LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Health care reform bill shocks construction industry

By The West Virginia Record | Jan 14, 2010

Dear Editor,

An eleventh hour backroom deal in the U.S. Senate is sending shock waves through America's construction industry, and could cost thousands of jobs at a time when job creation should be the first priority for the federal government; not new government mandates that kill jobs and stifle small construction firms that are struggling to survive during this economic downturn.

The Senate health care reform bill passed last month exempts small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from government imposed mandates requiring that employers provide health insurance to workers or face a hefty penalty.

But, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) managed to slip five paragraphs into the legislation that would require construction contractors with at least five full-time employees and more than $250,000 in annual payroll to provide workers with health insurance benefits. If they didn't, and if any of their employees received federally subsidized health insurance coverage, contractors would have to pay a penalty of $750 for each full-time worker.

Merkley's provision was never offered as an amendment to the health care legislation so that senators had an opportunity to debate the measure. He must have known that once senators read the language they would realize that it unfairly targets small business employers in the construction industry and would ultimately result in more job loss.

Associated Builders & Contractors, West Virginia Chapter represents over 100 merit shop construction companies in West Virginia with over 2500 employees. During these difficult economic times, our companies and their employees understand that a new federal government mandate on construction contractors is not the answer to getting people back to work. With construction in this country nearly at a standstill and the industry unemployment rate at 22.7 percent –- more than twice the national average –- contractors are struggling to stay in business.

This irresponsible health care mandate would add to the financial instability of the citizens of the Mountain State by devastating an already depleted pool of jobs. As such, while this law is bad for America, it is especially bad for West Virginia and our Construction industry.

Wendy McCuskey
Associated Builders & Contractors, West Virginia Chapter

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