The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)
⏩ State lawmakers get mixed grades from businesses.
It had become a running punch line in Connecticut business circles the past few years, the state’s recent record in passing annual budgets months after deadlines that would cost any corporate budget staff their jobs in any equivalent lapses.
With the Connecticut General Assembly punching out on time this year, business owners and their workers were tallying the early returns Friday on the coming impact of new laws on jobs, whether from the perspective of hiring or employee rights in the workplace.
In reaching a final budget compromise with minutes to spare in the 2018 legislative session, the Connecticut General Assembly sent for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s signature a number of new restrictions and opportunities affecting business owners and workers, from a limited “pay equity” measure intended to help women get better compensation when hired, to extensions of incentives for the generation of energy from clean sources like solar panels.
Many more were left discarded in the aisles and conference rooms in the state Capitol in the final hours of the 2018 session. Of bills considered before legislative committees for commerce and labor — two that touch employers of all sizes — representatives reached consensus on less than 30 percent of the bills brought before them, with Malloy having yet to signal in many instances whether he would sign them into law.
“The good news is no new tax increases,” said Joe McGee, vice president of public policy and programs for the Business Council of Fairfield County in Stamford. “The big disappointment is on the transportation piece . ... Whatever the solution is, we need a new revenue source for transportation. That’s just a fact and there’s no way to escape that.”
Early reactions were mixed in other parts of the business community, with the Connecticut Business & Industry Association’s CEO Joe Brennan indicating Connecticut is not keeping up with regional rivals like New York and Massachusetts when it comes to generating strong jobs and economic growth.
“We consistently hear from our members that a major cause of substandard growth is the state’s precarious fiscal situation,” Brennan stated in a note to CBIA members Thursday. “The lack of progress on the more serious (short-term) and long-term financial problems facing the state means that these issues will continue to impact our ability to attract investment and jobs here.”
The National Federation of Independent Business noted that legislators tabled multiple bills NFIB said would have raised costs for its small-business members. Connecticut’s gross domestic product was down a second straight year in 2017, the result of a sluggish first quarter that was more than enough to wipe out gains in the succeeding nine months.
“Legislators ... showed fiscal restraint by not increasing the tax burden on all state residents,” stated Andrew Markowski, NFIB state director, in a written statement Thursday. “When Connecticut’s unemployment rate is the highest in the Northeast, and GDP is down, that’s a great first step . ... It will take time to address the huge state pension and health care costs, and reduce the state debt, but if that happens, Connecticut will become a great place for businesses to expand or open.”
The pay equity bill’s supporters marshaled a major push at a March hearing to get the legislation to the governor’s desk, with the bill transmitted Thursday for Malloy’s signature.
“Almost every single employer I have had has asked me about previous salary,” stated Bridgeport resident Lauren Gray, in March testimony to a committee of the Assembly. “It makes me nervous to state what I had been previously paid because I am not sure if the salary they are about to propose is a fair salary.”