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AIM to Present Gould Education, Training Award to Snapchef

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 16, 2019 8:00:00 AM

A Massachusetts company that has become the largest culinary training and staffing organization in New England will receive the 2019 John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award, AIM announced today.

SnapchefSnapchef, a Dorchester-based company founded 17 years ago by husband and wife Todd and Daniella Snopkowski, provides free culinary training to thousands of people who often subsequently find jobs through the company’s staffing operation. The company places students in entry level positions at blue-chip clients that include the region’s most prominent universities, hospitals, five-star hotels, food service corporations, caterers and corporate cafeterias.

The Snopkowskis have also established deep connections with community groups, churches and culinary schools to address the issue of culinary job readiness training and job creation.

“Snapchef is a wonderful example of the employer community rolling up its sleeves to solve the ongoing shortage of qualified workers in Massachusetts,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“AIM is pleased to honor a company that not only employs more than 1,000 people throughout Massachusetts but also understands the broader significance of work and economic opportunity.”

Snapchef maintains training kitchens in Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Providence, R.I., where students get to take home the food they make while training and ride to job sites in Snapchef’s fleet of more than 50 vans.

The cornerstones of the Snapchef educational program are a 14-unit Fast-Track Culinary Training Program, ServeSafe classes and a 12-week Chef Apprenticeship Program that includes 240 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of supervised, on-the-job training.

“We help people find a career, not simply a job for one day,” said Snopkowski, who developed the Snapchef model after growing frustrated with culinary placement services while serving as a chef at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and for Goldman Sachs in New York.

“And, being a staffing company, we don’t only train, we also match folks looking for work in the industry with jobs that are available. If they don’t have the skills to do a job, we actually train them, whether it be dishwashing, cooking, cheffing, you name it. We cover those bases and give them a foothold in the industry,” he told BusinessWest magazine in Springfield.

The company has earned a multitude of honors for its work. CEO Todd Snopkowski received the 2015 US Small Business Association Small Business Person of the Year award for Massachusetts, as well as the 2016 Citizens Bank Good Citizens Award. Daniella Snopkowski, who serves as CFO, has been named among the Boston Business Journal’s 40 under 40 business leaders.

Snapchef – the name is a variation on Snopkowski’s family nickname of “Snap” or “Snapper” - provides workers to clients ranging from individual restaurants and caterers to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Gillette Stadium, as well as large food-service corporations like Aramark, Sodexo, and the Compass Group.

And Todd and Daniella Snopkowski believe the company is just getting started. Snapchef is developing proprietary software for its clients and eventually plans to franchise Snapchef outside of New England.

The Gould Award was established in 1998 to recognize the contributions of individuals, employers, and institutions to the quality of public education and to the advancement, employability, and productivity of residents of the Commonwealth.

In 2000, the award was named after the late John Gould, upon his retirement as President and CEO of AIM, to recognize his work to improve the quality of public education and workforce training in Massachusetts.

Past recipients of the Gould Award include the late Jack Rennie, Chairman and Founder of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education; Middlesex Community College; Gordon Lankton, President and CEO (retired), NYPRO Inc.; William Edgerly, Chairman Emeritus, State Street Corporation; Northeastern University; The Davis Family Foundation; Intel Massachusetts; EMC Corporation; IBM; David Driscoll Commissioner (Retired) Massachusetts Department of Education; State Street Corporation and Year UP Boston; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership; Brockton High School; the Manufacturing Advancement Center – MACWIC Program; Christo Rey Boston High School; CVS and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries and the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership.

Topics: Education, Workforce Training, Gould Education and Workforce Training

The Millionaires Tax is a Failure

Posted by John Regan on Apr 11, 2019 8:34:11 AM

The “millionaires tax” is a failure.

Small BusinessEvidence from states that have already imposed a surtax on incomes of more than $1 million shows that the policy causes irreparable harm to the economy while generating far less tax revenue than promised.

