Rep. Dan Maffei Proposes Business Tax Credit to Help Train Employees, Address Skills Gap

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei plans to introduce a bill today that he says will help Central New York businesses deal with a widening "skills gap" as they search for qualified employees.

Maffei, D-Syracuse, says his Job and Opportunity Bonus (JOB) Tax Credit Act will help employers pay for the cost of training new hires and existing employees who need to develop new skills.

The legislation would establish a temporary tax credit for 50 percent of the cost of training each worker, up to $5,000 per employee.

Maffei said the legislation, recommended in his April 2013 economic plan, stems from his meetings with Central New York business leaders.

"Employers across Central New York have told me time and again that it is difficult to find workers with the training necessary to perform the highly-skilled jobs available," Maffei said.

He said many companies want to train their employees, but don't have the resources to pay for the programs. Under Maffei's bill, any company with fewer than 500 employees would be eligible for the tax credits. The program would be temporary - beginning in 2015 and expiring at the end of 2017.

The training eligible for tax credits would include apprenticeship programs, and training from vocational or technical schools, community colleges, industrial or trade organizations, labor unions, and industry-sponsored programs.

Some Central New York business leaders immediately endorsed Maffei's legislation.
Jessica Crawford, president of MedTech, a Syracuse-based association of pharmaceutical, biotech and medical technology companies in New York, said the skills gap is a serious problem for the industry.

"In order for local (biomedical) businesses to grow, innovate, and be competitive nationally and worldwide, we must provide workers with the training necessary to ensure they can keep pace with the industry's demands," Crawford said.

She said the tax credits will give the industry "the boost it needs to keep the best and brightest workers in our region."

One analysis by the International Monetary Fund found the skills gap contributes to about one-third of the U.S. unemployment rate. No similar statistics were available to quantify the size of the problem in Central New York.

But Robert Simpson, president of CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity, a Syracuse-based economic development group, said it's an issue that comes up in almost every conversation with local employers.

"Anecdotally, we know it's consuming more and more time and energy," Simpson said of the skills gap. "The issue is a critical issue. As unemployment ticks down, this is more of an issue for employers -- both at the high end and for what we would normally consider low- to mid-skill jobs. Training is critically important."

Maffei decided to introduce the bill without any co-sponsors, which he plans to begin seeking today.

It is the eighth bill that Maffei has introduced in the House of Representatives since he took office for his second term in 2013. So far, none of his previous seven bills has advanced out of committee in the Republican-controlled House.

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