Business leaders from every part of Connecticut came to the State Capitol this week to reach out to state lawmakers to take actions that can help them drive job creation and economic growth.
More than 300 Connecticut Business Day attendees took that message to the more than 50 state lawmakers who participated in activities throughout the day.
With just eight weeks left to the 2016 legislative session, the business message was clear: It’s time to adopt proposals that can help Connecticut’s economy, and reject those that can’t.
Business Day attendees heard Governor Malloy repeat his call for state government to respond to Connecticut’s “new economic reality” by controlling spending and focusing on delivering core services.
Also attending Business Day were state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, tax commissioner Kevin Sullivan, and transportation commissioner James Redeker.
Connecticut Business Day is annually sponsored by CBIA and the Connecticut Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and presented with the support of dozens of local chambers of commerce and business organizations.
Have Less, Spend Less
In his keynote remarks, Gov. Malloy said, “When you have less money, you should spend less money. That’s how you budget in your businesses; that’s how we need to budget.
“We need to live within our means, and since less money is coming in, less money can go out.”
That message was well received—as confirmed by Business Day attendees in an instant poll later in the program which revealed the top policy issue on their minds was Connecticut’s fiscal condition.
But asked to identify just one issue state lawmakers must work on to increase Connecticut’s competitiveness, attendees overwhelmingly defaulted to an “all-of-the-above” answer—including state spending, taxes, regulations, and labor mandates.
CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan said, “Employers are looking for legislators to demonstrate a sincere commitment to make our state and its businesses more economically competitive.
“Businesses are saying no more mandates, no more costly burdens. And it’s time lawmakers listened to those who create jobs.”
Another round of tax hikes this year, said Brennan, “would be disastrous” for the economy, while spending cuts “would send a message that Connecticut is going to be aggressive in making the state more competitive.”
The breakout sessions with state legislators were organized regionally: Fairfield and New Haven counties, Tolland and Windham counties, Middlesex and New London counties, and Hartford and Litchfield counties.
The governor said Connecticut’s economy is showing healthier employment growth, along with other signs that industries in the state are finally overcoming the lingering impacts of the Great Recession.
Even though the state faces a $266 million deficit this fiscal year, and a projected $900 million gap in the next, “this is no time for despair,” Malloy said.
Rather, he said we need to “take stock of, and build on [Connecticut’s] strengths.”
‘Part of the Solution’
Brennan and JoAnn Ryan, president and CEO of Northwest Connecticut’s Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Connecticut Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, opened the day’s program focusing on the strong actions needed to overcome our economic challenges.
“The thing that strikes me more than anything else,” said Brennan, “is the resiliency of the Connecticut people and the resiliency of the Connecticut economy.
“It’s you folks in this room and your colleagues and peers all across the state of Connecticut that keep this state moving forward despite the many challenges we have.”
Ryan said Connecticut’s many assets are at risk “if we don’t take immediate action to improve the climate for investment and job creation in the state.
”We are here today because we want to be part of the solution and will do whatever it takes to put Connecticut on a better path.”
‘Businesses Are Frustrated’
Policymakers were urged to use this legislative session to start taking steps to address budget shortfalls.
Tony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, said businesses are “frustrated because they are having difficulties growing their business, and feel that government has been too slow to fix the problems my members and all businesses face.
“It all has to change this year and it starts with passing budget adjustments that balance the budget without raising taxes, and follows the blueprint laid out by the Governor.”
Michael Feldman, president of Connecticut REALTORS, told lawmakers that decisions made at the Capitol have far-reaching impact.
“When businesses leave the state, so do their employees,” he said. “The impact goes beyond tax receipts–it touches real estate, service industries, property taxes.
“It’s our job to sell Connecticut. It’s your job to give us a Connecticut to sell.”