A millionaires tax will cause the same harm in Massachusetts, Associated Industries of Massachusetts will tell the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue today.

Lawmakers have refiled a proposal to amend the state Constitution to impose a graduated income tax, adding a four percentage-point tax (representing an 80 percent increase in the personal income tax rate) on all incomes more than $1 million. The amendment would dictate that the revenue be spent on transportation and education.

An identical proposal was struck down by the Supreme Judicial Court last year in a suit brought by AIM President Rick Lord and the leaders of four other business groups, but the current proposal operates under different rules because it was filed by legislators.

A graduated income tax would eviscerate the small, family owned businesses that form the heart of the Massachusetts economy. The surtax would take an estimated $2 billion from some 17,000 Main Street businesses and others that pay taxes at the individual rate and who would otherwise use the money to hire additional employers or expand their companies.

These companies are already drowning in more than $1.5 billion in new taxes and fees to pay for a financial shortfall in the Medicaid program and to fund the new paid family and medical leave program.

How do we know that surtaxes don't work?

Because our neighbors in Connecticut just drove their economy off a cliff by raising taxes three times in the past 10 years.

Connecticut in 2009 added a 6.5 percent income tax bracket for those earning more than $500,000 per year. The state followed up with a comprehensive $1.5 billion tax increase in 2011 to deal with a budget shortfall. A final round of tax increases took effect in 2015.

According to information compiled by Pew Charitable Trusts, tax revenue for all 50 states is averaging 6.3 percent higher than it was at the start of the 2008 recession. Connecticut tax revenue, on the other hand, is only 3.8 percent higher, despite the three tax increases.

Once the economic heavyweight of New England, Connecticut is the only state in the nation which has yet to recover the jobs lost during the economic downturn.

In addition, the state has seen an out-migration of residents since 2013 and the loss of major financial investors. Data from the Internal Revenue Service showed a spike in residents earning more than $200,000 per leaving the state in 2015 and studies conducted by Connecticut state agencies and commissions have confirmed the loss of higher income residents to other states.

Income surtax laws have failed in other states as well.

Within three years of Maryland enacting its “millionaire tax,” 40 percent of the state’s seven-figure earners were gone from the tax rolls - and so was $1.7 billion from the state tax base.

Similarly, in 2010 Boston College researchers released a report on the migration of wealthy households to and from New Jersey. They concluded that wealthier New Jersey households did in fact consider the high-earner taxes when deciding whether to move to or remain in New Jersey.

The researchers’ data analysis found that from 1999 to 2003 - before the millionaires tax was imposed - there was a net influx of $98 billion in household wealth into the state. After the tax was implemented, an increasing number of wealthy families left the state, resulting in a loss of $70 billion in wealth.

Many of the business owners who fled Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey moved to states that have worked to reduce, rather than boost, taxes:

  • North Carolina revenues grew 3.8 percent in 2016. As a result, it has reduced its 5.49 percent income tax to 5.24 percent in 2019.  It also will reduce its corporate tax to the lowest in the nation at 2.5 percent and will repeal the corporate levy as more businesses move in and revenues increase.
  • New Hampshire, a state with no income tax, is reducing corporate taxes two years in a row because of revenue growth of 2 percent.
  • Georgia is also reducing income and corporate taxes in 2019 because of a strong revenue growth rate of 4.5 percent.
  • Tennessee only taxes interest and dividends and reduced tax rates from 6 to 3 percent as its population grew 6.7 percent from 2010-2017 and revenues increased 2.4 percent.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Income Surtax, Taxation

AIM, Coalition Ask Legislature to Limit MassHealth Assessment

Posted by Katie Holahan on Apr 8, 2019 3:34:04 PM

A diverse coalition of organizations ranging from AIM to groups representing human services providers and home-care aides urged key legislators today not to extend the two-year assessment imposed on employers last year to close a financial gap at the state’s MassHealth insurance program.

