Despite its fiscal and other challenges, Connecticut is poised for greater economic growth, and the new governor and legislature can help sustain that growth by strengthening the state's economy and avoiding any actions that slow progress, the state's largest business organization said.
Driven by investments in technology and innovation, the manufacturing, insurance, financial services, and other sectors are all seeing positive signs. Although we continue to lag the region and country, Connecticut's private sector job creation accelerated in the last 12 months and the latest GDP numbers show consecutive quarters of expansion.
To help lawmakers overcome budget deficit problems and better sustain this growth, CBIA today released its 2019 Policy Priorities, a series of recommendations designed to help Connecticut chart a new course.
"We are encouraged that Gov. Lamont is emphasizing certain things critical to employers in Connecticut—the importance of growth, a bold approach to budget fixes, and committing to solving our fiscal problems once and for all," said CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan.
Brennan said lawmakers must significantly reduce the cost of operating state agencies and delivering services by tapping private providers and aggressively adopting best private sector practices to improve service delivery.
Legislators should also consider the work done by Gov. Lamont's policy committees that explored education, healthcare, jobs and the economy, and more.
"The state's economy and providing greater fiscal stability have to be the top priorities," said Eric Gjede, CBIA's vice president of government affairs.
"Obviously anything the governor can do to negotiate more affordable public sector retirement and health benefits is key to providing that stability."
Gjede also warned that across-the-board mandates such as raising the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour and paid family and medical leave could slow Connecticut's recent economic growth.
"This session will really set the tone for the next few years," Brennan said.
"Connecticut has to build upon our many strengths and not allow bad policy choices to slow us down."
CBIA's policy priorities focus on eight key issue areas.
State Spending: Adopt a new two-year budget that closes any deficits without inhibiting economic growth; use more nonprofit health and service providers that supply quality services at lower cost; cut waste and implement Lean processes in the largest state agencies; and adopt the latest cost-saving collective bargaining reforms from the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth.
Tax: Enact specific reforms that will make Connecticut more competitive for jobs, including lowering the business personal property tax, liberalizing rules allowing the use of net operating losses, eliminating the business entity tax, lowering the top income tax rate, and repealing gift and estate taxes; maintain tax incentives for activities such as R&D that trigger economic growth; and reject expansion of the sales tax base or rates on business-to-business services.
Education & Workforce Development: Recruit and retain STEM education teachers and ensure quality STEM pathways for students; narrow the skills gap by increasing middle-skill education and training programs through investment in sector partnerships, career pathways, and use of data to prioritize regionally in-demand sectors; support the creation of industry-led one-stop shops to streamline resource information and service delivery through technical assistance and data provision; strengthen manufacturing-related career technical education in traditional high schools; revise state accountability standards for public high school performance evaluations to give credit for students graduating into STEM career-related employment or certified workforce credential programs; and further expand opportunities for experienced manufacturing professionals to quickly become teachers at technical high schools, conventional high schools, and community colleges.
Economic Development: Develop a strategic, long-term statewide economic development plan and appoint a Secretary of Commerce to oversee its implementation; and adopt best practices and agency structures used for economic development in other states
Manufacturing: Create a Secretary for Manufacturing Policy and Programs position in the Governor’s Office; continue to fund the state's Manufacturing Voucher, Incumbent Worker Training, and Apprenticeship programs; and extend the manufacturing apprenticeship tax credit to pass-through entities.
Regulatory Reform: Support the creation of a regulatory improvement team under the Office of Policy and Management to ensure regulations are clear, focused to meet current need, and applied consistently.
Labor: Adopt federal standards for family medical leave and wage and hour laws so businesses can invest more in growth and spend less on compliance; restore unemployment trust fund solvency by making long overdue benefit reforms that include raising the minimum earnings to qualify for unemployment benefits, prohibiting claimants from receiving benefits until they have exhausted severance pay, and temporarily freezing the maximum weekly benefit rate; and avoid enacting any new labor mandates that increase the cost of operating a business or creating jobs, make Connecticut less affordable for workers, or interfere with workplace communications.
Workers' Compensation: Limit the permanent partial disability award to what is related to the work injury; reduce costs by requiring generic prescriptions when possible; and reject proposals that impose new penalties or undermine workers’ compensation as an exclusive remedy.
Energy: Implement newly enacted requirements for ratepayer impact statements; and reject any proposal to use electric ratepayer dollars to balance the state budget.
Environment: Reject legislative adoption of a state water plan that would declare, without definition or context, that state waters are held in "public trust."
Healthcare/Bioscience: Conduct a cost-benefit analysis on any new healthcare mandates and adopt only those that cut overall system costs; reduce the cost of health insurance by eliminating assessments passed on to individuals and small businesses that are used to subsidize the state exchange; and help develop a strategic plan for the state's bioscience sector that includes tax incentives to promote life sciences research and development, recruiting venture capital firms, and adopting policies that help root cutting edge life sciences technologies in Connecticut and facilitate the translation of basic and translational research into marketable treatments and cures.
Transportation: Dedicate and protect a sustainable, affordable transportation funding stream; and enlist the private sector to expedite planning and completion of priority projects.
CBIA is Connecticut's largest business organization, with thousands of member companies, small and large, representing a diverse range of industries from every part of the state. For more information, please email or call Meaghan MacDonald (860.244.1957).