Labor

Numerous bills put in jeopardy the health of our small business economy

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As a small business owner, I know firsthand that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. When times are good, my family-owned business is able to hire additional staff and offer more generous benefits. This has a positive ripple out into our local community beyond ourselves and those we employ, which is a great source of pride for my family.

Conservatives in Augusta often talk about the importance of protecting workers and Maine businesses from over-taxation and heavy-handed regulations. We hold these values because we understand that small businesses and their employees are the backbone of Maine’s economy.

Unlike large corporations, small business owners are often on the front lines, pouring every asset to their name into their business just so that they have a chance to succeed.

They are your community members and neighbors, and in Maine the odds are high that you work for one.

That is why it is deeply concerning to see the sheer number of bills that have been introduced in the legislature this year that have the potential to put small businesses underwater and set Maine apart from other states for all of the wrong reasons.

Each bill in and of itself likely isn’t enough to shutter a successful business, but when considered altogether, the outlook is grim.

This year alone, 25 different bills to change the workers’ compensation system will be considered. When these bills are taken into account together, the result would be a complete overthrow of the current system that has been stable for nearly thirty years.

Perhaps the most alarming proposal is LD 758 to shift the burden of finding adequate employment from the employee on to the employer.

This represents an extreme paradigm shift that would place a major burden on everyone who signs a paycheck in Maine.

Another bill of concern is LD 369 to require all businesses that employ five or more people to offer paid sick leave for all employees to the tune of one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, regardless if they work full-time, part-time, seasonally, temporarily or even per-diem.

While the intent of the bill is good, it goes too far and would cost small businesses a considerable amount of time and money in order to comply with the law.

We can all agree that those who are legitimately sick or caring for a sick loved one shouldn’t have to fear for their job, but requiring your local farm stand with five part-time, seasonal employees to comply is unreasonable.

Another bill of note is LD 402. This bill would increase our salary threshold from the current rate of $33,000 to just over $55,000 over the course of only two years. This change would give Maine the dubious reputation of having the highest threshold in the nation.

While there are a number of other troublesome bills I could touch on, the last one I will mention is LD 670. This bill would establish a separate minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2023 for so-called “large” employers.

Considering our minimum wage was just $7.50 three years ago, this change would double our minimum wage for some employers over a relatively short time period.

This would cripple Maine’s economy while hurting the very employees it is most intended to help.

Those who run a small businesses understand that margins are often slim and it is incredibly difficult to operate in a constant state of uncertainty.

There are some measures most can take to control costs, but each adjustment chips away at the bottom line, prohibiting existing businesses from growing and discouraging new businesses from ever opening their doors or moving their headquarters to our great state to begin with.

We have to continue to send the message that Maine is ‘Open for Business’.

About Stacey Guerin

Senator Stacey Guerin is currently serving her first term in the Maine State Senate. She represents the people of Senate District 10.

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