Gov. Ned Lamont addresses business owners during the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s annual lobbying day at the Capitol.
Gov. Ned Lamont addresses business owners during the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s annual lobbying day at the Capitol.

Gov. Ned Lamont predicted Wednesday that two measures heavily criticized by business leaders — paid family and medical leave and boosting the state’s minimum wage — probably will pass this year.

The hot-button proposals involve nudging Connecticut’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, up from $10.10, over the course of several years, and imposing a 0.5 percent payroll tax to fund a pool of money for paid leave. Corporate officials have denounced the measures as unfriendly to businesses, particularly small companies that could struggle with workers’ absences and additional costs.

“I think paid family leave is going to pass. I think its time has come,” Lamont said after addressing a crowd during the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s annual lobbying day at the Capitol. “They see our neighboring states are doing it. They see a lot of major businesses are already taking the lead on that as well as moving to a $15 minimum wage, and Connecticut is going to catch up there.”

Proposals that cleared the Labor and Public Employees Committee last week would raise the minimum wage to $12 by January 2020, to $13.50 the next year, and $15 by 2022. Lamont has put forward a similar plan that would phase in the wage increase over four years, instead of three.

Several bills tied to paid family and medical leave also have surfaced. Two of them suggest benefits equal to 100 percent of workers’ pay, up to $1,000 a week. Lamont’s proposal would reimburse employees at a rate equal to 90 percent of their base salary. The payroll tax would be levied no later than October 2020, and worker compensation would be available beginning in January 2022.

“These are things that big business already does, so we’re trying to find ways that small businesses can allow their employees a little bit of flexibility as well in the case of an illness or pregnancy,” Lamont said. “If CBIA and Republicans want to come to the table, let’s talk. If not, I’m going to pass a bill that I think makes sense.”

The governor defended the legislation, along with his push for electronic tolls and the need for more investment in transportation, earlier Wednesday in a speech to CBIA members.

He promised that funding for paid leave would be “rock solid,” and said he would impress upon lawmakers that “we cannot get this wrong.”

“I understand that when a person is gone for a period of time, you’ve got to train them and there’s a cost to that,” Lamont said. “I’ve been there, but I think this really is important and sends a message that Connecticut is a place that understands the single parent, the two working parents, the changing of landscape.”

In a pitch to get business leaders to “stand up” and help sell the state, Lamont talked about his efforts to persuade a ratings agency that Connecticut was headed in the right direction. The agency, Standard & Poor’s, followed up by changing the state’s general obligation bond outlook from “stable” to “positive” for the first time in 18 years.

Lamont billed himself as the first Connecticut governor “in eons” to come from the corporate world and said he would reward business leaders’ confidence by ensuring state funds are spent appropriately, by holding the line on spending, and by pressing for new sources of revenue, such as tolls.

He also pledged to streamline administrative services, making it simpler for companies to do business with the state.

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

Join the Conversation

4 Comments

  1. These policies will only serve to chase business away from this state. With all the taxes coming at us, this will take another half-percent out of our paychecks to fund another feel-good social program. Increases in minimum wage will come with unintended consequences like price increases and staff cuts. Why would business want to come to a debt-laden, fiscally irresponsible state which, instead of cutting expenses, continually increases taxes to further bloat its budget?

    What a pathetic fiscal state of affairs.

  2. Are state and municipal employees still exempt from the tax unless the bargaining unit opts in? WHY? If the program isn’t going to cost employers any $, then why not also mandate their inclusion? If it doesn’t matter if the employees currently receive paid leave, then why not also mandate their inclusion?

    Personally, I’m fine with paid family leave – I do think it’s the right thing to do – putting aside the level of benefits and the required tax rate to make it sustainable. I just don’t understand why EVERYONE isn’t subject to the tax. And I recall earlier versions exempted public employees. That seems like such naked political favoritism and I haven’t heard a better substantive justification.

  3. I just read that the FMLA bill is headed to the CT Senate. This, if approved, is a disaster in the making. Why should EVERY worker in CT be providing paid time off for others?

    I worked a job that offered FMLA, but if we wished to be paid, we had to use our accrued leave–WE paid for it or it was unpaid. Even with that, the program was full of abuse; so much so that we called it ‘flim flam time.’ Just imagine the abuse that will occur with those receiving the pay for time off contributing very little.

    I have contacted the CGA members who ‘represent’ my district and strongly urged them to vote ‘no.’

    Now, lest anyone argue ‘but…Social Security,’ if I was allowed to bank my own ‘SS’ throughout my work career, I would gladly do that, rather than sending it to an empty (except for ‘promises’) account in DC.

  4. Not Good, but we knew he was going to do it, so it’s our fault (well, not me). Just look what is happening in Seattle, not only did businesses move out and thousands of people out of work, but the average wage that the low-wage workers take home actually went down $125 due to employees working fewer hours. In all, Seattle’s workers are losing $3.5 million every quarter. That’s peanuts to Lamont, but it could be the difference between being able to purchase home heating oil for these workers. The people who are hurt the most are those for whom this is supposed to benefit.
    Ned, if you want to help low wage workers, work on making CT a desirable place to do biz. Both these bill do just the opposite.

Leave a comment