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In January, after aboloshing the Task Force set up to investigate Employee Misclassification, Maine Governor Paul LePage vowed to create one definition of "employee" in the state over which he newly presided.  

The streamlining of government oversight is generally welcome as cutting costs and bureaucracy is beneficial to the well-being of any state's political process.  LePage, however, has such an anti-worker reputation that many are nervous about his true goal, fearing it may, in fact, be to make it easier for employers to skirt the classification of workers as employees, thus continuing the loss of valuable tax revenue that businesses would incur if their books weren't cooked.

That revenue figure may be as high as $36 million annualy, according to a Kennebec Journal article on the latest development in the Maine misclass debate: the OK'ing of a study to define 'employee':

The study group, which includes both worker and employer representatives as well as state officials, is directed to report back by January 15, 2012 and the LCRED committee is authorized to report legislation to the legislature.

Truly, the study go-ahead story provides little new detail, with both sides making the same arguments they've made all year relating to employee misclassification: business wants more clarity and flexibility; workers want more enforcement and protection against exploitation. The only real solution emerging from the conversation appears to be to defer to the IRS:

"Small employers feel like this is a gotcha situation," said Chris Hall, Vice President of the Portland Area Chamber of Commerce. "They don't know who is an independent contractor and who is not. They need a simple bright line definition."

He acknowledged translating that need into statutory language is easier said than done. But, he said, the study group will have plenty of information already collected to use in crafting a definition.

David Clough, Maine director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said if the state wants to move to a single definition, they should adopt the Internal Revenue Service definition.

"The only way we can have a definition that works for revenue services, unemployment and workers comp is to adopt the Internal Revenue Service rules because tax has to use the Internal Revenue Service rules, "he said.

Read the entire Kennebec Journal piece HERE.

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