Quickly taking on what they called “the elephant in the room”—General Electric's departure from Connecticut—two of Governor Malloy’s senior officials told a roomful of business leaders Thursday the administration is addressing the many factors that led to the company’s decision.
Brian Durand, Gov. Malloy’s chief of staff, and Paul Mounds, senior director of policy and government affairs, spoke to members of CBIA’s Government Affairs Council and Tax Committee and covered a wide range of economic and business climate issues.
Topics ranged from the positive—progress on transportation, energy, economic development, and skilled workers—to the negative, including continuing concerns over fiscal policy, and an impending wave of new and costly labor mandates in the legislature.
Overall, the theme was how to build up Connecticut’s business climate and make government policies—especially on state finances—more predictable and sustainable to avoid more corporate departure decisions.
Durand added that the administration “is not saying that taxes didn’t matter to GE,” but knows that there were many other issues also at play for the state.
Chief among those, said Durand, is focusing on creating “a sustainable state budget to promote a sustainable economy.”
He said that even though the administration has slowed the overall growth of state spending, the state’s current-services system of budgeting makes it hard to make further changes.
And on taxes, the administration is reviewing the report of the Connecticut Tax Study Panel on how to reform tax policy.
Durand agreed with the business executives who suggested that policymakers could do a better job of vetting critical tax policy changes rather than revealing them at the eleventh hour of the legislative session.
“That’s far from the ideal way to do it,” said Durand.
Mounds said the administration continues to build on its signature economic issues, including transforming Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure, promoting transit-oriented development, and building a skilled workforce.
“Our continuous theme has been to make Connecticut a place where business, families, and millennials will want to come,” he said.
Our continuous theme has been to make Connecticut a place where business, families, and millennials will want to come.
He said the Governor aims to get the necessary legislative support this session to put the issue of a constitutional transportation lock box on the ballot for voters in November.
“Before we can talk about doing all of the transportation projects,” said Mounds, “we need to ensure that the funding resources for transportation are truly protected.”
Ultimately, said Durand, the GE decision points to the fact that economic conditions are changing, and Connecticut has to deal with “a new reality.”
That’s why building confidence was the most important task ahead for state policymakers—and included executives on the effort as well.
“We need people to rally around basic ideas and issues that we agree on,” said Durand.