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  • 14 Apr 2014 10:19 AM | Anonymous
    The Importance of Music Licensing 

    The Hartford Business Journal recently ran an article about BMI and several Connecticut restaurants being sued for non-licensure.  You can’t play music publicly without a license.  Copyright laws require music users to get permission from songwriters and composers who can charge a fee before their music is played publicly, which then allows them to continue to create music.  CRA members are entitled to a 20% discount on licensing fees with BMI.  Have questions or are unsure if you are licensed?  Contact Justina Santiago at the CRA at Santiago@ctrestaurant.org or (860) 278-8008 ext. 115.
  • 31 Mar 2014 2:33 PM | Anonymous
    Full Article: http://m.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20140331/PRINTEDITION/303289958

    A few years ago, nine songs were played inside Shelton's Vazzy's Cucina restaurant that ended up costing owners John Vazzano and Vincent L. Noce $18,000.

    That's because an agent of licensing giant Broadcast Music Inc., which represents the artists who owned the tracks, attested to being present when the tunes were played and sued Vazzano and Noce for copyright infringement, claiming the restaurant's music qualified as a public performance. Under federal copyright law, that meant the restaurant had to pay for the rights to play the songs, BMI said.

    Vazzano said he thinks a private party actually played the tunes. He also thought his Muzak and cable subscriptions protected him from copyright infringement, but that wasn't the case in this instance.

    Instead of going through a costly legal fight, the restaurateurs settled the suit, something Vazzano says he is still bitter about today.

    "How do you recoup that?" Vazzano asked. "You can't raise your prices."

    Restaurateurs know plenty about the cost of liquor licenses, staffing and ingredients, but a surprising number continue to be entangled by music licensing lawsuits.

    Three Connecticut restaurants, including Greater Hartford's Plan B Burger Bar, are currently involved in music copyright infringement suits, federal court records show. Since 2012, at least another eight eateries have settled suits with BMI, or had judges rule against them, court records show.

    BMI, which represents the families of artists like Johnny Cash and about 600,000 other clients, has nearly 9.5 million songs in its catalog and brought in $944 million in licensing revenue last year.

    The New York-based company has been suing restaurants in Connecticut and beyond since at least the 1980s, court records show. BMI also appears to be more litigious undefined at least in this state undefined than its rival, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

    Besides the parent company of Plan B, BMI has active lawsuits against the owners of Cheshire's Waverly Inn and Willimantic's Lucky Frog. Also, a number of restaurants, court records show, have settled or reached judgments with BMI including: West Hartford's Barcelona Wine Bar; Eli's on the Hill in Branford; Guilford Mooring in Guilford; Lanza's Restaurant in Ansonia; Lumberyard Pub in West Redding; Ash Creek Saloon in Norwalk; and Cobb's Mill Inn in Weston.

    While Vazzano's $18,000 settlement is disclosed in court filings, almost all other BMI settlements with area restaurants appear to be confidential.

    The steady number of lawsuits over the past few years suggests that restaurants and bars either don't understand copyright rules, or underestimate the likelihood of getting contacted and/or sued by license owners.

    Some restaurateurs wonder if BMI's demands are legitimate when they first get a letter or phone call, said Nicole Griffin, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

    "I think they wonder if it's legitimate because they don't necessarily understand they have to pay a licensing fee for music," Griffin said.

    The association, like its fellow entities in other states, has an agreement with BMI to offer its members licenses at a discount as high as 20 percent, Griffin said.

    But not every restaurant is an association member. And some business owners think there isn't much risk, she said.

    "There are probably some businesses who think 'eh, I don't have to do this,'" Griffin said.

    Costly lack of subscription

    BMI's recent lawsuits come at a time when music has never been more accessible, from online offerings like Spotify, Pandora and YouTube, to megabytes worth of songs stored on tiny iPods.

    But for restaurants and other businesses, the copyright laws regarding the public performance of music undefined live or recorded undefined were first established around the time of the phonograph in 1896.

    An explosion in music technology since then hasn't changed the rules or loosened restrictions.

    Spotify and Pandora both warn on their respective websites that business owners don't have permission to use their products for public performance.

    A bar or restaurant is even liable for musicians playing live tunes on their premises. If a band plays a cover song for which the bar has no license, the bar is legally liable, according to BMI and ASCAP.

