Originally published in Medium:
For decades, there has been a false choice portrayed by conservatives that has found its way into the national narrative: that government can either meet the needs of the middle class and working families, or it can be pro-business. As we near the end of our legislative session in Connecticut, Republicans are trying to create that same false choice as they push an unrealistic budget proposals. Democrats have always fought to strengthen small business, create jobs and grow the middle class. It is time for Democrats in Connecticut and around the country to stop allowing special interests to define the national conversation and prove that investing in our workforce is both good for people and good for business.
The conservative assertions that the minimum wage is bad for business and that requiring paid sick time hurts productivity are flat wrong. Numerous studies have shown that nationally, raising the minimum wage would improve the overall economy and save billions – yes, billions – by reducing the reliance on public assistance, and ensuring paid sick time would actually boost productivity. This isn’t just rhetoric, we know from our experiences here.
In Connecticut, Democrats have long pushed for – and implemented – policies to make our state a better place for families and small businesses. And the results are clear. This month, Measure of America released a report that found that Connecticut is the best state in the country based on a metric called the Human Development Index, which takes into account health, education, and income. A similar report showed Connecticut regaining our economic strength, recovering robustly from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Time and time again, Connecticut has been a national leader in important policy areas. Under the leadership of Governor Dan Malloy and legislative Democrats, we became the first state to pass a $10.10 minimum wage, and we were the first state to require private employers to provide paid sick days. That wasn’t just the right thing to do — it’s an economic tool that is helping to create greater opportunity for more people.
With social and economic inequality nearing record highs, our nation needs to take real steps to increase the opportunity for upward mobility. Republicans in Congress would be well-served to look to Connecticut as an example, instead of doubling down on failed trickle-down policies and fighting to give even more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.
The standard Republican method – union busting, cutting the minimum wage, and huge tax cuts for those at the higher end of the income spectrum – has been a colossal failure. Tea Party Governor Rick Scott has spent thousands of taxpayer dollars jetting around the country and trying to promote Florida’s supposedly “business friendly” policies – resulting in exactly zero new companies relocating to Florida. Texas – the poster child for Republican priorities – lost 25,400 jobs last month, leading the nation. And Wisconsin – where Scott Walker has taken pride in declaring war on working people – lags behind the rest of the Midwest in job growth over the past several years.
Meanwhile, Connecticut created 4,000 new private sector jobs last month, and more than 27,000 new jobs have been created in the past year. Our economy is strong and getting stronger.
Why? Because we focus on quality of life. A happy workforce is a productive workforce, and we understand that a good economy includes not just the number of jobs created, but the number of people who can afford to raise their family or the number of businesses that can afford to compete on a global scale while paying their employees a livable wage. A good economy means that every kid, no matter their zip code, has the opportunity to succeed.
The bottom line is that the Democratic agenda is a jobs agenda. And Democrats in Connecticut have proved it with legislation to help small businesses open and expand. In 2011, we passed the Small Business Express Package, which has provided hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for small businesses, including many owned by women, people of color, and in underrepresented communities across the state. It has been a resounding success, helping small businesses create over 4,000 good jobs.
So let’s stop standing by and letting Republicans pretend to be the “pro-business” party. Just look to Connecticut and you will see that Democratic policies — policies advanced by our Governor and legislative leaders this session — create good jobs and long-term economic growth.
Nick Balletto is Chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party.