By Shawn Shouldice, Capital Connections, LLC
As the Vermont General Assembly closes out this legislative session, NFIB, which represents more than a thousand small-business owners in the state, urges the legislature to consider the cumulative impact of the costly mandates being considered. These proposals will make it harder for small-business owners to grow their businesses, impact employees’ jobs, and ultimately hurt the state’s economy.
At the outset of this session, Gov. Phil Scott called for a balanced budget without raising taxes and fees, and the legislature seemed to agree. But now, some lawmakers seem hell-bent on enacting bills that place huge costs on the backs of small Vermont businesses and residents.
Requiring businesses to offer paid leave for 6 to 12 weeks at 70 to 80-percent of wages will hurt all workers, who are forced to pay for that program. It also puts a huge burden on small businesses that will struggle to handle the workload with so many absences. There are higher costs to the small-business owner who must pay for temporary workers or train replacement employees for specialized jobs.
On top of that, some lawmakers want to raise the minimum wage to $15. Many recent studies show that will result in fewer hours and less pay for the people it’s intended to help. It also leads to a reduction in entry-level positions, leaving unskilled or inexperienced workers unable to get their first job.
All of these additional labor costs, combined with rising health care costs, make it nearly impossible for many small businesses in the Green Mountain State to survive.
The proposed spending spree by certain lawmakers would also send up costs for property owners. This push for another property tax increase comes even as local school boards are working to reduce spending. That proposal could push more Vermonters out of their businesses and homes.
Do we want to send small businesses and homeowners fleeing to other states? Making Vermont affordable is key to its success, and that can’t happen if the next General Fund budget increases beyond the rate of inflation. Instead, policymakers need to encourage entrepreneurship, attract companies to the state, develop and attract a workforce, and make it clear that Vermont is affordable and open for business.
Shawn Shouldice of Montpelier has represented NFIB, the leading advocate for small business, for 15 years. NFIB is the voice of small business, advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners in Washington, D.C., and all 50 state capitals. NFIB is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and member-driven.