Workplace Issues: Some Progress, More Needed
The legislature has taken a few steps in the right direction on some key labor and employment issues, and lawmakers still can go even farther.
Paid Sick Leave Fixes
This week the Labor Committee approved HB 5269, a Commerce Committee bill that gives employers some much needed flexibility and clarity in administering the state’s paid sick leave mandate.
One of the main reasons for the bill’s widespread bipartisan support is that HB 5269 protects the benefit itself—putting no one at risk of losing paid sick leave.
While little can be done to address the cost of the mandate, helping businesses comply with it will be very helpful.
On another positive note, a proposal to expand the state’s family and medical leave (HB 5283) failed to make it out of the Appropriations Committee. The bill would have allowed employees to use family and medical leave to care for additional extended family members—increasing costs and creating scheduling problems for employers.
Help with Unemployment Taxes
Businesses continue to reel from high and increasing unemployment compensation taxes. But HB 5314 calls for $60 million dollars in the projected state budget surplus to be applied toward the debt owed to the federal government to repay dollars borrowed to shore up the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.
The state borrowed nearly $1 billion to pay for unemployment benefits during the recession – all of which must be repaid by Connecticut businesses. Repayment is in the form of annual federal unemployment tax increases, as well as yearly special assessments on employers.
Applying some of the surplus to this debt would actually help businesses reduce unemployment in Connecticut by allowing them to do more hiring.
Retire the Mandate
Lawmakers also should stop the pursuit of SB 249, which is fraught with problems for Connecticut businesses and the state’s economy. The bill requires businesses (with five or more employees) that do not provide employees with access to an IRA, 401(k) or pension plan to facilitate employee participation in a newly-created state-run retirement plan.
While the goal of the bill is laudable, imposes numerous new administrative burdens on businesses, and creation of the plan is projected to cost taxpayers up to $10 million, with up to $165 million per year in lost state tax revenue.
With getting the state’s fiscal house in order one of the main goals of making Connecticut more competitive, SB 249 would do just the opposite.
As the clock winds down, the business community will continue to do its best to promote measures that will help Connecticut increase its ability to compete with businesses in other states, while opposing measures that will drag us down further.
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