    There are exceptions for radios and televisions playing in restaurants and bars, but even those are convoluted. The exception only applies to establishments under 3,750 square feet. Larger venues must seek licenses, but only if they have more than four loudspeakers in any single room, or if they charge patrons a cover.

    A restaurant owner risks paying penalties even if they play music through an iPod connected to a speaker, BMI and ASCAP say.

    After Vazzy's Cucina settled its suit, Vazzano said he decided to play it safe and buy a BMI license for his Shelton location. It costs him about $4,500 a year, he estimated, and allows him to play any song in BMI's vast catalog.

    He said BMI has been trying to get him to buy licenses for his four other locations undefined in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Monroe and Stratford undefined but he has refused because he said he doesn't play BMI music there.

    The companies that operate five Plan B burger restaurants in Connecticut undefined LGF LLC and Local 8 LLC undefined were sued by BMI last July for playing at their Glastonbury location seven unlicensed songs, including Queen's "We Are the Champions" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Gimme Three Steps."

    Hartford attorney John Kennelly, who represents Plan B, said the restaurants had a license from The American Society of Composers, Authors and Artists, but not BMI.

    Kennelly said many restaurants get confused about the risks they take playing music because rules are written in "very complicated, very esoteric IP statutes."

    Kennelly said his clients, Allie Gamble and Shawn Skehan, believe musicians should be compensated for their work, but he said the lawsuits are a heavy penalty for trying to provide a little ambience to customers. And he feels that BMI's litigious strategy may result in some establishments wanting to give up playing any music at all.

    "A lot of companies can't be successful with these, in my opinion, frivolous lawsuits," Kennelly said. "This is about big companies who have gobbled up the right to these forms of entertainment and now are going after the little guy."

    Of course, BMI doesn't see it that way. The company says its legal actions provide songwriters a way to earn a living from their music.

    "BMI makes every effort to educate business owners as to the value of a license and the significant costs associated with copyright infringement," BMI spokeswoman Leah Lupo wrote in an email. "Legal action is a last resort after all other efforts have been exhausted."

    BMI reaches out to businesses, sometimes "dozens of times," before a lawsuit is initiated, Lupo said.

    But those discussions don't always pan out. Costs and resentment quickly mount for the venues that are sued, Vazzano said.

    Some may find the rules unjust, but BMI isn't afraid to sue over just a few songs. That leaves business owners spending thousands of dollars on a license undefined or risking it and hoping that a court summons won't appear on their door step.

    "You can't even sing 'Happy Birthday' without paying them," Vazzano said. n

  • 28 Mar 2014 11:37 AM | Anonymous
    Full Article: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101534573

    For most of us, the prospect of a 40 percent raise in pay would probably be pretty exciting. It would mean a big jump in disposable income, and would probably make it possible to do some thingsundefinedtake that vacation, replace that old carundefinedthat weren't really in the cards before.

    Protesters at a Walmart store Sept. 5, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
    Getty Images
    Protesters at a Walmart store Sept. 5, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

    The current push to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10, however, while it would constitute a nearly 40 percent pay raise for minimum wage workers, would almost certainly not translate into a similar increase in their economic wellbeing.

    For simplicity's sake, consider a minimum wage worker who regularly works 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. This worker would earn $15,080 per year at $7.25 per hour, and $21,008 at $10.10.

    That is, unquestionably, a substantial increase. But because of the way programs to aid the poor in the U.S. are structured, that shift would cause federal benefit payments to many minimum wage workers to be significantly reduced. Assistance program for the poor are, by definition, income-based, so as income rises, the payments are either reduced or, in some cases, cut off entirely.

    So, while he or she may have more disposable income than before, the post-increase minimum wage earner will be covering a higher percentage of his or her own basic living expenses out of earnings than out of public assistance.

    Just how much more? That turns out to be a bafflingly complex question. Public assistance programs are targeted to address many different problems, and typically base their payments on multiple factors, including family size, income level, state of residence, and more.

    And even within those categories, it's hard to get a clear read on how changes affect payments. For instance, some income-based programs, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, consider the recipient's annual income, while others, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) are based on monthly income

    This graph, from a study by Elaine Maag, C. Eugene Steuerle, Ritadhi Chakravarti, and Caleb Quakenbush, shows not only how many federal assistance programs an individual might qualify for, but also how dramatically some of them cut off at different income levels. (The chart, while somewhat dated, still accurately depicts the complexity of the federal benefits system.) 

