Connecticut’s legislative leaders agree on at least two things: the state needs a strong economic recovery to get through its fiscal crisis, and Governor Malloy is going to be very involved in stoking the state’s economic fire.
Appearing together at the Economic Summit & Outlook, Senate President Pro Tem Don Williams (D-Brooklyn), Speaker of the House Chris Donovan (D-Meriden), Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) and House Republican Leader Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk) didn’t always see eye-to-eye on how Connecticut got into its fiscal mess or how to get out of it.
As the lawmakers move to the budget process, the wide differences in perspectives expressed at the conference are likely to become more pronounced. Hopefully, both sides can work toward a solution that will create a smaller, more affordable and efficient state government, and a more competitive and business-friendly climate in Connecticut.
According to Sen. Williams, this recession and its aftermath “is a different animal” than what Connecticut has experienced in previous downturns. Coming out of this recession has been more difficult and taken a lot longer. He said there would have to be “significant changes and structural changes” made to put the state “on a path to economic recovery and position it for the future.”
McKinney said that “reality is, the situation is as dire as Governor Malloy says it is.” He credited the governor for saying that one of the major factors behind the crisis is that Connecticut has “an unfriendly employer environment. We must [now] say that we are going to create an environment that will make businesses want to grow and invest here.”
Recent economic signs, said Speaker Donovan—including a dip in unemployment and a rise in consumer spending—were encouraging, however. He said the legislature should work to reduce businesses’ energy and healthcare costs in the state “so that employers can hire more people.”
Shared sacrifice is a relative term, said Cafero. While businesses have been hit hard by the recession—facing high taxes, dwindling profits and smaller workforces, he said, the state’s public sector “has not made the same sacrifice.” He and McKinney said that while the economy has weakened, the size and scope of state government has continued to grow.
All of the leaders agreed that Gov. Malloy would be an “activist” chief executive and that it is time for both sides of the aisle to work together to solve Connecticut’s challenges.