The 2014 General Assembly session has come and gone. And while we saw some positive steps, the state still faces barriers to economic growth.

"Although we saw some modest progress this session towards improving Connecticut’s economic competitiveness, we are not aggressively attacking those areas that hurt our ability to attract the much-needed private investments that lead to job creation," CBIA president and chief executive officer John Rathgeber said today.

"As we work to make Connecticut a top 20 state in which to do business by 2017, we have to be mindful that other states, including several in our region, are actively improving their business climates to attract the very investments that we need in Connecticut."

CBIA and dozens of other business and professional groups are supporting the CT20x17 campaign and its framework of commonsense solutions for addressing key issues such as workforce development, fiscal policy, transportation, business costs, and government red tape.

Positive measures

Rathgeber said the state's business community applauded a number of measures approved by the legislature this session, including:

  • creating a Manufacturing Innovation Fund to help manufacturers with capital, workforce, and other needs improve their competitive position;
  • providing training assistance, particularly for manufacturing apprentices;
  • approving the agreement between United Technologies and the state of Connecticut that will lead to billions of dollars in research and development in the state and help bolster hundreds of smaller aerospace companies throughout Connecticut;
  • creating the Connecticut Port Authority to enhance the usage and marketing of the state’s deepwater ports;
  • preventing escalation of workers compensation-related hospital charges;
  • providing additional flexibility for developing brownfield sites; and
  • making administrative fixes to the state's paid sick leave law.

Looming budget deficits

However, the beginning of the session was marked by legislation raising the state's minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. That bill, which passed despite strong opposition from Republican lawmakers and business groups, was signed into law in March.

There also is widespread concern in the business community over falling revenues and projected deficits in the state budget.

CBIA worked with Republican and Democrat lawmakers to defeat or amend other costly measures that threatened the state's economic competitiveness, including a large number of workplace, employment, and healthcare mandates.

Rathgeber noted that this November, voters will elect candidates to fill all General Assembly seats and statewide offices, saying that jobs and economic growth will dominate the election campaign at every level.

Economic crossroads

"We are at an economic crossroads," Rathgeber said. "We had a dramatic reminder of that in the last week of the session with news that revenues failed to meet expectations and the troubling budget outlook for 2015 and beyond.

"Opinion polls make it very clear that voters want their elected officials to focus on jobs and the economy. Over the next six months, they expect to hear how candidates will address those priorities in the coming years.

"This is much more than a business issue—a strong, growing economy means more opportunities for good, well paying jobs. It means protecting our quality of life and guaranteeing a brighter future for generations to come."