Connecticut's largest business organization released its 2020 policy priorities today, calling for state lawmakers to make job and economic growth the primary focus of this year's legislative session.
"We've lagged other states, the region, and the nation for far too long," CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan said today.
"We're starting to see better signs of economic growth but we're still lagging in job creation.
"The main focus of this legislative session must be on making it easier for employers to grow in Connecticut as opposed to what we've seen over the last several years, with new costs and mandates hampering much-needed growth."
Brennan noted Connecticut's economy grew 2.1% in the third quarter of 2019, the state's third consecutive quarter of growth, after growing just 0.5% in 2018.
He called the state's 2019 job numbers "disappointing," with private sector job growth at just 0.4% compared with 1.1% for the six New England states and 1.5% across the U.S.
"The legislature must avoid new mandates and higher costs, whether it's taxes or more administrative burdens," he said.
"It's time for policymakers to accelerate Connecticut's economic and job growth by tapping into the collective expertise of the private sector."
Brennan said the expected surge in state employee retirements represents an opportunity for state government to "deliver services in a more cost effective and efficient manner."
"Let's start putting the mechanisms in place to streamline and modernize the state's bureaucracy," he said.
"State agencies must embrace technology and build upon some preliminary initiatives and drive broad-based efforts to reduce the size and cost of state government."
CBIA is also calling for reforms to the state's paid family and medical leave mandate, which the legislature approved during the 2019 session.
Eric Gjede, CBIA's vice president of government affairs, called the legislation "a one-size-fits-all mandate that unfairly targets the state's small businesses."
"We're asking lawmakers to protect small businesses and make paid FMLA optional for companies with 30 or fewer employees," Gjede said.
"More than three-quarters of our member companies say the mandate will negatively impact their operations, with production and workforce reductions and employee benefit changes among the options they're exploring."
Gjede said Connecticut needs positive reforms to grow jobs and leverage the state’s full economic potential.
"This agenda provides a policy framework for driving much-needed job and economic growth," he said.
"We call for state lawmakers to adopt what is a responsible, common sense approach to addressing Connecticut's challenges and leveraging the opportunities for growth."
CBIA's 2020 legislative agenda includes the following policy proposals:
State Spending and Taxes
- Prioritize corrections reforms and home-based long-term care and expand the role of nonprofit organizations in delivering state services
- Honor spending reforms adopted in the last two biennial budgets to continue building the state’s reserve fund
- Adopt cost-saving collective bargaining reforms, including eliminating overtime and mileage as factors in state employee pension calculations
- Restore pass-through entity tax credit to its original 93%—the 2019 cut costs small businesses $53 million annually
- Eliminate sales tax on employee training and data processing and reject new attempts to mandate real time sales tax remittances
- Restore the R&D tax credit and eliminate the 10% corporate surcharge tax originally enacted in 2019 as a temporary, three-year measure
Education and Workforce
- Require existing job-training programs to utilize Department of Labor data in targeting middle-skill jobs in the state's most in-demand sectors
- Create incentives for schools to offer students more dedicated career pathways and work-based learning experiences
- Ensure all Connecticut Technical High School System schools provide modern instruction based on industry needs
- Support legislation incentivizing businesses to subsidize employee childcare costs
Labor and Employment
- Make paid FMLA optional for companies with 30 or less employees, reinstate the time of service requirement to qualify for benefits, cap repeated usage of the program at 35 weeks over five years, and require intermittent leave be taken in full day increments
- Reject further efforts to control lawful business practices, including blocking proposals eliminating non-compete agreements and limiting workplace communication
- Make long-overdue reforms to the state's unemployment compensation system, including raising the earnings threshold and bringing benefits in line with other states
- Reject proposals imposing new penalties or undermining the workers' compensation system as an exclusive remedy
- Reject state-run healthcare proposals that put a greater burden on taxpayers, erode market competition, or hurt one of the state's largest employers and economic drivers
- Support legislation that promotes health plan diversity, allowing small businesses to choose from a variety of plans and select the best fit for employees
- Amend the Health Benefit Review Program to require the Connecticut Insurance Department to conduct a biannual cost-benefit analysis of state mandates
- Revise remediation requirements, such as the Transfer Act and Remediation Standard Regulations, to encourage economic growth while protecting the environment
- Adopt clear and concise spill-reporting regulations for future spills of common substances based on reasonable reportable quantities
- Ensure state environmental regulations reflect the most recent version of federal rules
Energy and Technology
- Ensure public transparency around the impact proposed energy policies will have on energy costs
- Guarantee ratepayer funds earmarked for energy efficiency and clean energy investments are not diverted
- Lawmakers must unite behind a transportation funding plan that provides the necessary resources to rebuild and modernize Connecticut's infrastructure
- Ensure Special Transportation Fund revenues are used for transportation projects
- Use the private sector to speed planning and completion of priority transportation projects
- Provide short-term funding for high-value Manufacturing Innovation Fund training programs while developing a long-term, sustainable plan to support future programs
- Streamline or eliminate inefficient or ineffective administrative burdens on manufacturers to increase productivity and competitiveness
- Reject costly new workplace mandates that diminish the competitiveness of Connecticut manufacturers
- Reject government-run health insurance or medicine-purchasing proposals that further burden taxpayers or patients, decrease access to treatment or medicines, increase costs, or hurt the growing bioscience sector
- Support policies that encourage vaccine R&D and childhood immunization
- Promote the construction of additional life science laboratory space, especially for start-up biotechnology companies
CBIA is Connecticut's largest business organization, with thousands of member companies, small and large, representing a diverse range of industries from every part of the state. For more information, please contact Joe Budd (860.244.1951).