Thursday, April 1, 2010

Senate Republicans Promote Business Assistance, Target Quasi-Public Agency Salaries

The Senate Republican Caucus has filed a series of amendments to assist small businesses and cap salaries at the state’s quasi-public agencies. These amendments will be voted on today when the Senate debates legislation to consolidate the state’s economic development agencies.

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei said the Caucus’ amendments will help to reduce the cost of doing business for the state’s employers and attempt to open up lines of credit for small business owners. The Caucus will also target some of the exorbitant salaries paid by the state’s independent authorities.

The amendments include:

-- A proposal to correct changes in the law defining independent contractors. These changes – introduced as part of the 2004 public construction reform bill – have had a negative impact on small businesses by reclassifying many individuals who work in occupations that have historically been identified and treated as independent contractors as regular employees, making these positions subject to such employer requirements as workers compensation and unemployment insurance.

-- A plan for promoting more bank lending to small businesses. Under this proposal, the State Treasurer – who oversees the deposit and investment of the state’s cash reserves – would be required to establish a preference for those banking and lending institutions that exceed the statewide average for lending to small businesses.

-- A ban on excessive salaries at the state’s independent authorities. The state currently has more than 50 of these quasi-public agencies, which collectively employ nearly 15,000 individuals but often operate out of the public eye, with little accountability to the state’s taxpayers. This amendment would prohibit these agencies from paying any employee an amount that exceeds the Governor’s annual salary (currently about $143,000 a year), unless the reasons for the pay differential are explained in writing and signed off by the Secretary of Administration and Finance. Last year, more than 1,000 employees earned salaries in excess of $100,000.

Today’s Senate debate is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.