State House 2015In a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Aaron M. Michlewitz and Vice Chair Denise C. Garlick, the coalition says that  the “burden of the (Employer Medical Assistance Contribution) EMAC Supplement falls particularly on certain industries, especially small employers with lower wage workers, many of whom are paid via state contracts.”

“This unbudgeted and unanticipated expense is threatening employers’ ability to make critically needed investments in our workforce and to maintain vital programs that support vulnerable members of our communities.”

The Ways and Means Committee is currently developing the state budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

AIM has already urged the Legislature to end the EMAC assessment immediately because employers last year paid tens of millions of dollars more than anticipated under the levy. Businesses are on track to contribute some $519 million by the time the assessment sunsets at the end of this year instead of the $400 million envisioned under the 2017 legislation.

At the same time, enrollment in MassHealth has fallen as the Baker Administration has initiated steps to ensure that only people eligible for benefits receive them. 

The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) recently indicated that, in calendar year 2017, total MassHealth spending decreased by 0.2 percent, driven in part by a 2.4 percent decrease in enrollment. The trend indicates relief from the pressures of enrollment increases that have plagued the MassHealth program in recent years and produced the fiscal deficit that resulted in the EMAC Supplement policy.

“The conditions that led to the imposition of the surcharge no longer exist. Employers who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in assessments believe it is fair to look at ending the surcharge in year two,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

The next round of EMAC supplement billings will be delivered to employers in the next week.

The members of the coalition include BAMSI (Brockton Area Multi-Services, Inc.), Building Trades Employers’ Association, Home Care Aide Council, MAB Community Services, Massachusetts Staffing Association, New England MCA/MSCA, Providers’ Council, The ERISA Industry Committee, Italian Home for Children, Massachusetts Senior Care Association, the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

The coalition said the EMAC supplement has raised costs for Massachusetts nursing facilities alone by more than $16 million.

“As a Commonwealth, we face a renewed imperative to lower the cost of health insurance for everyone in Massachusetts via long-term, efficient strategies. Short-term, unpredictable financial obligations like the EMAC Supplement tax serve only to deter business expansion and employee recruitment, and to reduce our ability to provide vital services,” the group wrote.

The Legislature passed the assessment in July 2017 minus a set of structural reforms proposed by Governor Baker to place the MassHealth/Medicaid program on a firm financial footing. The surcharge raised the EMAC assessment from $51 to $77 per employee. Employers also were required to pay up to $750 for each worker who receives public health benefits.

Employers may request a waiver from the fees if they prove a hardship. Of 246 such waiver requests, administration officials said they have allowed 99.

Topics: Massachusetts House of Representatives, Employer Health Assessment, EMAC Surcharge

AIM Launches Diversity and Inclusion Initiative

Posted by Rick Lord on Apr 8, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) has launched a comprehensive diversity, inclusion and equity initiative designed to ensure that the largest business association in the commonwealth represents the full variety of people and companies driving the state economy.

Juliette.MayersThe effort is being overseen by a committee of the AIM Board of Directors Chaired by Donna Latson-Gittens, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MORE Advertising in Watertown, and Gregory Buscone, Executive Vice President and Senior Commercial Banking Officer at Eastern Bank in Boston.

AIM has already revamped its processes for nominating members of the board of directors, selecting candidates for statewide achievement awards and for assembling public programs. The association recently hired Juliette Mayers, a former executive director of multicultural marketing at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and CEO of Inspiration Zone LLC, as a consultant to help develop a long-term plan for diversity and inclusion.

                     Juliette Mayers

“Diversity, inclusion and equity are central to the business success
of AIM,” said Daniel Kenary, Founder and CEO of The Harpoon
Brewery in Boston and chair of the AIM Board of Directors.

“Our ability to maintain a vibrant, influential association in the future will depend upon our willingness to seek out the broadest possible pool of people as members, as AIM staff people and as AIM directors.”

