Frustration, apprehension and determination. Those were the among the emotions expressed by nearly two dozen manufacturers who met with state lawmakers at the Capitol this week.
Talks centered on proposals that could be “the last straw” that breaks companies’ ability to stay in Connecticut. Listening in were State Sens. Edward Meyer (D-Guilford) and Jonathan Harris (D-West Hartford), and Reps. Pamela Sawyer (R-Bolton) and Larry Miller (R-Stratford).
Just three weeks before the end of the session—on the morning after legislators debated long into the night about how Connecticut should cast its presidential electoral votes—many manufacturers wondered in which state they might be casting their own ballots in the next presidential election.
“We’re on the verge of saying ‘we’ve had it,’” said one manufacturing executive. “Lawmakers have no idea what they are doing to manufacturing companies.”
Among other things, lawmakers are considering proposals to raise sales taxes on multiple aspects of manufacturing operations, reduce the corporate tax credits that help manufacturers stay competitive, and increase taxes specifically on smaller businesses through a hike in the personal income tax.
Legislators are also proposing a paid- sick-leave mandate that will cost Connecticut employers money they can’t afford and create a “horrendous” administrative nightmare, they say.
Another proposal would severely limit employers’ ability to talk with their employees about sick leave, health care benefits, and a host of other key business and human resources issues.
Manufacturers at the meeting talked about how difficult, frustrating and expensive it is to comply with Connecticut’s complex, punitive and ever-changing environmental regulations as well.
They also discussed how, in the midst of one of the worst state budget deficits in history, lawmakers are exploring billion-dollar schemes to expand state control of health care, energy and other areas instead of looking at how to make state government more affordable and efficient.
These and other factors are making manufacturers feel boxed in—causing some to look for a way out of Connecticut, especially when they are constantly getting calls from Florida, Michigan, North and South Carolina and many other states to recruit their businesses.
“You’re forcing us to look elsewhere,” said one manufacturer. “This is not a threat; this is reality.”
Instead of increasing taxes, state government should make its own operations more efficient and less expensive, say manufacturers. “We constantly benchmark ourselves with our competition,” said an executive. “State government should benchmark itself with other states to see what they are doing to hold on to businesses and jobs.”
While the task is daunting, manufacturers are not ready to throw in the towel yet. “We can’t give up,” said one executive. “We just have to get the message across.”
Lawmakers encouraged the manufacturers to keep contacting their senators and representatives to tell them specifically how proposed legislation would affect their companies and employees. “Tell them that it’s about jobs,” said Rep. Sawyer. “The message has to wave over them.”