    The changes in federal payments to low-income workers would be dramatically reduced by a minimum wage increase. According to the Center for American Progress, for example, an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would reduce federal spending on SNAP payments by $4.6 billion per yearundefinedmoney that recipients whose SNAP benefit was reduced would necessarily have to make up out of their increased earnings.

    Depending on their income levels, family structure, etc. minimum wage workers could also see a decline in their Earned Income Tax benefit as their take-home pay increases. The EITC, regarded as one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in existence, tapers off as income increasesundefinedand again, minimum wage workers would have to make up the difference out of their own earnings.

    To be clear, this is not an argument against raising the minimum wage. Advocates of the increase recognize that the change would include tradeoffs, but note that there are a number of social benefits. 

    PLAY VIDEO
    Indiana Gov.: Minimum wage designed for entry-level wage
    Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) provides insight on which policies in the state are instigating growth, and the impact of potentially raising the minimum wage.

    For instance, the implicit subsidy that for-profit companies are able to employ workers at an artificially low wage would be reduced.

    But some feel the more important benefit would accrue to the low-income workers who, while perhaps not benefiting from dramatically higher incomes, would benefit from seeing their work compensated at a level closer to a living wage.

    "On the one hand, benefits falling reduces the gains from a minimum wage increase," said Sharon Parrott, a vice president with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington. "But I think people in the real world would rather have higher income and fewer benefits."

    By Rob Garver of The Fiscal Times.

  • 28 Mar 2014 11:28 AM | Anonymous
    Full Article: http://freebeacon.com/issues/ceo-of-cke-restaurants-gov-malloy-could-use-a-course-on-economics/

    CEO of CKE Restaurants Andy Puzder warned Connecticut’s minimum wage increase is based on faulty assumptions about economics Thursday on Fox News.

    Gov. Dan Malloy (D) plans to sign the bill into law which would increase the minimum wage $10.10 in Connecticut, the highest of any state.

    Puzder slammed Gov. Malloy’s argument that the new minimum wage willbenefit low wage workers, suggesting the governor could use a course in economics.

    “When you raise the minimum wage, everybody who has to pay the minimum wage raises their prices to cover the costs of the wage increase. So, what they’re buying costs more, and if you have inflation in products and wages you don’t end up in a different place,” he said.

    In addition to the increased cost of goods, Puzder also pointed out raising the minimum wage will cost jobs, directly hurting the people it is supposed to help.

    “I think politically it’s probably a very good issue for people that support a minimum wage increase because I think people feel very good when you say, we’re going to increase, the next check you’re going to have more money. You feel good about that but you don’t realize things are going to cost more, there’s going to be fewer jobs, and those 500,000 people if we did this federally that won’t have jobs, they’re not going to have any wages. So economically it’s not a good move.”

    Full exchange:

    NEIL CAVUTO: The governor, Governor Malloy, disagrees with that notion, he says guys like you are forgetting the benefits of doing that and the people who get paid more will spend more, in fact in that income range, that they will spend virtually all of it. So it actually helps the economy. What are you saying?

    ANDY PUZDER: Well, I think that the governor could use a course in economics. If you undefined when you raise the minimum wage, everybody who has to pay the minimum wage raises their prices to cover the cost of the wage increase. So, what they’re buying costs more, so if you have inflation in products and inflation in wages, you don’t end up in a different place so which is why every few years people talk about increasing the minimum wage. This misallocates expenses. This is not something, particularly the federal government is very good at,  when they’re trying to set prices, they’re trying to set the cost of labor. You can say that it does that, and I think politically it’s probably a very good issue for people that support a minimum wage increase because I think people feel very good when you say, we’re going to increase, the next check you’re going to have more money. You feel good about that but you don’t realize things are going to cost more, there’s going to be fewer jobs, and those 500,000 people if we did this federally that won’t have jobs, they’re not going to have any wages. So economically it’s not a good move.

  • 14 Mar 2014 9:47 AM | Anonymous
    Full Article: http://www.theday.com/article/20140313/OP01/303139475/-1/OP#.UyHP2pK9KSM

    When Connecticut became the first state in the nation to mandate paid sick leave for hundreds of thousands of service workers, we were warned to expect dire economic consequences. This left us concerned about the law's timing, as the state sought to recover from a recession.