AIM has also integrated diversity into its public-policy agenda. The association has recently taken part in negotiations on laws governing pay equity and treatment of pregnant workers, consistent with the association's longstanding commitment to economic growth.

Latson-Gittens and Buscone noted that studies by the consulting firm McKinsey and the Peterson Institute for International Economics show that companies with diverse management generate higher profits than those that are less diverse.

Population demographics also underscore the case for diversity. Government and private statistics show that, for the first time in US history, a majority (50.2 percent) of children under the age of five are classified as being part of a minority ethnic group. The minority working-age portion of the workforce has doubled to 37 percent since 1980.

In addition to Latson-Gittens and Buscone, the Board of Directors committee leading the diversity initiative at AIM includes Kenary; Joanne Hilferty, President and CEO of Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries in Boston; Phyllis Barajas, founder and CEO of Conexion in Boston; Tricia Canavan, President of United Personnel in Springfield; and Brian Burke, Northeast Director of State Government Affairs at Microsoft in Cambridge.

The objectives of the initiative include:

  • Increase the diversity of the AIM membership, Board of Directors and staff;
  • Strengthen governance and management of the association;
  • Expand membership by reflecting the full diversity of the Massachusetts business community and the larger community;
  • Enhance the organization’s reputation as the pre-eminent representative of Massachusetts employers on public-policy issues
  • Meet the expectations of respected AIM member companies that are already are doing this and expect partners to do the same;
  • Recruit and retain the most professional workforce possible, now and in the future.

AIM is a community of 3,500 employers re-imagining a better state of business for Massachusetts.

The association believes that business can be a positive force for change in creating a better, more prosperous world. AIM strives to bring together the best people, the best insights and the best resources to ensure that Massachusetts businesses thrive and create a hopeful future for everyone. 

Mayers expects AIM to have a long-term plan for diversity, inclusion and equity later this year.

“AIM is a high-profile organization that has a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in ensuring that everyone has a chance to share in the economic prosperity of Massachusetts,” she said.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Diversity & Inclusion

Employer Confidence Slips in March

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 2, 2019 8:30:59 AM

Business confidence weakened slightly in March amid signs of both a cyclical global slowdown and persistent demographic factors limiting the growth of the labor force in Massachusetts.

BCI.March.2019The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) lost 0.3 points to 57.9 during March. Confidence remains within optimistic territory but has lost 5.6 points during the past 12 months.

The decrease reflected employer concerns about economic prospects for the next six months. Those concerns outweighed growing optimism among manufacturing companies and rising confidence in the Massachusetts economy.

The March Business Confidence survey took place as the government announced that Massachusetts created only 20,000 jobs during 2018 instead of the 65,500 previously estimated. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that average payroll job growth in Massachusetts fell from 1.3 percent in 2017 to 0.9 percent last year.

“Massachusetts employers continue to struggle with the challenges of a full-employment economy complicated by demographic issues such as the retirement of large numbers of baby boomers,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“U.S. economic growth appears to be slowing, as well as world economic growth, but recession fears are still low.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index moved in a narrow range during March.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth gained 0.9 points to 61.7. Confidence in the Massachusetts economy has declined 6.1 points since March 2018.

The U.S. Index measuring employer sentiment about the national economy slipped 0.5 points to 55.5, leaving it 9.7 points less than a year ago.

Employers were slightly more optimistic about current conditions than about the future. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 0.6 points to 58.3 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, fell 1.3 points to 57.4. The Future Index has fallen 7.0 points during the past 12 months.

The Employment Index, measuring employer optimism about hiring, rose 1.2 points to 55.9.

Non-manufacturers (60.6) were more confident than manufacturers (55.4). Small companies (60.8) were more optimistic than large companies (55.2) or medium-sized companies (57.5). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (60.0) continued to be more bullish than those in the west (55.0).

Northeastern University professor Alan Clayton-Matthews, a BEA member, said the downward revision of the Massachusetts job-growth numbers was consistent with demographic trends such as the large number of baby boomers retiring from the work force.

