(Kia Murrell is associate counsel for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association)

Most Connecticut lawmakers ran for office on the promise of creating and growing jobs in the state. But the legislature’s Labor Committee has approved a proposal that actually would increase business costs, prevent job growth and could result in the loss of jobs.

Legislators who are serious about fulfilling their campaign promise will vote against Senate Bill 913 mandating that Connecticut employers provide paid sick leave. It is time for accountability from our elected officials.

Connecticut’s business costs are already among the highest in the country. Employers here pay some of the steepest costs in the nation, from high wages and salaries to generous employee benefits. The state is often mentioned in various studies and reports as one of the most difficult places in which to operate a business. Now is not the time to make it harder to do business and create jobs in Connecticut by passing mandates such as paid sick leave.

SB 913 would make Connecticut the first state in the nation to mandate paid sick leave for employees, a regrettable step backward given the state’s high unemployment, struggling economy and weak prospects for job creation. Other states have recognized the damaging impact of being the first to mandate paid sick leave and have avoided it because they know it is a job-killer. New York City recently abandoned its plans to enact a paid sick leave mandate after discovering that it would increase employers’ costs by $789 million.

Businesspeople from across the state are opposed to this bill and have been sharing their concerns with their legislators. Derek Bauer, owner of Able Tool and Equipment in South Windsor summed it up this way: “My vendors and customers in Connecticut are universally opposed to this bill and we all share the same feeling that our government should be focused on cutting costs and creating an atmosphere that supports business, not mandating more regulation that will drive business out of the state.”

If mandatory paid time off passes, a small business of 50 employees could face an added annual personnel cost of $20,000 (based on an employee wage of $10 per hour). Many employers would be forced to cover the additional costs by reducing employee benefits, cutting their hours or even eliminating positions.

Business owner David Lewis of OperationsInc in Stamford agrees, saying, “This bill is going to eliminate jobs and hurt employers, perhaps with some benefit to those that remain employed–certainly a result not worth the trouble.”

If mandated paid sick leave passes, everyone will pay for it, employers and employees alike.

Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., told legislators that passing SB 913 will lead to unintended consequences and fewer job opportunities for working people.

Saltsman said, “The vast majority of Connecticut workers (85 percent) already have access to paid leave benefits and the remaining employees don’t have it because their employer can’t afford it.”

Businesses need the flexibility to develop benefits based on what they can afford, what works best for their employees and what competitive market forces demand, in order to attract and keep qualified employees.

“Decisions that affect the profitability and survival of companies should not be made by the legislature,” says businessman Charles Dionisio of Connecticut Plywood Corp. in West Hartford and Milford. “In order to retain qualified employees, businesses employ benefit programs that fit what the enterprise can afford.”

Mandatory paid sick leave won’t help Connecticut’s economy grow or enable employers to create jobs. It will, however, push many businesses closer to the edge of survival. Instead, we need policies that encourage economic stability and development, and job growth.

Connecticut residents and businesses alike say they are worried about jobs and the economy. Lawmakers agree, yet many of them continue to push costly mandates that will do nothing to increase employees’ confidence in the stability of their jobs, nor improve employers’ prospects for creating more jobs.

The economic recovery we’ve all been hoping for has yet to come, and passing bills like mandated paid sick leave will only make that recovery take even longer. We urge legislators to think about their commitment to jobs and growing the economy, and oppose mandatory paid sick leave.

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