Starting Over: New Opportunity for New Budget Direction
Create a state budget better able to provide programs and services that meet the needs of all of Connecticut. Create a more dependable and desirable location for job creators. Create a state government that’s a model of efficiency.
And maybe most important: Create a way to make the cycle of state budget deficits and tax increases go away.
That’s what state lawmakers should aim for as they create a new state budget, according to CBIA economist Pete Gioia, who testified before the Appropriations Committee this week.
Connecticut’s economy is doing much better and “has enormous potential,” said Gioia. But the state also could be in danger of taking the wrong step on the road back to full recovery.
Aggressive challenges by New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and others to raid Connecticut’s best job creators will require wise fiscal choices and positive moves to solidify our economy and our finances.
“The more effective and efficient is state government,” said Gioia, “the sooner we will see new good jobs and a more competitive Connecticut.”
And the better able Connecticut will be to protect such vital areas as education, human services, healthcare, and the state’s nonprofit network from the threat of budget cuts or financial stagnation—a point made by Voices for Children and CBIA during the state’s last fiscal crisis.
There are many ways that lawmakers can accomplish these goals; some efforts are already underway in state government but lack commitment, speed and urgency. In other areas, the state can break new ground.
Keep leaning state government: Lean works, and success in state agencies such as the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, DOT, and others proves it. Legislators should reinvigorate, expand, and fast-track lean throughout state government, said Gioia.
Adapt, adopt, innovate: There are many areas in which state government can improve services and increase effectiveness.
- Adopt proven and practical reforms of long-term healthcare can reduce the burden on the state budget, keep more people at home, and increase the quality of life for our elderly.
- Embrace and expand the governor’s “Second Chance” initiative to keep nonviolent offenders safely out of prison, help them build constructive lives, and keep our communities safe.
- Build a 21st century IT system in which state agencies can seamlessly share information with each other.
- Reward what’s working in state government and fix or stop what isn’t. While some efforts in measuring agency performance and in performance-based budgeting are taking place, they are not yet priorities, but should be.
- Support competitive bidding for state services by including Connecticut’s excellent nonprofit network of providers. This is a key way to save taxpayer dollars and improve services.
There are many more ideas, as extensively detailed by the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century.
And as the Institute has indicated, in all of these areas, we don’t have to start from scratch. Connecticut can learn from and adopt the best practices of other states, build on their track record, and put our own imprint on critical reforms.
Where we’ve already started to make progress, Connecticut needs to pick up the pace to save taxpayer dollars, improve services, and have the fiscal flexibility to meet needs we’re not aware of yet.
It is a very difficult budget year, but lawmakers can and should create a budget that solves this year’s crisis and builds the framework for a more solid and dependable fiscal foundation for Connecticut.
“CBIA trusts that the General Assembly will see to it that the budget is used as a tool to help create future economic growth and a better future for all the people of Connecticut,” said Gioia.
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