“The last New England Economic Project forecast projected a slowdown in payroll job growth from 1.7 percent in 2017 to 1.1 percent in 2018 and 0.6 percent in 2019 and a slowdown in labor-force growth from 1.6 percent in 2017 to 0.6 percent in 2018 and 0.4 percent in 2019. This forecast was largely based on demographic projections assuming a full-employment economy,” said Clayton-Matthews.

“The state economy seems to be running at full capacity, and the basic state indicators don’t suggest a lack of demand, though it’s hard to spot turning points until there is enough hindsight.”

Mixed Signals

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said employers remain concerned as Beacon Hill lawmakers undertake a broad discussion of how to fund expensive policy priorities such as transportation infrastructure, public education and clean energy. He noted that AIM will be part of a group assembled by the state Senate to look at the Massachusetts tax code.

“AIM undertakes these debates conscious of the oppressive cost burdens already facing Massachusetts employers. Massachusetts must develop a fair strategy to address its spending needs without harming employers who are already struggling to implement a $1 billion paid family and medical leave program along with the rising cost of both health insurance and energy,” Lord said.

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers

School Funding Changes Must be Tied to Results

Posted by Tricia Canavan on Mar 27, 2019 2:23:26 PM

Editor’s note - Tricia Canavan, President and Owner of United Personnel Services in Springfield, is a member of the AIM Board of Directors and co-chair of Springfield Business Leaders for Education. She was an educator early in her career.

EducationUnited Personnel Services is a staffing company specializing in professional, information technology and manufacturing placement throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. Headquartered in Springfield, we place more than 3,000 people a year in jobs ranging from entry level to highly technical and executive management positions.

We collaborate in our work with some of the region’s largest employers in manufacturing, health care and education. Those collaborations give us unique insights into the hiring needs and challenges of a variety of industries.

United Personnel and its clients experience firsthand the impact of the achievement gap on our young people and their ability to succeed at work and in post-secondary education. We also clearly understand how these educational deficits contribute to the significant skills gap that exists between the jobs available in the commonwealth and the qualifications of many of our residents.

Many young adults are entering the job market without the knowledge and skills needed to secure living-wage jobs, never mind the high-wage, high-potential jobs that would move them and their families on an upward trajectory. This disconnect impedes our economy, limits opportunities for future economic development, and, most importantly, is a real injustice to our kids here in Massachusetts.

In our Gateway Cities in particular, student achievement and mastery of key skills lag behind those of their peers at a sometimes-staggering rate throughout elementary and high school.

Consider the fact that 72 percent of jobs will require a career certificate or college degree by 2020.

In Springfield, 23 percent of our kids don’t graduate from high school in four years. Only 17 percent of our ninth graders earn a post-secondary degree or credential within six years of high school graduation, in part because many graduate unprepared for post-secondary success.

For those students who do pursue higher education, a huge number require remedial classwork – wasting valuable time and financial aid on classes that don’t get them closer to a degree.

Massachusetts needs to build upon its long tradition of educational excellence to ensure that all of our kids have the education they need to pursue the good jobs that exist in Western Massachusetts and throughout the commonwealth. These are jobs like nurses, advanced manufacturing machine operators, web developers and physical therapists – all sectors with hiring demands that exceed the supply of candidates – and all jobs that provide wages beyond the region’s median income.

The disconnect between the qualifications of our young adults and the jobs our employers need filled is the reason I co-chair Springfield Business Leaders for Education and serve on the Boards of Directors of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce and AIM. Like so many of my colleagues throughout the state, I am deeply committed to our kids and our commonwealth and want to be part of the solution to these urgent issues.

We know that the way communities spend state education money has a direct impact on student knowledge acquisition and achievement. It is imperative, then, that any infusion of funding is tied to results – for our kids, their futures and the economic strength of Massachusetts. We also know that innovative reforms, such as the Springfield Empowerment Zone model that has potential to be expanded statewide, must be accompanied by renewed investment in education.

