March 20, 2019

Before biz crowd, Lamont defends min. wage, paid family medical leave

HBJ Photo | Matt Pilon
HBJ Photo | Matt Pilon
Gov. Ned Lamont addressing a crowd Wednesday at the State Capitol during Connecticut Business Day.

It wasn't the softest room to walk into.

At the Legislative Office Building Wednesday morning, a packed room of Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) members were airing frustrations and concerns about proposed legislation that would raise the minimum wage and create a mandatory paid family medical leave program.

Those initiatives are key pieces of the policy agenda for Gov. Ned Lamont, who made his debut just before CBIA lobbyist Eric Gjede wrapped up a Q&A session, part of CBIA's annual Business Day event at the Capitol.

Lamont joked that Gjede would be available for any additional tough questions, before launching into a 19-minute speech that led off with Tuesday's news that S&P Global Ratings had upgraded the state's credit outlook, to positive, citing improved reserves and Lamont's proposed "debt diet."

It was the first outlook upgrade from a major ratings agency in 18 years, according to State Treasurer Shawn Wooden. Lamont's mention of it Wednesday drew applause from the CBIA crowd.

Lamont also defended the need for highway tolls to improve the state's roads and transportation infrastructure, detailed his proposals aimed at avoiding a "fiscal cliff" in the payment schedule for the teachers pension fund, and promised gradual improvement in the state's IT systems, which could make it easier for companies to do business with the state.

It wasn't until a Q&A session after the speech that the topics of paid family leave and minimum wage arose once more. An audience member told Lamont that businesses were his allies. He also described "wayward progressives" who "legislate based on feelings" as the enemy.

"I'll hit it head on, because I know the minimum wage and paid family leave is probably not a home run in this room," Lamont replied. "My thinking is, I have to do everything I can to get our transportation system into the 21st century, our state government into the 21st century, and I do think we have to do a better job of getting our workplace into the 21st century."

He said a higher Connecticut minimum wage, gradually increased to $15 as he has proposed, won't put employers at a competitive disadvantage to other nearby states.

"I do think that over time, work should pay," he said.

Lamont also said he has to do a better job of convincing businesses and lawmakers of the worthiness of the proposals, and urged all stakeholders to remain at the table as the design of the programs are hashed out.

Read more

Minimum wage bills pass committee

Biz lobby, paid-leave advocates spar over 'competitiveness'

Paid family and medical leave bill passes labor committee

$13 is magic number for CT's minimum wage

Democrats unite on medical leave, $15 minimum wage

Major policies opposed by businesses loom in Democrat-controlled legislature

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