February 29, 2016
Other Voices

Job growth, fiscal sustainability keys to CT’s economic success

Oz Griebel

Gov. Malloy's budget address and his subsequent town hall meetings clearly illustrate the emerging bipartisan consensus that we must change the focus, process, and tone for setting fiscal policy in order to reestablish the confidence needed for job growth and capital investment by the private sector. Nine organizations representing the state's private sector employers and over 100,000 employees are working together to build upon that consensus.

On Feb. 1, our nine organizations submitted a letter to the governor and the legislature emphasizing the three core principles of: private-sector engagement, economic growth, and spending discipline. We believe that following these core principles are critical to achieving four key objectives that will sustain Connecticut's long-term growth:

• Retaining and recruiting young talent;

• Strengthening the livability and competitiveness of our urban centers;

• Ensuring a best-in-class transportation system; and

• Re-establishing 4 percent annual increases in per-capita income.

Making progress on these critical objectives will reignite the private-sector confidence that generates the tax revenues that support both services and infrastructure investments.

Private-sector engagement

Every state faces the confluence of global economic volatility, underfunded retiree pension and healthcare benefits, and structural budget deficits. Connecticut's greatest advantage in addressing our challenges lies in the latent but powerful combination of the state's private-sector employers and government leaders. The sustained engagement of private-sector expertise with state leaders on key policy issues will drive job growth and capital investment and help to improve the state's delivery of core government services.

Growth

The Feb. 16 summit hosted by the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and the Commission on Economic Competitiveness (Commission) and its research effort with McKinsey & Co. provided two opportunities for private-sector engagement to leverage Connecticut's broad and deep economic foundation in insurance and financial services, precision manufacturing, the health sector, digital media, higher education, and science and technology. Similarly, establishing a biannual statewide dialogue on Connecticut's economic and employment strategy will foster bipartisan and public-private ownership of a long-term plan that takes into account economic trends, fiscal realities, and the state's quality of life.

Spending discipline

Connecticut must also strengthen spending controls and embrace efficiency in order to have the resources necessary to invest in education, infrastructure, and the state's urban centers. We applaud Malloy's efforts to reform state-employee labor agreements and his leadership on developing innovative solutions to the state's retiree pension and healthcare benefit crisis.

We also support the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century's recommendations on delivering core government services more effectively. Finally, we must ensure that our tax policies are competitive and predictable in order to encourage private-sector employers of all sizes to expand, to attract workers with "in-demand" skills, and to allow retired residents to remain in Connecticut.

Two of the most important actions to strengthen spending discipline are to pass two constitutional amendments to ensure that they are on the Nov. 8, 2016 ballot. The first supports the governor's call for a lockbox to ensure that all Special Transportation Fund monies are used for transportation infrastructure. The second will ensure that the state's constitutional spending cap — critical to the adoption of the personal income tax in 1991 — rests on clearly understood and enforceable definitions. We have submitted drafts of both amendments to the governor and the legislature, which can be found at http://bit.ly/AllianceSources, along with the Feb. 1 letter.

By building and sustaining the engagement of the private sector with the governor and the legislature and focusing on economic growth and disciplined spending, we will ensure that Connecticut achieves the four objectives noted above while dramatically enhancing its ability to compete aggressively and successfully for jobs, capital and talent.

Oz Griebel is the president and CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance.

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