AP News

Drive starts to make Conn. more business-friendly


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's largest business organization said Monday it will fight a proposed increase in the minimum wage and seek changes in some state unemployment insurance rules.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association said at a media briefing that high taxes and regulations make it harder for the state to attract business. The group outlined spending, tax, energy, environmental and other policies it says will make Connecticut more competitive by 2017.

"Connecticut is perceived as not a place to do business," said Bonnie Stewart, vice president of government affairs.

One proposal the business group will target is Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed increase in the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, which would make Connecticut's the highest in the nation. Connecticut's minimum wage just increased from $8.25 to $8.70 on Jan. 1. A second increase to $9 is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

The CBIA opposes Malloy's latest plan, saying raising the minimum wage again will reduce hiring into entry-level jobs.

Eric Gjede, assistant counsel at the CBIA, said the poor are not in the workforce and would not benefit from an increase in the minimum wage.

In addition, a high unemployment rate among teens who typically are paid the minimum wage when they enter the labor force, would be worsened with a higher minimum wage, Gjede said. The state Department of Labor reported an unemployment rate of 23.2 percent last year for workers between the ages of 16 and 19.

"There would be less jobs for some with slightly more pay for a few," Gjede said.

Gjede also said he has suggested to Sen. Cathy Osten, Senate chairwoman of the legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee, that to stem the rising cost of unemployment insurance the state should raise the threshold of wages from $500 currently to $2,000 to qualify for unemployment insurance. He said the change is intended to update the qualifying threshold that's been in place since 1990.

He also suggested a task force including business, labor and the state Department of Labor to review ways to make job searches by unemployed workers more effective.

Osten said she does not necessarily oppose Gjede's proposals, but it's the committee's decision to advance legislation. She said she'll schedule a public hearing to solicit comments on changes to the state unemployment insurance law.

Eric Brown, associate counsel at CBIA, said the business group will work with lawmakers to codify into law provisions of an executive order issued by Malloy last October. The order says the state will review outdated, ineffective or burdensome regulations and consider whether an additional regulation is necessary.


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