But we must be cautious as we pursue increased financial resources for our schools. Springfield Public Schools have received large boosts in funding before, through the introduction of federal grant programs like Race to the Top. But these infusions have not translated to sufficient progress which adequately addresses all that our students need. If we are successful in changing the current funding for our schools without using it as a leverage to do better for our kids, we will have failed.

The cost of the status quo – the achievement gap, the failure to maximize our kids’ promise, the inability of businesses to find the workers they need – is huge. Additional money needs to be used strategically, informed by data and evidence, to accomplish specific goals. We deserve to know what those goals are and whether our schools are meeting them - and if not, why.

Maximum Unemployment Duration Drops to 26 Weeks

Posted by John Regan on Mar 26, 2019 6:49:33 PM

An obscure provision of the 2005 Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance Reform Law will next week accomplish what employers have sought for several decades – a reduction in the maximum duration of unemployment benefits from 30 weeks to the 26 weeks common in most states.

The provision mandates that if the unemployment rate drops below 5.1 percent in the 10 labor market regions of the state, then UI benefits are available for 26 instead of 30 weeks.  The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development certified today that the jobless rate in all Massachusetts labor markets has dropped to less than 5.1 percent so new UI recipients as of next week will be able to collect for 26 weeks.

The benefit period will return to 30 weeks if during any month of a claimant's 26-week benefit period the 12-month average monthly unemployment rate in any one of the metro areas rises above the 5.1 percent threshold.

Cost savings associated with the 26-week maximum benefit period are $40 million in the first year and $84 million in the second year, state officials said

“I don’t think anyone at the time this provision was negotiated believed it would ever take effect,” said AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord.

“The change underscores the fact the the duration of Unemployment Insurance remains one of the major competitive disadvantages that affect companies doing business in Massachusetts. We urge the Legislature to move to 26 weeks permanently.”

Topics: Unemployment insurance, Massachusetts employers

AIM Calls on Legislature to End MassHealth Assessment on Employers

Posted by Katie Holahan on Mar 26, 2019 1:52:06 PM

Editor's note - AIM Vice President of Government Affairs Katie Holahan today delivered the following testimony to the Legislature's Joint  Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in favor of ending the MassHealth employer assessment.

State House 2015Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), on behalf of its member companies, supports H.1647, An Act relative to repealing the employer medical assistance contribution tax. We support an end to the two-year assessment imposed on employers to close a financial gap at the state’s MassHealth insurance program for low-income residents.

AIM believes the assessment is no longer necessary as employers last year paid tens of millions of dollars more than anticipated originally under the levy.

The prior, existing Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) assessment increased from $51 to $77 per employee, and employers were required to pay up to $750 for each worker receiving public health benefits. By the time the EMAC assessment sunsets in 2019, Massachusetts businesses are on track to contribute $519 million instead of the $400 million envisioned under the 2017 legislation – or 30 percent more than originally estimated.

At the same time, enrollment in MassHealth has fallen as the administration has initiated steps to ensure that only those eligible for benefits receive them.

The Legislature passed the assessment in July 2017, minus a set of structural reforms proposed by the governor to place the MassHealth/Medicaid program on a firm financial footing. The assessment fell most heavily upon companies whose employees elect to use MassHealth rather than the employer-sponsored health plan.

AIM member employers are proud to lead the nation in providing health care coverage to their employees. Sixty-five percent of Bay State companies offer health insurance coverage to their workers, compared with 56 percent of employers nationwide. A full 100 percent of Massachusetts employers with 200 or more employees offer coverage.

As health-care premium and utilization costs continue to grow, employers have fewer options and less flexibility to keep year-over-year increases in check, raising important concerns about their ability to offer comprehensive insurance to their employees. Adding the cost of the state’s public health insurance program is not a sustainable financial plan, long-term.