    But nothing happened.

    It's true that quite a few more people have been paid to stay home when they are sick during the past two years, but sick people staying home has had little impact on the state's economy.

    The Washington-based Center for Economic Policy Research found that only 10 percent of the companies it surveyed reported that they were forced to increase payrolls by more than 3 percent as a result of the law.

    Predictions that the law would lead to reduced wages and hours for as many as 400,000 workers apparently didn't pan out either. The center reported that just over 10 percent of the employers surveyed said they reduced working hours and only 1 percent reduced wages.

    The law barely passed in the final hours of the 2011 session of the General Assembly. It got through the Senate by an 18-17 vote and the House, 76-65, with many conservative Democrats agreeing with the Republican minority that the bill was a job killer. There were warnings that the economically distressed Connecticut would be sending a terrible message to the nation's businesses by becoming the first state to take such drastic action.

    But the law also came with many exemptions. It applies only to businesses with 50 or more employees and exempts manufacturing companies and nationally chartered nonprofit organizations as well as day laborers, independent contractors and temporary workers.

    Those covered are primarily service workers who receive an hourly wage - like waiters, cashiers, fast-food workers, hairdressers, security guards and nursing home aides. It allows them to receive up to five paid sick days a year.

    The authors of the study said part-time workers were most affected by the new sick leave policy and many of them are employed in the retail and hospitality industries, which have grown since the law was implemented in 2012.

    So why did the dire predictions fail to materialize? There were, of course, those exemptions for employers with fewer than 50 workers and all manufacturers. But many of these Connecticut businesses already had paid sick leave policies, some similar or better than those covered by the new law.

    An immediate result of the law was a reduction in the number of workers who went to work sick, a benefit not only for them, but also for those who worked with them or received their services. One needn't conduct a study to determine businesses like nursing homes and restaurants especially need healthy workers to care for their sick and elderly residents or their food-consuming customers. And the survey did not attempt to measure the economic benefits derived from sick workers not spreading their illnesses to others.

    Connecticut remains the only state with mandatory paid sick days for these workers but bills have been introduced in legislatures across the country and have been passed or implemented in cities in California, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey and New York.

    New York City's law, passed last year over the veto of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, goes into effect April 1. It is a bit more liberal than Connecticut's law, allowing workers to earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, as opposed to Connecticut's 40, with the same cap at five days.

    And so it appears the alarm sounded over paid sick leave will prove to be as false as those tolled for every historic improvement in the worker's lot, from the abolition of child labor and the reduction of the work day and week to the introduction of Social Security and the minimum wage.

    Each of these laws improved the lives of our hardest working and poorest paid men and women and made us a stronger and better nation.

  • 03 Mar 2014 1:04 PM | Anonymous
    Full Article: http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20140303/PRINTEDITION/302279940/1002
       
    Author: Gregory Seay, Hartford Business Journal 


    After dodging previous minimum wage increases, Connecticut restaurateurs and owners of hotels and taverns appear likely to see their contribution to the hourly wages they pay waitstaff and bartenders rise.

    In Connecticut, hotel and restaurant employers can count their worker's tips as part of their minimum wage. But those employers for years have been legislated a payroll edge over other businesses.

    Now, with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and many Democratic state lawmakers pushing for another hike in the minimum wage, to more than $9.15 an hour next year and above $10 by 2017, a freeze of the so-called "tip credit'' that shields bars and restaurants from a higher minimum wage is being proposed, lawmakers say.

    That would, in effect, amount to a 12.1 percent pay raise for thousands of Connecticut restaurant and hotel waiters and waitresses, and bartenders.

    Tim Adams, owner of J. Timothy's Taverne in Plainville, is adamantly against any change in the minimum wage, and by extension the tip credit.

    The "supposed benefits'' to accrue to workers from a higher wage, Adams said, won't materialize, lost instead "to creeping inflation caused by the higher cost of doing business.''

    Adams and other business operators, he said, in the last few years also have been saddled with higher costs for energy, unemployment taxes and surcharges, and mandates such as paid sick time.

    "Nothing's changed. This only makes it worse,'' he said.

