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Editorial - Don't target employers

November 19, 1997

Editorial - Don't target employers

Because an estimated 400,000 Pennsylvania parents aren't paying their court-ordered child support, the state legislature is considering a bill to force employers to help ferret them out. We understand that the push behind this bill is a threatened cut-off of federal aid, but why should employers be put in the role of law-enforcement officials, and for no compensation?

The bill, which passed the state senate on Tuesday, would require employers to report the dates of birth and the date of hiring for all new employees within 20 days of their start dates. Business not complying would face a $25 charge for every 20-month period in which they didn't submit the required information.

Fines of that size are more of a nuisance than anything else, but we don't advocate increasing them, or tightening any requirement on the employers, for that matter.

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Employers aren't the people the state is after, but what the state is asking them to do is to join in an enforcement effort for which they aren't trained - and perhaps more important - aren't paid.

We have another idea. Why not make new hires responsible for submitting their own paperwork, complete with driver's license number and Social Security identification? Receipt of the form could be tied to the start of withholding of state taxes on wages, so the new employee would know that unless he or she complied, it wouldn't be possible to get that first paycheck.

Now there will always be those employers who elect to pay such workers in cash, or through other, third-party arrangements designed to conceal the delinquent parent's whereabouts. Those practices are already illegal and don't need additional laws prohibiting them.

To those who believe they're "helping out" by going along with such schemes, we ask you to consider two things. First, the parents who don't pay are counting on the taxpayers to do it for them. Second, the cleverer their methods of evasion become, the closer we come to the day when some elected official will propose something like a national identity card. And if that idea doesn't scare you, it ought to.

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