When President Barack Obama released his budget last month, he set aside $14 million to combat employee misclassification. The money would be used by the U.S. Department of Labor, the IRS and participating states to reclassify employees.

How could this affect workers here in Maine?

State and federal agencies would have the financial backing they need to launch an assault on companies throughout New England, forcing businesses to reclassify their independent contractors as rank-and-file employees.

That means companies that use the services of self-employed people could find themselves relentlessly hounded by inconsistent and confusing government red tape, a situation that undoubtedly would lead to lost jobs and wages.

Independent contractors make an important contribution to our local economy and are a vital and experienced part of Maine’s work force in many sectors, including financial services, emergency medicine, construction and tourism. Their role in the business community often is overlooked by elected officials who make decisions based on outdated notions of how they think our economy works.

Maine always has prided itself for its entrepreneurial spirit. Forcing companies to reclassify individuals as employees, however, would be bad for business and bad for the men and women who have chosen to work for themselves and support their families in this way.

Given all the important social programs on the chopping block these days, I think the government could find a better way to spend $14 million.

Kim Pettengill


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