Grow economy, don’t mandate sick leave

The aftermath of the 2016 Legislative session is still being discussed and parsed, but the liberal New Mexico Voices for Children think tank is already clamoring for the next expansion of New Mexico government. The issue this time is paid sick leave. Naturally Voices, which views every societal “nail” in need of a government “hammer,” has a government-driven solution.

New Mexico private sector workers are, according to a new report, offered sick leave at a lower rate than similar workers in any other state. To be honest, we at the Rio Grande Foundation share the concerns expressed by Voices on this. We’d like to see more workers paid better and offered employee benefits.

The difference lies in our proposed solutions to the problem.

We view the issue through the lens of recent news reports that an astonishing 10,000 people applied for 290 job openings at the new Cheesecake Factory in Albuquerque. Obviously, there is an over-supply of relatively low-skilled labor in both Albuquerque and New Mexico as a whole. This is a market reality driven by New Mexico’s historical over-reliance on federal dollars and extractive industries.

Voices wants to simply impose a new regulation demanding that businesses offer workers no less than one week of paid sick leave (their report does not differentiate between full and part-time workers). Their own data claim that this will cost New Mexico businesses $240 million annually.

What they don’t seem to understand is that businesses — especially mom-and-pop restaurants and other small businesses — aren’t just going to take this $240 million out of their bottom-lines. Often, they don’t have profits to speak of. So they will lay off the very workers that this proposal is supposed to help. And if part-time workers are included in the proposal, that means part-time workers just starting out in the work force will be the hardest hit.

The real problem with Voices’ proposal is not its unintended consequences, but rather its the lack of vision inherent in it and so many other similar proposals — like the misnamed “Fair Workweek Act” — which was proposed in the Albuquerque City Council in 2015.

Voices sees the economy as a fixed pie. If you take away from labor, you give more to capital, and vice-versa. We at the Rio Grande Foundation see innovation and productivity as beneficial to everyone.

What Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico desperately need is not more government regulation: it’s more and better jobs of all kinds. It is no surprise that New Hampshire, the most economically-free state in the nation (lacking both a sales and an income tax) has the most generous sick leave policies according to the Voices report.

Unfortunately, when businesses or entrepreneurs look at our state they see onerous and often arbitrary regulations, they see a gross receipts tax that makes doing business here more costly than other states. They see a workforce and school system that are not up to preparing workers for the modern economy and they see high crime rates. Lastly, they see a population — especially in the Rio Grande corridor — that tends to be both suspicious of outsiders and highly sensitive to land use and economic development proposals.

These problems are not unique to New Mexico, but New Mexico is unique in possessing all of them in spades. Addressing some or all of these issues in ways that make New Mexico more attractive to business would grow our economy and make it more likely that workers receive competitive wages and benefits.

For many years, New Mexico has enacted policies that make our state less attractive than many of our neighbors for private sector development. Another new regulation isn’t going to change that. Instead, it is time to move in the opposite direction towards economic freedom and competitiveness. This will make jobs more plentiful leading to higher pay and more competitive benefits for New Mexico workers.

The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to “promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.”

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6 Replies to “Grow economy, don’t mandate sick leave”

  1. This is not a “zero-sum game”
    It is a “non-zero sum game”, in which Voices fogs its way into a win-win situation, when it truly is lose-lose
    I happen to know I can hire at a lower salary when I provide sick/vacation leave, decent health insurance at reasonable cost, and flexible time. I know also I pick from a better population when I do this as a strategy rather than as a mandate. Savvy employers end up with smarter, better, more loyal people, but they still have to get customers in the door to pay them, which is what communists and state-owned liquor stores try to manage, right up to the expansion of black markets

  2. I totally agree. We do not need more govt mandated on the private sector. Unemployment in NM is disgraceful. I find it interesting that the Cheesecake Factory had 10,000 apps when I can’t find anyone to work in my feed store

  3. I dispute that this regulation is unaffordable for business, or unneeded as a whole. With new variants of disease being found daily combined with resistance to antibiotics and other treatments we have a recipe for disaster. Many parents cannot afford the time or expense to keep a sick child at home, or their sick selves for that matter. So these persons continue to circulate with the rest of the world spreading contagion to others who spread it to even more people ect. The best of hygiene or vaccinations cant stop the process as it is… Why help the germs progress further? For every activly contagious employee exposing themselves to others in public or at work when they should have been seperating themselves recovering the cost is nothing when compared to that person sickening even more people over a longer time period. its a rolling blackout effect. Many persons get reinfected again and again, sometimes with added serious health issues. If the business sector is really so greedy and shortsighted as to ignore the larger picture here, then yes the regulation is a very good thing. Business keeps demanding fewer restrictions put upon it, but in a case such as this they prove they dont even exercize common sense. Being in a medically at-risk category myself I witness and believe humans to be the filthiest beings on our planet. Our ability to spread disease coupled with our disregard in doing so is asking for disaster. All it would take is 1, ONE, variety of microbe which is unknown to us or a mutation of something known and were fucked. Funny thought I just had- its ok to walk free while contagious, spreading disease (unless its TB, AIDS, or HepC from what Ive seen). BUT! If Im in public and Lysol these sick people and my surrounding area? Im looking at charges of A & B, public nuscience or similar legal action. Go figure. Sick people STAY HOME. Business people GET OVER IT.

    1. I’m not sure mandatory sick leave is going to make the difference between the next “superbug” spreading or not. Look, instead of piling on another regulation on top of business, how about taking one off (like reducing the minimum wage if you offer paid sick leave) or trading this one out for another onerous reg? I think sick leave is great. I think it is a wise move for businesses to offer it where possible (especially restaurants), but I’d rather have businesses and their employees come to an agreement voluntarily rather than impose one-size-fits-all policies arbitrarily.

    2. I’m not sure mandatory sick leave is going to make the difference between the next “superbug” spreading or not. Look, instead of piling on another regulation on top of business, how about taking one off (like reducing the minimum wage if you offer paid sick leave) or trading this one out for another onerous reg? I think sick leave is great. I think it is a wise move for businesses to offer it where possible (especially restaurants), but I’d rather have businesses and their employees come to an agreement voluntarily rather than impose one-size-fits-all policies arbitrarily.

  4. I would rather have the pay so I can put the money in a savings account for my own later use. I could even invest some of it for retirement. So make it optional.

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