    Restaurants, bars and hotels have long been exempt from paying their servers the full minimum wage. The reason is that the tips those employees earn counts as wages under the law. So, over the years, as Connecticut's minimum wage has risen, lawmakers have also hiked the so-called "tip credit'' that shields qualified employers.

    For instance, when the minimum wage was $8.25 an hour in 2013, the tip credit for restaurant and hotel servers was set at 31 percent. That meant qualified employers were responsible to pay their servers $5.69 an hour. For tavern owners, the tip credit threshold was 11 percent, meaning bartenders earned $7.34 an hour.

    On Jan. 1, the mandated hourly minimum wage rose to $8.70, and so did the tip credits. Now, the restaurant-hotel server tip-credit threshold is 34.6 percent for 2014, and would rise again to 36.8 percent in 2015, keeping the employer's share at $5.69 an hour. The tavern tip credit threshold also climbed to 15.6 percent this year and would increase to 18.5 percent in 2015.

    Malloy's latest proposal, however, increases the minimum wage gradually to $10.10 over three years, but doesn't increase the tip credits, forcing restaurant, hotel and bar owners to pay 12.1 percent more, per hour to their lowest earners.

    By 2017, tavern owners would have to pay bartenders an $8.23 minimum wage, while restaurant-hotel owners would pay servers $6.38.

    "It's been several years since they've had an increase in the wages they pay employees,'' said State House Speaker Brendan Sharkey. "It's now appropriate for them to pay more.''

    Retail purveyors of prepared meals and beverages don't relish having to pay their workers more, especially in such rapid succession.

    Nicole Griffin, president of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, says her members oppose the newest pay-hike proposal. The minimum wage just rose to $8.70 an hour and is due to reset to $9 on Jan. 1, 2015.

    "Our members would like to see the impact of those increases fully realized before undertaking other increases,'' Griffin said.

    The Connecticut Business & Industry Association, the state's largest pro-commerce lobby, also opposes hiking the minimum wage.

    It's estimated that as many as 90,000 of Connecticut's 1.7 million workers, or 5 percent, are earning minimum wage, according to Malloy's office.

    Malloy recently joined governors in Washington, to lobby The White House for a hike in the federal minimum wage, which President Barack Obama supports. Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra, too, has voiced his support for higher starting pay.

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates that gradually raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent of the workforce.

    The CBO also said there is a good chance the job loss could be much less undefined or could reach as high as 1 million jobs.

    The net effect, however, would be a boost for most low-wage workers. The CBO estimates about 16.5 million workers would see higher earnings once the full $10.10 wage was implemented in 2016, which Democrats have been calling for.

    What's more, the increase would lift an estimated 900,000 workers out of poverty.

    CNN contributed to this report.
  • 14 Feb 2014 10:52 AM | Anonymous
    Full Article: http://www.myrecordjournal.com/opinion/editorials/3602537-129/minimum-wage.html

    Although Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is right to support a higher minimum wage, he should reconsider the bigger economic picture before pursuing compensation beyond $10 per hour.

    In our editorial of Jan. 7, we welcomed that the state minimum wage, upon the new year, went up by 45 cents to $8.70. By 2015, it will increase again to $9. These are fair salary boosts for the approximately 68,000 Connecticut workers undefined or 4 percent of the labor force undefined who earn minimum wage. Low-level employees can struggle to keep their families from falling into poverty. Even an extra 45 cents per hour can make a significant difference when household budgets are so limited.

    But mandating pay of at least $10 per hour could be counterproductive and detrimental for staff at the bottom of the workforce. “There is a debate happening across our country on how to tackle the growing income inequality,” Malloy observed during a recent news conference on minimum wages (AP, 2-5). While he is correct undefined the enlarging gap between top earners and everyone else threatens further social fracturing within this country undefined there must be a realistic balance between salaries and costs for the sake of businesses.

    Connecticut already receives criticism for a perceived “business-unfriendly” atmosphere. High income and property taxes do not help this reputation, nor do comparatively expensive energy costs. Add to that mix a $10 minimum wage undefined which would be the highest nationally undefined and proprietors may think twice before opening up shop in this state.

    Businesses may face difficulty affording low-level workers if hourly pay continues to increase beyond $9. Smaller shops, like family-run restaurants and convenience stores, can experience financial trouble enough as it is, in the current Connecticut economy. If bottom lines must now take into account $10-per-hour employees, maintaining operations and services could become trickier.

