end result is that you further discourage businesses from growing and prospering in Connecticut, and you haven’t achieved what you intended.”

Rep. John Rigby (R-Winchester) agreed, recalling a discussion he had recently with a restaurant owner who testified against the paid sick leave bill.

“He said that his firm is expanding, but the cost to him would be $125,000 a year if that bill becomes law,” said Rigby. “And he said ‘I’m considering opening more restaurants, but I’m seriously looking at surrounding states to open those restaurants in, because of the cost of doing business here.’”

Defeating Bad Proposals Not Enough

Several attendees pointed out that although much effort is needed to defeat the harmful bills raised in the legislature every year, it will take rolling back existing anti-business laws to attract the kind of business investment that will turn Connecticut’s economy around and put people back to work.

“Let’s assume the best, that no further laws are passed to further erode our [competitive] position,” said Pusch, “it seems to me that that’s not going to help our position—just by not passing anything further. We’ve got to look at things we’ve done, cut back on the things we’ve done, or change the things we’ve done in favor of promoting business in this state—way more than just avoiding the bills that are on the table. It seems like we’ve got to do something way more drastic to improve the environment in Connecticut for business.”

Rep. Dan Carter (R-Bethel; pictured above, with fellow panelist Sharon Davis from Alcoa Howmet) echoed those concerns. “I’ve also noticed that we seem very reactive in what we do here,” he said. “So many times we’re fighting back against things that are on the table, versus bringing new ways to come and get rid of some of the [bad laws] that are already on our plates.

“I think that’s something where you in the community can really help…I would encourage you to think about some of the specific mandates that really affect your business, and go to your representatives, and say, ‘listen, this would save me X amount of dollars.’ That could be something that really resonates. Those things add up.”

What’s the Business Impact?

Sen. Anthony Guglielmo (R-Stafford Springs), emphasized the need for business owners to tell their state senators and representatives how legislation affects their ability to operate in Connecticut.

“Part of the problem,” he says, “is that many legislators have never done what you do every day.”

In fact, the need for the business community to educate lawmakers about the business impact of legislation was a prominent theme throughout the discussion.

“Many proposals are raised without thought to the impact on business,” said Alberts.

Andrew Markowski, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said it was important not only to make sure your legislators get to know you and your employees, but get to know your business operations as well.

“There are very few people in this building who have a fundamental understanding of how businesses operate and what the implications are. And that’s why you see a lot of these policy proposals year after year that would impose new costs, new mandates, new regulations. There’s a fundamental disconnect between the policy proposals and what that means for business.” — Bill DeRosa

Bill DeRosa is the editor of CBIA News. He may be reached at


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