Unresolved Issues Left for 2018


by Rob Roper

Several issues remain unresolved following the 2017 legislative session. Two big ones are the $15 minimum wage and Paid Family Leave. Both will be top of the agenda when the legislature returns in January.

A Paid Family Leave bill (H.196) passed the house and awaits action in the senate. This bill would mandate all employees “purchase” what is essentially a state-run insurance policy through a payroll tax. The the program would allow an employee to take up to six-weeks of paid leave from work while receiving up to 80% of full salary or $1000 per week, whichever is less. These benefits would become available after one year of employment and contributing to the program. The language in the bill sets the payroll tax at 0.141% of one’s first $150,000 of income, but acknowledges that if revenue necessary to fund demand the program is not met by that rate, the rate will rise to meet demand. In other words, the costs for this program, which nobody really seems to want, could — and probably will — explode.

While the House prioritized Family Leave, the senate under President Pro Tem Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) is focused on passing a mandatory, statewide $15 minimum wage. This is, of course, becoming a Holy Grail of the Left across the country, not just in Vermont. It is also a de facto tax on labor, and whenever you tax something you get less of it.

Both of these policies are pieces in what is an ongoing war on business, particularly small business, in our state. Both will make it more expensive and complicated to employ people. Governor Scott has done an admirable job in his first year saying no to tax and fee increases. In his second year let’s hope he is equally focused on blocking new mandates and regulations that stifle economic activity. Maybe even push to get rid of some that are already in place.

Another important issue that remains unresolved is the Independent Contractor bill, which the House Commerce Committee once again shelved after being unable to find a compromise with big labor. Passing something that is compatible with the changing economy and nature of work in the 21st Century is key to getting more people employed. However, three years of handwringing with nothing to show for it does not inspire confidence.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim Bulmer May 27, 2017 at 5:04 pm

The $15.00 minimum wage and mandatory family leave are just two more nails in the coffin of small businesses. Keep it up you guys and there will no one left to pay for your crazy ideas.

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
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