    Moreover, business-owners could feel discouraged about hiring additional workers and instead may attempt to accomplish more with leaner staffs. Obviously, that is the opposite of what Malloy intends. The governor wants to decrease unemployment and encourage fair compensation for all who have jobs. He has accomplished a measure toward that latter goal by helping push the minimum wage to $9.

    Before he or other Connecticut leaders add on another dollar, though, they should allow the rate to remain fixed for a least one year and examine results. If businesses are not negatively affected by the extra costs, then legislators have reason to study the pros and cons of $10, and more, per hour. Workers attempting to live on minimum wage deserve our support.

    In the meantime, Malloy realizes that he is also responsible to foster just treatment and due consideration for Connecticut businesses that allow employees to have jobs. It’s a difficult balancing act. Nationally, the fiscal scale appears to be tipping in favor of raising the minimum wage.

  • 16 Jan 2014 10:40 AM | Anonymous
    Full Article Here: http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2014/01/13/states-forge-ahead-minimum-wage-increases-congress-remains-divided/qQHRbrJ9PmqtAMWen8OavM/story.html

    WASHINGTON undefined President Obama pledged in his 2013 State of the Union message to pursue a minimum wage increase nationwide, an issue all but forgotten since his first White House run. Declaring that “no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,’’ Obama called for boosting the hourly minimum to $9.

    Nearly a year later, that goal remains unfulfilled, derailed by a slowly recovering economy and opposition from Republicans in Congress. So with the federal rate stuck at $7.25 and few prospects for change, the real focal point for wage battles in 2014 is moving to individual states.

    Twelve states and the District of Columbia will be considering minimum wage hikes this year through legislation or ballot initiatives. That includes Massachusetts, where advocates are trying to increase the minimum wage from the current $8 to $11 an hour over three years.

    “The longer Congress is gridlocked on this issue, the more states are going to act,” said Paul Sonn, counsel at the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group in New York.

    Some states are already boosting their minimum wage. On Jan. 1, low-wage employees in Connecticut and Rhode Island were among workers in four states who were granted minimum hourly wage increases of up to $1, to levels ranging from $8 to $8.70. In nine states, smaller, automatic minimum wage increases linked to inflation went into effect.

    Weymouth resident Patricia Federico, who works for $9.10 an hour part time at a movie theater, said her low wage has prevented her from buying back her foreclosed home. It’s also made the bank refuse to work with her in her efforts, she said. “The majority of us that earn minimum wage are not lazy,” said Federico, an activist campaigning for change. “We’re just trying to make ends meet.”

    Wages have surged to the national agenda as a strong stock market and better business climate have continued to concentrate American wealth in the top 1 percent of earners. Of the hourly workforce, 3.6 million workers, or 4.7 percent, earned wages at or below the federal minimum level in 2012, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released in 2013. About half are less than age 25, and three-fifths worked in food preparation or other service jobs.

    Democrats are planning to make wage disparities and opportunities for the middle class a major issue in the 2014 congressional elections. They believe that strategy can galvanize low-income voters, as well as portray Republicans as insensitive and out of touch.

    Republicans in Congress argue that hiking the minimum wage is counterproductive because rising costs will lead businesses to hire fewer people. Low-wage workers, they say, end up being hurt the most. Last year, House Speaker John Boehner said that when rungs are taken away on the economic ladder, “you make it harder for people to get on the ladder.”

    In November, Obama threw his weight behind a proposal that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over two years and then index it to inflation. Public opinion is on the side of Democrats. By a 71 to 27 percent margin, American voters support raising the minimum wage, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

    Although some small businesses back a higher wage, opposition is strongest from the retail and business industries. Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said increasing the minimum wage would raise the cost of doing business, as well as the cost of goods and services. Consumers, he said, no longer have “very much loyalty” and would turn to businesses in New Hampshire or to online vendors with cheaper prices.

    “You create a disincentive for Massachusetts consumers to spend money in the economy,” he said.

    Economists have not reached a consensus on the effects of a minimum wage increase. Some studies have reported that higher minimum wages lead to higher unemployment, while others report no significant effect. Some critics say wage increases force employers to cut costs in other ways, leading to fewer hours and jobs. The result, they argue, hurts the workers the wage increases aim to help.

