The Capitol Beat: March 17-21, 2014

From Gaffney, Bennett & Associates

March 10, 2014—March 14, 2014

  • Bill Increasing Cap on Urban-Industrial Tax Credits Clears Commerce

The Commerce Committee this week approved a pared down version of a measure that would increase the cap on Urban and Industrial Tax Credits from a total of $650 million to $800 million.  As amended, the bill increases the threshold for legislative approval of single investment tax credits from $20 million to $27 million, and for general businesses from $10 million to $16 million.

  • Labor Committee Okays Bill to Eliminate Unemployment Assessment

A bill that would eliminate the assessment employers must pay to the unemployment compensation fund received a green light from the Labor Committee this week.  Instead of assessing businesses, HB 5314 calls for using $60 million of the projected $500 million surplus to pay a portion of the interest owed on the funds borrowed from the federal government, providing businesses with much-needed relief.

  • State-sponsored Retirement Plan Proposal Advances

A proposal to establish a state-sponsored, individual retirement savings program for private sector employees who may not have access to an employer-sponsored plan was approved by the Labor Committee along party lines Tuesday.  Put forth by the Senate and House Majority Leaders and modeled after a similar program in California, SB 315 would: be voluntary, allow for contributions via payroll deductions, and guarantee a rate of return. The proposal would also create an oversight board, which, as currently conceived, does not include a professional with actual investment experience – a glaring oversight underscored by the State Treasurer.

The business community opposes the proposal, which it says will carry with it additional administrative costs for employers, pose a potential liability for taxpayers, and compete with the state’s financial services sector.

  • Governor’s Bill Creating a Successor to CRRA Approved by Environment

A proposal creating a successor entity to the state’s resource recovery authority (CRRA) was approved by the Environment Committee Friday with some minor modifications.  The bill, put forth as part of the Governor’s budget package in February, emphasizes materials management and recycling for energy purposes.

Among other things, the amended bill (SB 27) would:  update the state’s solid waste management plan to increase the state’s solid waste recycling goal from 40-percent to 60-percent; modernize the state’s infrastructure; promote organic materials management and recycling of construction and demolition debris; develop new industries and technology; require new contracts for purchase of electricity consistent with the state’s comprehensive energy strategy; and provide grants to municipalities that join a power purchasing pool and commit to meeting state’s diversion, recycling and reuse goals.

The bill would take effect July 1, 2016.

  • The Week Ahead…

This week marks the official half way point in the session, which means an alternative budget bill and tax package could come together for a vote in the Appropriations and Finance Committees, respectively, as early as the end of the week.Tomorrow, the Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up and vote on the Governor’s bill calling for a minimum wage increase to $10.10 (SB 32).   The expectation is the committee will approve the bill and send it back to the floor for action by the Senate and House on Wednesday when they convene in legislative session.  This proposal is one of the Governor’s top priorities.

In the news