State Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr. says Connecticut can't tax its way out of the current fiscal problems, just as drastic spending cuts also won't improve the state's long-term financial health.

"The way we're going to solve the long-term problem that our state is facing is to grow more business and more industry," the Branford Democrat told members of CBIA's E2: Energy and Environment Council Feb. 16.

Cut red tape: state lawmakers listen to business leaders
Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr., Rep. Mike Demicco, Rep. Lonnie Reed, and Sen. Paul Formica at E2's Feb. 16 meeting.

"That's not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. It's just the reality we face."

But as most Connecticut manufacturers and business leaders already know, it's extremely difficult to grow your company amid a sea of bureaucracy.

And that's precisely why council members invited Kennedy and other state lawmakers to their monthly meeting at Hartford's Lyceum—to share their concerns and discuss how legislators can help Connecticut businesses cut through red tape.

Permit Process Slows Expansion Efforts

Ginny Ryan of Allnex in Wallingford said it took her company nine years to finalize one permit with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

She told legislators Allnex is now in the second year of another permitting process she expects will take three to four more years.

"It costs us money," Ryan said, "because we're limited as to what new products we can bring in until the process is complete."

"That's ridiculous," replied Sen. Paul Formica (R-Niantic).

George Steir explained how Bloomfield-based Kaman Corp. of Bloomfield wants to embark on an ambitious expansion that would create more tax revenue for the town and state.

But there's a hitch, Steir said—a state permit-modification process.

"We're actually worried about even doing this expansion because of the permit modification," he said.

Revise, Not Repeal 90-Day Rule

E2 members met with Formica, Kennedy, Rep. Lonnie Reed (D-Branford), and Rep. Mike Demicco (D-Farmington).

Kennedy and Demicco co-chair the legislature's Environment Committee, while Formica and Reed co-chair the Energy and Technology Committee.

Their wide-ranging discussions covered possible strategies for streamlining DEEP permitting—including prioritizing permit applications for new manufacturing product lines.

In fact, language to that effect has been submitted to leadership of the Environment and Commerce committees for consideration.

The way we're going to solve the state's long-term problems is grow more business and more industry.
— State Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr.
In addition, Kennedy said Environment Committee leaders are looking to address DEEP's significant concerns with a 90-day automatic permit approval provision passed as part of last year's bipartisan budget.

Kennedy said the bill was passed "out of, I think, frustration honestly, to try to speed up the process at DEEP."

He asked how the law can be implemented "in a reasonable way."

CBIA members told lawmakers, as they did earlier with DEEP officials, their preference was to revise the measure rather than repeal the current law.

Carbon Tax Proposal

Tracy Gionfriddo of Eversource expressed concerns over talk this session by some state lawmakers about adopting a carbon tax.

This comes at a time when some neighboring states are considering an expansion of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort by several eastern states, including Connecticut, to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We should put a lock box on everything.
— State Rep. Lonnie Reed
Gionfriddo said she's concerned that any money brought in to expand the regional initiative could be rolled into a different part of the budget and used for purposes other than the original intent.

"You have to make it fail-safe that the funding stays where it needs to stay or we're just putting on another general tax," she said.

Reed agreed, saying, "We should put a lock box on everything."

Pending DEEP Retirements

Another topic discussed was that up to 40 experienced DEEP employees are eligible to retire this spring and the potential their departure has to further slow the permitting process.

E2 members discussed the possibility of the state using outside experts to help with some of the approval process, leaving the more complex permits to DEEP staff.

The meeting highlights E2's success communicating with lawmakers to help them to understand how some state policies inhibit business growth and, consequently, job growth.

"I really appreciate, every year, the opportunity to listen to you about your concerns about how we can make Connecticut a better place to live and work," Kennedy said.

"I want to know, specifically, what types of permits are the bottlenecks, the ones causing business in our state to be frustrated with the permitting process.

"I know there are hundreds of permits, but I'm interested in knowing what are the two or three most common areas of concern from the business community so we can really focus on those areas."


For information, contact CBIA's  Eric Brown (860.944.8792) | @CBIAericb