January 17, 2019

Here are CBIA's policy recommendations for CT's General Assembly

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED
PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED
CBIA CEO and President Joe Brennan.
PHOTO | Contributed
Eric Gjede, CBIA's vice president of government affairs.

Connecticut's largest business lobby has laid out a dozen policy priorities it has for this year's legislative session centered on creating a more business-friendly environment.

The Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) on Wednesday afternoon unveiled its slate of policy recommendations they say are designed to "chart a new course" for the state.

CBIA recommended "significantly" reducing state-agency spending by outsourcing services to private entities, lowering the business personal property tax and the top income tax rate, eliminating the business entity tax and repealing gift and estate taxes.

Connecticut's General Assembly, the business lobby says, should also uphold tax incentives for research and development (R&D) and pass on expanding the sales tax base or rates on business-to-business services.

"We are encouraged that Gov. Lamont is emphasizing certain things critical to employers in Connecticut—the importance of growth, a bold approach to budget fixes, and committing to solving our fiscal problems once and for all," CBIA CEO and President Joe Brennan said.

Lowering state spending, according to Eric Gjede, CBIA's vice president of government affairs, could also be achieved by negotiating reduced public-sector retirement and health benefits.

He said widespread employer mandates, including raising the state's minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 by 2023 and mandating paid family and medical leave, could damper Connecticut's modest economic comeback.

"This session will really set the tone for the next few years," said Gjede. "Connecticut has to build upon our many strengths and not allow bad policy choices to slow us down."

Among other recommendations, CBIA says Connecticut must recruit and retain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education teachers to better prepare the state's next-generation workforce.

Promoting STEM-related training and targeting jobs in high demand will help reduce the skills gap by increasing middle-skill education and training programs through career pathways and public-private partnerships, CBIA said.

To spur economic prosperity, CBIA urged state lawmakers to appoint a secretary of commerce to oversee the implementation of a long-term, statewide economic development plan, adopting strategies that have succeeded in other states.

CBIA also recommended continuing to fund the state's manufacturing voucher, incumbent worker training, apprenticeships programs and expanding the apprenticeship tax credit to so-called "pass-through" entities. It also wants the state to create a secretary position to manage the Connecticut's manufacturing policy and programs in Gov. Ned Lamont's office.

The business lobby also recommended the following policies:

  • Regulatory reform: Implement regulatory reform through the creation of an improvement team under the Office of Policy and Management to ensure regulations are effective and needed.
  • Labor: Adopt federal mandates for family medical leave and wage and hour laws for businesses to spend less on compliance and more on investment to achieve growth. It also proposed restoring unemployment trust fund solvency through benefit reforms, including raising minimum earnings to qualify for certain benefits.
  • Energy: Apply new requirements for ratepayer impact statements and reject proposals asking to leverage electric ratepayer money to balance Connecticut's budget.
  • Workers' compensation: Scale back the permanent partial disability award for workplace injuries and reduce costs by mandating generic prescriptions when applicable.
  • Environment: Reject adoption of a state water plan that would declare "without definition or context" that state waters are held in public trust.
  • Transportation: Protect a sustainable and affordable funding stream for transportation and engage the private sector to accelerate planning and completion of projects.
  • Healthcare/bioscience: Perform a cost analysis of any new healthcare mandates and adopt proposals that cut overall spending. Develop a plan to provide the state's bioscience sector with tax incentives to promote life sciences R&D, recruiting venture capital firms and adopt policies that encourage technology innovation. Also, reduce health insurance costs by cutting assessments mandated for individuals and small businesses, which are used to subsidize the state exchange.

CBIA's recommendations will likely receive pushback from Connecticut's newly minted, Democratic-leaning legislature, which has promised a legislative agenda aimed at raising the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour and creating a paid family medical leave program for private employers.

Democratic leadership is also eyeing implementing highway tolling, and legalizing recreational marijuana and online and on-site sports betting.

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