    “What you see is that opportunities for people who are less experienced tend to be reduced,” said Michael Saltsman, a research director at the Employment Policies Institute.

    Nonetheless, 21 states and the District of Columbia already have minimum wages that are higher than the national level. Only five states, all of them in the South, do not have minimum wage laws.

    In Massachusetts, the state Senate passed a bill that would boost the minimum wage from $8 to $9 and an additional dollar each year until 2016, up to $11. After that, the rate would increase automatically to keep pace with inflation. It is unclear when the Massachusetts House will take up the legislation.

    Governor Deval Patrick, who backed Obama’s proposal to increase the federal minimum wage, indicated he favors a state increase. The state’s current minimum wage is one of the most generous in the country, but the bill’s sponsor, state Senator Marc R. Pacheco, said employees working full time on that salary cannot meet basic needs. Most of them hold two or three minimum-wage jobs, the Taunton Democrat said.

    “The economics of it don’t work for the vast majority in our economy,” said Pacheco, a steady ally of organized labor.

    A separate initiative spearheaded by advocacy groups would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.50 and tie automatic future increases to inflation. On Jan. 1, it was sent to the state Legislature for action. If the Legislature does not adopt the measure, supporters must collect an additional 11,485 signatures from registered voters by July to place it on the November election ballot, state officials said.

    Much of the activity around wage increases is a result of fallout from the recession, but specialists say states tend to ratchet up minimums in years after Congress raises the federal level. Congress last lifted the rate to $7.25 an hour in 2009.

    “Once Congress enacts an increase, it starts picking up in the states,” said Jeanne Mejeur, a senior researcher at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “There’s been a groundswell.”

    Kimberly Railey can be reached at kimberly.railey@globe.com.
  • 13 Jan 2014 11:14 AM | Anonymous
    Full Article: http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20140113/PRINTEDITION/301109960

    The Connecticut Restaurant Association held its annual Salute to Excellence Awards Dinner recently at the Mohegan Sun Ballroom honoring many of Connecticut's restaurants, caterers, chefs, and mixologists. Pictured, from left: Phil Barnett, CRA board chairman; Jason Hawkins, event emcee from NBC Connecticut; Nicole Griffin, CRA executive director; and Jimmy Cosgrove, 2013 Restaurateur of the Year of Salute Restaurant in Hartford.
  • 11 Dec 2013 1:05 PM | Anonymous
    Link to full article here:

    Just as the holiday party season starts, Rhode Island has eliminated the sales tax on retail wine and spirits.

    Lawmakers in the Ocean State took the step to help their liquor stores by making prices more competitive with those in neighboring Massachusetts. The move has implications for Connecticut as well.

    When it comes to wine and liquor, Connecticut has been at an economic disadvantage for several years. Massachusetts has no sales tax on wine and spirits, unlike us. Massachusetts' excise (built-in) taxes are lower than ours. And there's no general prohibition in the Bay State against selling alcoholic beverages below the wholesale price, as there is here.

    The result is that many Connecticut residents see an economic advantage in crossing the border to the north to buy booze, especially during the holidays.

    Now Rhode Island has joined the no-sales-tax crowd undefined a move that will be noted in the eastern part of our state. (Earlier this year, Rhode Island did increase its excise tax on spirits, making it equal to ours.)

    Connecticut law requires that out-of-state liquor brought back here must be reported to the Department of Revenue Services and the proper taxes paid. The number of consumers who actually do that is, to put it as charitably as possible, minimum.

    In the past couple of years, small steps have been taken toward making Connecticut a better place for buying booze. Package stores and supermarkets may now sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays, if they choose. That has cut down on some cross-border weekend purchases.

    But for many consumers, price remains the biggest factor in shopping for alcohol undefined and due to our tax structure and minimum-pricing laws, this state remains at a disadvantage.

    Behind the higher prices are the large number of little local package stores here. Their owners worry that if minimum pricing rules are removed, they will be undercut by big-box liquor outlets and by grocery stores, both of which could use artificially low prices as loss leaders. That's not an unreasonable concern, but why should it drive state policy?

    With even more competition out-of-state, the legislature, when it reconvenes, should revisit the liquor pricing system here.

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