Connecticut's largest business association today released its 2018 legislative agenda, a series of policy recommendations designed to reach one core goal: grow the economy and jobs to put the state on a more stable path.
"Connecticut's great strengths as a place to live, work, and do business are challenged every day by competition from other states and nations," CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan said.
"The status quo is not sufficient—state lawmakers must adopt bold reforms that will signal to businesses large and small that Connecticut is going to compete fiercely in the global economy and become an economic leader."
CBIA has been working with the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth as they tackle some of the state's largest fiscal challenges that have been inhibiting economic growth in the state.
"Although the report is not due for a few more weeks, we believe it will contain important reforms regarding collective bargaining, state pensions, and other factors that are driving Connecticut's short- and long-term fiscal problems," Brennan said.
"The legislature must act on these recommendations because they address some of the key reasons why Connecticut is lagging the nation and our region in job creation."
Brennan noted that based on preliminary reports, Connecticut added 7,700 jobs (0.5%) in 2017, a stark change to the previous year when the state lost 200 jobs.
Connecticut has only recovered 76% of the jobs lost during the 2008-2010 recession—one of just a handful of states yet to reach full recovery.
At 4.6%, the state’s unemployment rate remains the highest in New England and a half a percentage point above the national average.
"2018 is a pivotal year, with state government operating under the newly defined spending cap, the new borrowing cap, a volatility cap, and some of the other budget reforms enacted late last year," says Brian Flaherty, CBIA's senior vice president, public policy.
"We must make sure that all other fiscal reforms and additional pro-jobs, pro-growth legislation previously approved are implemented to ensure that job growth is the top priority.
"We need policymakers to provide Connecticut's employers with the tools they need—confidence in the state's fiscal direction and a sustainable talent pipeline—so they can do their part in growing the economy and creating more jobs.
"This is particularly critical for those employers who are desperate for talent and relying on our high schools and colleges to produce job-ready graduates."
To build Connecticut's workforce, lawmakers must start:
- Supplying manufacturers with the talent to fill the estimated 13,000 jobs in companies large and small
- Rejecting costly and complex workplace mandates and taxes that make job creation and retention more expensive
- Insisting that state technical high schools and community colleges expand faculty pools with real world experience, as called for in legislation last year
CBIA’s legislative agenda focuses on eight key issue areas:
Sustainable State Spending and Tax Policy: Stabilize long-term finances by adopting the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth recommendations that reform state pensions and collective bargaining; reject harmful tax hikes and expand budget reforms enacted in 2017; remove barriers blocking municipalities from sharing services and collaborating; implement Lean management efforts at major state agencies; expand the use of nonprofit health and human service providers; and explore other functions of state government to privatize.
Education and Workforce Development: Increase apprenticeship programs and incentives for employers; strengthen training programs in correctional facilities to grow the state's manufacturing workforce; streamline teacher certification, and expand the number of alternative routes to certification; and develop a common framework for evaluating workforce development programs to ensure efficacy and alignment with the state's economic development goals.
Labor and Employment: Make long overdue benefit reforms to restore solvency to the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund; ensure state wage and hour laws and regulations are more consistent with federal law; and allow employers to suspend without pay salaried workers who violate workplace violence or harassment policies, as they do now for non-salaried employees.
Energy: Ensure recommendations from the Governor's Committee on Climate Change and/or the new Comprehensive Energy Strategy don't increase the state's high energy costs; and keep directing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy projects to private, market-based approaches to ensure the jobs provided are less reliant on ratepayer subsidies and less vulnerable to budget pressures.
Environment: Expedite environmental permits required for business starts, expansion, or new product development; achieve the state's recycling goals by focusing on consumer education and behavior, with fewer burdens on manufacturers or retailers; and update Connecticut's hazardous waste regulations to mirror federal rules.
Regulatory Reform: Have state agencies provide penalty relief for first-time violations of laws or regulations that don't threaten human health or the environment; and work with businesses and state agencies to address the regulated community's priority concerns.
Transportation: Dedicate and protect a sustainable, affordable transportation funding stream; and enlist the private sector to expedite planning and completion of priority projects.
Healthcare and Bioscience: Shape healthcare policy using innovative best practices that reduce costs and increase quality and access; conduct a cost-benefit analysis before passing any new health-benefit mandate; and implement an economic development strategy that addresses critical obstacles to growth identified by bioscience and technology employers, including access to venture capital.
Download CBIA's 2018 policy agenda or contact Meaghan MacDonald (860.244.1957) for a copy.
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).