5/31/08

GOP urged to quit pandering to unions

Governor's veto worth sustaining

Gov. M. Jodi Rell's decision to veto a minimum-wage increase was easy from the standpoint of politics and economics. Now it's up to internal Republican Party politics to determine whether it will take.

A constituency she and the GOP rely upon heavily, the business community, told her emphatically the increase from $7.65 to $8 on Jan. 1, 2009, and to $8.25 a year later would be harmful to many companies and lethal to some. Those who hold most of the minimum-wage jobs, the working poor and the young of all economic strata, may have Gov. Rell and a stalwart band of legislative Republicans to thank for it.

There are enough Republican votes in the Senate, and possibly the House if four Democratic defectors remain on board, to thwart a likely override attempt.

Thus do Sens. Sam S.F. Caligiuri, R-Waterbury, and Anthony Guglielmo, R-Stafford Springs, find unexpected power. They voted for the increase, and Sen. Caligiuri says he may support an override. (Sen. Guglielmo had yet to be heard from as of Thursday.) Sen. Caligiuri professes to believe the harm to businesses — never mind the far more grievous harm to low-income people and teenagers looking for work in a shrinking job market — does not outweigh the benefit to those who will be paid a little more.

As Gov. Rell pointed out in her veto message, this isn't just a matter of giving an unskilled worker an extra 35 cents an hour. It is "also the associated costs, such as higher Social Security, unemployment tax and workers' compensation payments ... Businesses where all workers' wages are tied to the minimum wage would also see increased costs, since all workers' pay would have to be increased to maintain the differentials."

What she didn't point out is the minimum wage is a stealth tax that forces businesses to give low-income people cash and benefits that otherwise would be the government's burden. Gov. Rell estimated this "tax" at about $700 per worker per year. Given that most Connecticut businesses are able to attract a labor force sufficient to their needs without a minimum-wage increase, it's difficult to distinguish this measure from a flat $700-per-employee tax assessment.

If Sens. Caligiuri and Guglielmo care about the poor, and about young workers looking for their first job, they'll sustain the veto of this potentially job-destroying, business-killing measure.

And if they care about making the Republican Party relevant again in Connecticut, they will desist in their useless pandering to the public-employee unions that have the most to gain by a bump at the bottom of the wage scale.

(rep-am.com)

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