Rep. Noujaim is featured in an article this week on Connecticut’s Business News Journal Website www.Conntact.com Read the entire article below.
A Brass City manufacturer tries to talk some sense into Hartford
A Lebanese native who came to the U.S. in 1971 not speaking a word of English, Selim G. Noujaim founded the Noujaim Tool Co. Inc. in Waterbury in 1985 with his brother Joseph, and is the company’s executive vice president. He was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2002, representing the 74th District. The assistant Republican leader in the House, Noujaim sits on the Labor and Public Employees, Commerce, and Higher Education & Employment Advancement committees. He also holds the distinction of being the only manufacturing executive in the General Assembly. Noujaim will address the May 27 luncheon meeting of the New Haven Manufacturers Association; see newhavenmanufacturers.com or phone 203-387-5121 to learn more. What are the most urgent issues facing Connecticut manufacturers right now?
The costs of doing business. The cost of energy, the cost of the regulations that the state places on employers, cost of unemployment compensation, workers compensation, transportation, health care, payroll taxes – all of those inhibit [companies in] the state of Connecticut from being able to compete in the marketplace.
Why don’t your colleagues in the General Assembly understand this?
Well, here is the issue: There are representatives who understand and are pro-business. Actually, it’s not so much being pro-business as it is being pro-employees. If a company is unable to function in Connecticut, then its employees are not going to have jobs. If an employee does not have a job, then he will have to go collect unemployment. Where does that money come from? The state of Connecticut. That employee and his family also do not have [health] insurance, so when they are sick, where do they go? To the emergency room. And who’s going to pay for Medicare and Medicaid costs? The state of Connecticut. And those employees will not have disposable income, so they cannot go to restaurants to have lunch or dinner; they cannot go to stores to shop – and who gets hurt? The owners of those stores, the clerks and the [other] people who work in those stores. That means the distribution of wealth in the state of Connecticut will be cut off.
That doesn’t seem terribly difficult for your fellow lawmakers to understand.
There are three factions [in the General Assembly]. There are representatives who understand, and they vote accordingly. There are other representatives who understand, but they are afraid to vote accordingly because they are always voting the way the leadership wants them to vote. They are afraid to lose their [committee] chairmanship positions, or their parking spot, or their office, or whatever leverage they have. So even though they understand, they just go in and vote with the liberal majority. And there are legislators who do not want to understand because all they care about is their agenda, and their agenda does not care about businesses.
This third group – do they not apprehend that manufacturing is the goose that lays the golden egg, the one industry that truly creates wealth?
They only care about their social programs, regardless of who pays for them. There’s going to come a time when there is no money to fund social programs. We are going to get to this point probably by mid-2011, when there is going to be no money left and the state of Connecticut will be in a very bad budget situation. Cuts will have to be made to municipalities and everybody is going to suffer. And taxes are going to be raised on residents and businesses – and residents and businesses are going to flee [Connecticut]. Those who are left are going to suffer more and more, [until] eventually it’s going to be a tsunami. I see it coming.
Would state lawmakers behave differently if more of them ran private companies like you?
If they had to meet payroll, then they would understand what it takes.
What are the most important steps state government could take right now to help the private sector create more jobs?
Tax cuts. I mean, look what Reagan did. You cut taxes, you stimulate the economy. There’s no other way to describe it. Instead, the state of Connecticut is increasing taxes. I’ll tell you what’s going to happen in 2011: Our unemployment is so high, the state of Connecticut right now is borrowing from the federal government $25 million a week for the state to fulfill its obligations to the unemployed. This money we are borrowing is going to be interest-free until the end of 2010. If the state of Connecticut does not pay the federal government that money by the end of 2010, then the federal government will impose unemployment taxes on employers to start recouping this money. And employers don’t even know it. There are thousands of employers in the state of Connecticut who do not know that at the end of this year their unemployment taxes are going to go high.
Why does there seem to be no legislative will to control spending by state government?
Look at what happened in the public hearing last week of the Labor Committee, [of which] I am ranking member. They dig out people who come to testify that if they do not get paid sick leave [S.B. 63 would impose mandatory sick pay for hourly employees of companies with more than 50 workers], they will not be able to survive. Either they can buy food or medicine, and which one do we want them to get? So [proponents of the bill] bring in all these anti-business, anti-employer people to testify for them. [But] the people who have to come and testify against those kinds of bills are people who are very busy running small businesses and trying to make ends meet, working two jobs, and they don’t have time to go [to Hartford] and testify. And even if they do go and testify, they are scolded by the chairman of the committee. So they just don’t bother any more.
How can business people, especially small-business owners, get their concerns heard better in Hartford?
They can do it in two ways. Number one, they have to get their employees to start calling their state representatives and senators to tell them how [lawmakers'] actions are hurting them – specifically, state representatives and senators who are liberals. They have to hear from their constituents, loud and clear. Number two, if [legislators] do not listen to them, then election times comes and the people have to go out an exercise their right to vote. There are millions of people who died in military actions to protect our freedom in order for us to go out and vote. But yet less than 40 percent [of Americans] exercise their right to vote. This is a travesty. In November 2009, the average [turnout at the polls] in the state of Connecticut was 27 percent. Where are the other 73 percent? Obviously somebody else is speaking for them – maybe against their wishes and against their will.