It’s trite to call every state legislative session critical, but this year the label really does fit—in part, because of the unique opportunities the 2017 session presents.

Many new lawmakers were elected in November, bringing fresh ideas to the Capitol and giving the legislature more political balance than it’s seen in years.

Connecticut GDP Growth 2016
Connecticut's ongoing fiscal issues hamper economic growth and job creation.

The result? A rare opportunity for bipartisan cooperation and, we hope, better solutions to the state’s most pressing problems.

I also sense a heightened awareness of just how serious the state’s fiscal challenges are, as evidenced by the Governor’s budget address and many of the statements coming out of the General Assembly.

Our fiscal troubles haven’t always garnered enough attention; in the past, many legislators seemed to ignore the threat to our economy and social welfare posed by recurring budget deficits, growing unfunded liabilities, and increasing mandates on employers.

Another important opportunity this year may come from Washington in the form of pro-growth tax and regulatory changes.

If those changes happen, and the national economy surges, we need to make sure Connecticut is positioned to take advantage of it and not left behind.

Several troubling trends that have come to light recently also make this legislative session especially consequential.

What’s going to foster more investment and growth, put people back to work, and help everyone feel optimistic about our economic future?
According to a report presented last year to the state’s Commission on Economic Competitiveness, wealth is gradually leaving Connecticut along with young, educated adults, and the state’s post-recession job growth is lagging the nation and region.

On the positive side, Connecticut showed strong economic growth in the third quarter of 2016, which the legislature must work to continue rather than impede.

So, yes, I believe this is a truly critical legislative session.

There needs to be a concomitant sense of urgency on the part of policymakers to not only close our enormous budget deficits without economy-killing tax increases but also enact structural reforms that will put the state on a sustainable fiscal path for years to come.

Debate in the legislature on the governor’s budget proposal will be robust, particularly around municipal and education funding and state employee concessions.

The bottom line in all of those discussions, however, must be what’s going to foster more investment and growth in Connecticut, put people back to work and paying taxes, and help everyone feel optimistic again about our state’s economic future.

Joe Brennan is the president and CEO of CBIA.