Frank Cavaliere, who runs Cavaliere’s Bakery and Deli in Portland told Republican lawmakers Wednesday that every politician in Hartford should tender their resignation because “every time you pass a piece of legislation it costs us money and comes closer to putting more and more businesses out of business.”
“I’ve grown thoroughly disgusted with government. I don’t trust any of you on either side of the aisle. I think you should take the Ds and the Rs and burn them,” Cavaliere said.
Cavaliere’s comments came during a Republican sponsored small business forum at the Legislative Office Building where business owners were invited to vent their frustrations and offer suggestions to Republican lawmakers preparing for an Oct. 26 special session on jobs.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Cavaliere’s comments proved the event was not staged or stacked with only Republican business owners.
The baker’s comments also helped set the tone for the two-hour discussion where by the end “you could feel the real live emotions, the pain, the history, frustration,” Cafero said.
He said he hopes they can find agreement with Democrats and do some good during the Oct. 26 special session on jobs, but no concrete proposals have made their way forward. At the end of the meeting he even attempted to lower expectations for the session by expressing doubt that it would provide a silver bullet for businesses.
“Ain’t gonna happen,” Cafero said. “I don’t want to heighten your expectations that we‘re all going to get together and come up with this magic formula.”
And there were complaints the state legislature will never be able to address, such as unemployment compensation.
Cavaliere said when the federal government comes out and says it’s going to give people another 26 weeks of unemployment it makes politicians look like heroes, but then they turn around and send businesses the bill for it.
Cavaliere said he’s been in business since 1975 and he’s working harder than every “paying more, and making less.”
The sentiment was shared by several other business owners around the table.
Tom Doyle of Springdale Florist in Stamford said his main competition used to be the garden center down the street, but lately he feels like his competition is the government, which is taking more and more money out of his pocket and the pockets of his customers.
He said he still has 10 full-time employees and didn’t lay any of them off, yet his unemployment tax still went up.
Approximately 73,000 Connecticut companies began receiving bills in July for interest due on $810 million in federal funds that the state borrowed to pay unemployment insurance benefits.
Connecticut employers are required to pay $30 million in interest costs to the federal government in 2011. Employers have been assessed $1.70 per $1,000 of taxable payroll – a maximum of $25.50 for each employee.
Doyle said what little profit he has at the end of the year usually ends up going back to the state in taxes.
“You can’t keep taxing people,” Doyle said. “It has to be simpler than this.”
The room burst into applause.
Michael O’Toole, of Q-S Technologies in Meriden, said the pendulum seems to have swung in favor of employees.
The sentiment seems to be “all employees are good and employers are bad,” O’Toole said.
Other business owners talked about how they had employees that resigned and then filed for unemployment benefits. When the Department of Labor held the hearing they decided in favor of the employee even though the employee left of their own free will.
Enzo Faienza of Universal Ceramics and Tile Distributors said he had an opening for a driver and at least two of the 10 individuals he interviewed for the position walked away from the job because they were being paid more on unemployment benefits.
As for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s legislation to offer corporations to stay and create jobs in the state, Faienza said “it’s absolutely insulting to small business owners.”
He said a lot of small businesses felt left out and bank lending is almost non-existent.
Don Denley who owns the Hungry Tiger in Manchester said he wants to see the legislature get its own house in order, control spending, and cut taxes.
“I’ve seen my business reduced by about 15 percent over the last three years,” Denley said. “My employees have gone from 20 down to 16 and as Frank said I’m working more hours to make the same money just to keep myself afloat.”
But he also pointed out that small business owners are resilient.
“I did feel some pain a couple weeks ago. My friends at the Marble Tavern after 26 years had to close their doors for many reasons,” Denley said.
He said this year bars have been hit hard with the increase in the sales tax. He said that’s an additional $200 a month out of his pocket just for the 0.35 percent increase.
“I would ask you the legislators to reduce our tax burden,” Denley said.
But it wasn’t just the tax burden that concerned these small business owners, it was also onerous regulations.
Kevin Maloney, who owns a transportation company in Windsor Locks and is chairman of the leadership council of the Connecticut NFIB, said the regulatory costs are 42 percent higher for companies with less than 20 employees. The average regulatory cost of running a small business is more than $10,585 a year.
Donald DeVivo of Dattco, a busing company, said it would be helpful to him if the state could expedite the commercial license process. He said the background checks take eight to 12 weeks at the moment.
“If you could deliver to me 50 qualified drivers I could put them to work tomorrow,” DeVivo said.
Others, including some small manufacturing companies, complained about the environmental regulations.