Friday, October 08, 2010

In Sickness and in Health

In this morning's NY Post, we have the opportunity to strongly voice our opposition to the paid sick leave bill currently being considered at the city council: "It's a bizarre time for the City Council to be considering a bill to force every city business to provide a week or more of paid sick leave to every employee. In a severe recession, the council ought to be examining the collateral damage of yet another costly mandate on employers. With small stores and other firms going bankrupt at record rates, does anyone know what kind of impact this would have on the ability of those businesses to keep their current employees and hire new ones?"

As we have said before, it isn't often that we find ourselves on the side of both the mayor and the NYC Partnership, but when it comes to more government mandates-and during the worst recession in the past fifty years-it is time for the legislators on all levels to cease and desist. This is especially true in NYC where regulations have run amok, and entrepreneurs have succeeded in spite of them: "In representing small businesses all over the city for the last 30 years, I've been fortunate to meet energetic and risk-taking folks from a widely diverse -- and mostly immigrant -- background. These entrepreneurs have revitalized food wholesaling and retailing, bringing moribund neighborhoods back to life with new forms of robust commercial activity. They've done it against all odds in a city business climate that is, charitably, less than hospitable to entrepreneurs."

We have said at other times, when the council has proposed legislation, it is imperative that the legislature try to gauge the impact of the bill before voting on it-and in the case of paid sick leave, if the council members don't like the Partnership's Ernst and Young study, let it sponsor its own: "A study from the NYC Partnership -- the advocate for large businesses -- found the bill would impose costs of $149 million a year on small businesses in the city, hitting the restaurant and construction industries especially hard -- and a total of $789 million a year on all city firms. It warned that some small businesses would have to cut payroll or eliminate other benefits to cover the cost of this mandate. I expect the damage would be worse, while the council members pushing the bill don't buy the partnership study. They are, however, being sanguine without any real due diligence -- and in the face of evidence to the contrary. If they don't trust the study, let them hire a firm independent of the players to gauge the bill's impacts -- and get the report before voting on the potentially harmful measure."

And we need to tip our hat to the mayor here who, at least on this key issue, firmly gets it: "Mayor Bloomberg today called a controversial proposal requiring all private businesses to offer paid sick days “disastrous to New York City.” Asked about a possible compromise being discussed among City Council members, Bloomberg said, “It would be a disaster if the government tries to get in to run small businesses. If they run the bars and restaurants, they'll try to run everything else. This is going down a path which is a terrible, terrible idea and would be disastrous to New York City. Let me remind you, New York City created 10 percent of all of the private sector jobs that have been created this year in the whole country. If you want to lose those jobs and lots of others, you start letting the government run small businesses."

It appears that Council Speaker is looking to water down the sick leave measure to balance the interests of her colleagues with the laws of economics-and good for her: "City Council Speaker Christine Quinn may be getting the message: Businesses -- and the local economy overall -- will suffer if the council's sick-leave bill passes. As The Post reports today, Quinn appears to be looking to soften some of the bill's provisions. No doubt she wants to limit the damage, particularly after hearing gripes from businesses about the bill's costs. But why not just scrap it altogether? With the economy struggling, this is hardly the time to impose any new costs on any businesses."

Hopefully, what the council finally decides to do will have less harmful effects on the city's less robust small business sector-the one that hasn't rebounded as well as some of the city's other industries. What no one should want is for legislation designed to help people having the opposite effect-and leading to the reduction of employment opportunities in these hard times.

We'll give the last word here-as we did in the column this morning-to Bodega Association head Murphy: "For too long, governments at all levels have promoted tax and regulatory schemes that have stifled economic growth. As we struggle to get past the current severe downturn, I keep in mind the words of Ramon Murphy when I asked him about the proposed law. He turned to me and sighed, "Can't the city reduce my taxes and cut down on all of its regulations? If this continues, we are all gonna be regulated right out of business."