Lamont Shares Economic Priorities at CBIA Summit
As Gov. Ned Lamont prepares to present his two-year budget proposal to lawmakers in February, he is promising to make economic growth his top priority.
“Everything I do in this coming budget is going to be about economic growth, which is a precondition to opportunity,” Lamont told over 400 business leaders Jan. 19 at CBIA’s 2023 Economic Summit + Outlook in Hartford.
Lamont laid out his priorities for the legislative session, which include growing the workforce, improving transportation, and offering more affordable healthcare, housing, and daycare.
“I’m also going to be laying out over the next couple of weeks the details of a middle class tax cut,” Lamont said.
“It will be significant and meaningful, not meaningful enough for some people, but a way that I know that we can do it where I’m not going to have to change course in two years or something like that.
“A way that I think people will be able to count upon it.”
Lamont acknowledged Connecticut’s labor shortage and the need to get people back to work.
“For the first time in recorded history in this state, we’ve got 100,000 jobs that are unfilled right now,” he said.
“It’s a unique time when we have more jobs than people looking for them.“
Lamont cited several reasons for the labor shortage, including slow population growth, not enough people returning to the workforce post-pandemic, and a mismatch between job seekers and necessary skills.
“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure you have the workforce that you need,” he said.
Lamont asked business leaders to share their ideas like certificate programs, on-site training, and apprenticeship programs.
“Give us your initiatives on how we can best train the people for the next generation of jobs,” he said.
“Shame on us together if we don’t take advantage to make sure we lift everybody up and give them those opportunities.”
Lamont stressed the importance of fiscal stability and the need to be cautious going forward.
“Thanks to us working together, our permanent fiscal crisis is over,” he said
“It was of our making and we had the opportunity to unmake that crisis and we’re doing that as long as we continue to work together.
“My message to the legislature is we’ve got to maintain that fiscal discipline.”
In his earlier remarks, CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said the 2017 bipartisan fiscal reforms provided the foundation for the state’s current fiscal health.
“CBIA and the business community stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the governor when it comes to keeping our fiscal guardrails in place,” he said.
“Without those things, we couldn’t make investments like the restoration of the pass-through entity tax credit.”
Lamont’s proposal to restore that credit—announced the day before the economic summit—will save more than 120,000 small businesses about $60 million a year.
It’s one of CBIA’s 2023 Transform Connecticut policy solutions, a 12-point package of recommendations designed to unlock and transform Connecticut’s economy that was released at the summit.
“Connecticut’s stable fiscal picture gives us the foundation to address the labor shortage, lower the high cost of living, ease the tax burden on small businesses, and attract new residents to the state,” DiPentima said.
Lamont also addressed the rising costs of healthcare.
“It’s not simply a matter of more competition,” he said. “It’s also a matter of dealing with the underlying costs.
“What we’re trying to do is create preferred networks working with their state employees, perhaps working with small business as well, retirees, municipalities, so we can drive folks to where you get the best value, that means quality as well as cost.”
Lamont emphasized the need for more affordable housing, calling on the business community to push the legislature and their local leaders to do more.
“We have not built housing in this state in an awfully long time,” he said.
“We’re paying a price for that right now. I can’t grow the workforce unless there’s a place for people to live.
“And every single business I can talk to thinking about expanding or moving to the state of Connecticut, tells me the same thing.”
Lamont said he’s planning to announce new initiatives on housing as well as transportation.
“I’ve got to make it easier for you to get to work and faster for you to be able to get home.”
He said that the federal infrastructure bill provides Connecticut $5.3 billion over the next five years to invest in areas like high speed rail and improving the state’s airports.
Lamont said he understands the impact that inflation is having, and what it means to make life a little more affordable.
“I know that we don’t have a lot of margin for error,” he said.
“But we’re making progress and I think we’re better positioned to act if there’s some headwinds that hit us going forward.
“And I can’t do it without each and every one of you, I can’t do it without the business community.
“My North Star is working with small business, working with Chris DiPentima, CBIA, and all those that create the jobs that give us economic growth and economic opportunity.”
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