CBIA called for state lawmakers to support measures exempting workforce training programs from the sales tax and easing some professional licensing restrictions.
CBIA's Ashley Zane spoke in support of HB 6406 and HB 6407 at a March 4 Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee public hearing.
HB 6406 exempts workforce development or training services provided by a licensed or accredited higher education institution, or by a third party to an employer, from the 6.35% sales tax.
Zane told committee members the sales tax exemption will help address the growing skills gap impacting a number of the state's key industry sectors, including manufacturing.
Workforce an 'Asset'
"HB 6406 will incentivize businesses to utilize the countless workforce development programs offered throughout the state," she said.
"Many of our member companies have commented that the quality of Connecticut’s workforce is a reason for locating, remaining, and investing in the state.
"Connecticut continues to be at the top of economic indicator lists when it comes to our highly educated and skilled workforce, and the state’s fiscal policy should encourage and reflect the value we place on this resource."
She noted that the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the need for the companies to retrain, re-skill, and skill-up existing employees to meet the needs and demands of ever-changing markets.
Zane added that HB 6406 directly aligns with CBIA's Rebuilding Connecticut policy recommendations, addressing both small business relief and workforce development opportunities.
She also spoke in support of HB 6407, which allows spouses of military members to obtain Connecticut occupational or professional licenses if they hold such a license in another state.
"CBIA strongly supports this effort to remove barriers to the recognition of out of state professional licenses for active military member spouses," she told lawmakers.
"Ninety percent of military spouses are female with one third of these spouses working in licensed fields.
"Military base assignments are not by choice—facilitating license reciprocity allows military spouses to enter the Connecticut workforce and contribute to the tax base.
"Employers in Connecticut continue to experience difficulty in finding and retaining skilled workers, and this bill will greatly increase the eligible workforce."
Tony Sheridan, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, told the committee the state is home to thousands of military families "who deserve our utmost support in their transition."
"It is important that Connecticut join other states in establishing broad professional licensure and certification recognition for military spouses," he said.
"As these families dedicate themselves in service to our country, easing their transfer in a change of station should be prioritized and every effort made to mitigate adverse impacts to military spouses’ career and access to work in their professional area."
Christopher Arnold, northeast regional liaison for the U.S. Department of Defense, told the committee 35 states require regulators to issue temporary licenses to military spouses during the review period for a permanent license.
"Military service members and their spouses face steep burdens to occupational and professional licensure when relocating," he said.
Arnold noted that spousal unemployment rates are a determining factor when planning future base closures or expansions.
The Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers also submitted testimony supporting the bill.
CBIA also testified in the General Law Committee in support of a Lamont administration proposal that allows anyone who held a license in good standing for at least one year in another state to sit for professional licensure exams.
HB 6407 drew opposition from a number of labor unions, including the Connecticut AFL-CIO.
The Higher Education and Employment Committee has until March 23 to act on legislation.