Employers stand ready to work with policymakers to make comprehensive structural reforms to both the MassHealth program and commercial insurance markets to make the financing of health care for all Massachusetts residents sustainable this year and for many years to come.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Health Care Costs, Health Insurance

Senate President Calls for 'Bold Steps'

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 15, 2019 11:20:37 AM

 

Senate President Karen E. Spilka today called for Massachusetts to take “bold steps” to address issues such as transportation, education, health-care costs and economic development in the face of relentless changes to the state economy.

SP.Spilka“The common thread of all the challenges we face is unprecedented change. The success of our Commonwealth will ultimately be measured by how well we navigate and harness the potential of this change,” Spilka told more than 300 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum on Waltham.

She said Massachusetts finds itself in a unique political moment that will determine the future course of its economy.

“It would be a mistake to waste this moment on incremental changes and small ideas,” she said. “Now is the time to be bold. That said, we have to find a way to reach consensus on our bold ideas.”

Spilka said state leaders must replicate the collaborative model of last year’s “grand bargain,” which brought together employers, advocacy groups and legislators to hammer out a compromise on paid family leave and the minimum wage. She thanked the business community for engaging in those conversations and invited employers to continue to participate in major policy debates.

The Senate President cited the growth of the Metrowest district she represents as an example of the challenges and opportunities facing the Massachusetts economy. Technology and innovation have transformed Metrowest from a Boston bedroom region to the home of major employers like Staples, TJX and Boston Scientific, but that growth has stressed the transportation infrastructure and priced some workers out of the housing market.

She acknowledged that resolving these issues carries a large price tag.

“I firmly believe we must create an economic development and tax framework for the 21st century where innovative technology-driven businesses can develop and thrive here but where we also capture new revenue to continue providing essential services, and fund our vision for our future,” she told the audience.

“So far, we have been addressing these new industries on a piecemeal basis, which only serves to breed confusion for business, government, and consumers. We must work together to find a balance that benefits us all, especially as we will be relying on these industries to continue to fuel our economic success.”

Spilka said the Senate will address health-care costs by looking at the price of prescription drugs and the cost transparency of the medical system. She praised the initiative led by AIM and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation to reduce unnecessary use of emergency rooms.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, AIM Executive Forum, Senate President Karen Spilka

Government Proposes to Raise Overtime Threshold

Posted by Tom Jones on Mar 11, 2019 8:00:00 AM

The long-running saga of federal rules governing overtime pay took another twist last week when the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will increase the overtime-wage threshold to $35,308 per year from the current $23,660 per year.

The change would mean that workers who make less than $35,000 a year would be considered non-exempt and eligible for overtime pay no matter what their current classification. So, employers with exempt employees earning between $23,660 and $35,308 would need to reclassify them as non-exempt and pay them overtime if warranted or pay them at least $35,308 per year and provide them with sufficient duties to justify classifying them as exempt.

There are no proposed changes in the federal regulations to the white-collar duties test.

If adopted, the higher wage level will significantly increase the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. It does not appear as though the proposal will include any specific duty adjustments, but it remains possible. As part of the rule-making process, the DOL sent the proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget in mid-January.

There is no clear timetable for when the draft regulation will be released or when it will take effect. Moreover, many groups on both sides of the issue are already talking about possible legal challenges, a process that could delay implementation by months or years.

It has been more than 15 years since the government changed the overtime rules.

Employers should remember in the meantime that paying an employee a salary does not make the employee exempt. Classification is nearly always about the duties.

Any employer questioning if one or more of its employees is currently misclassified or should be reclassified, needs to take the time to review the employee’s current duties to see if they meet the law’s requirements. While there is some degree of nuance in interpretation in deciding whether an employee is exempt, an employer needs to be able to justify its classification if challenged.

DOL has detailed information on its Web site.

If you have any questions about this or any other HR matter, please contact the AIM  Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.

Topics: Employment Law, Overtime, Fair Labor Standards Act

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