Senator Toni Boucher: Expensive mandates cost needed jobs for Connecticut workers

State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) testified before the General Assembly’s Labor Committee this week speaking out against several bills related to prevailing wage and extra unemployment benefit assessments on small businesses.

“These two issues have an enormous impact on our municipalities and businesses,” Ms. Boucher said in a press release. “Let’s face the facts. Connecticut is in real trouble.  We are one of six states losing more residents than are moving in, school enrollment is down across the board, higher education enrollment is down, we are last in job creation. These anti-business bills give the state a bad reputation and it is keeping businesses out and job growth down.”

Ms. Boucher told the committee at a hearing in Middletown, that Connecticut’s prevailing wage statutes require towns to pay a higher wage for public works projects, further constraining their budgets and leading to higher taxes for town residents. The current law sets the prevailing wage threshold at $400,000 for new construction projects and $100,000 for renovations.

The bills Ms. Boucher supports would modify those thresholds. Two bills would raise the prevailing wage threshold, for both new construction and renovation, to $5 million and $2 million respectively. This could reduce municipal building costs between 30% to 50%, substantially increasing the number of public projects and jobs, her office said. This would also allow towns to provide more funds for other public services and ease the tax burden on their residents.

“There were 70 new taxes enacted in 2010 – the largest tax hike in state history," Ms. Boucher said. "This did not create a surplus but, in fact, resulted in billion-dollar deficits. We now have fewer people paying those taxes and fewer building projects, which translate to fewer jobs for both union and non-union people.”

On unemployment compensation, Ms. Boucher testified the current system of unemployment compensation in place is onerous to businesses, many of which are struggling under state and federal unemployment taxes. Additionally, since 2011 Connecticut businesses have also faced biannual special assessments in order for the state to pay off its loan from the Federal Unemployment Fund, which was incurred at the height of the recession.

“The cost per employee has risen from $42 to $161 which is astronomical for a small business owner,” Ms. Boucher said. “There are also reports that suggest the federal government may add even more to these assessments.”

Ms. Boucher supports a bill which raises the threshold at which an employer can be charged for unemployment benefits. Currently, unemployed workers must have earned at least $600 dollars in order to claim benefits from their former employer. This bill would raise that amount to $2,000, bringing Connecticut in line with the majority of states, many of which impose a substantially higher threshold.

“In order to change these onerous mandates, we need to pursue solutions which will give our towns a greater ability to allocate funds, and which allow employers to create more opportunities for individuals seeking employment,” Ms. Boucher said. “Making changes in these areas would help move us in the right direction; help reverse Connecticut’s anti-business reputation; and make Connecticut competitive again.”