January 9, 2019

Business leaders, lawmakers attempt meeting of the minds

PHOTO | MICHAEL C. BINGHAM
PHOTO | MICHAEL C. BINGHAM
State lawmakers at Tuesday's Chamber meeting: (L-r) State Sen.-elect James Maroney (D-14) of Milford, State Rep. Dorinda Borer (D-115) of West Haven, State Rep. Themis Klarides (R-114) of Derby, and State Sen. George S. Logan (R-17) of Ansonia.

A full dais of panelists and full house of some 200 attendees marked Tuesday's 2019 Regional Legislative Breakfast event presented by the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce. The get-together took place Tuesday morning at Quinnipiac University's Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine in North Haven.

The purpose of the session was to unveil the New Haven regional chamber's priorities and recommendations for the 2019 state legislative session beginning Wednesday, Jan. 9.

Those priorities included:

• Expansion of Tweed New Haven Airport;

• Measures to bring a degree of financial stability and predictability to state government; and

• Workforce development.

The Chamber invited as panelists state legislators and legislators-elect from throughout the GNHCC's 15-town service area. Thirteen senators and representatives showed up, which doubtless gratified event organizers but made for an unwieldy 60-minute panel session.

As first item on the agenda, Tweed Airport sucked up the most minutes of the precious hour. The institutional business establishment's most treasured wish-list bauble for decades, the Tweed discussion invariably founders on intractable opposition to noise, traffic and safety concerns on the part of the flyway's politically potent East Shore neighbors.

In late 2017 the city and the airport turned to the courts to strike down a 2009 state statute limiting Tweed's runway length to 5,600 feet — too short for all but the smallest regional jets. That legal maneuver was denied by the courts but was appealed and reheard by the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York last month. A decision is expected shortly.

A suggestion to place Tweed under the umbrella of the Connecticut Airport Authority was dismissed by two of the area's most influential lawmakers. Noted Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D-11) of New Haven, "The CAA is concerned with Bradley Airport [which it administers], which wouldn't want competition from Tweed."

State Sen. Len Fasano (R-34) of North Haven noted that "some of Bradley's carriers might pull out if there were more competition from Tweed."

A discussion of "fiscal stability" issues included proposals to allocate some of the state's so-called Rainy Day Fund (which in 2018 posted a surplus due to larger-than-anticipated tax receipts) to pay down a portion of the groaning $1.4 billion state budget deficit.

A survey of the assembled lawmakers showed strong support for legislative imposition of nominally business-hostile measures such as state-mandated family and medical leave for workers as well as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which was championed unanimously by Democrats even including business owners such as incoming State Sen. Christine Cohen (D-12) of Guilford, whose family owns Cohen's Bagels in Madison.

Speaking of the deficit, where will new, predictable sources of revenue come from in the new legislative session and with a new administration in Hartford? State Rep. Craig C. Fishbein (R-90) of Cheshire warned against imposing more onerous taxation on private-sector job creators in Connecticut.

"We already penalize the entrepreneurs and risk-takers who make Connecticut's economy go," said Fishbein. "Making high earners pay even more in taxes will drive them out of the state."

Perhaps the most important advice for the assembled business people came from House Minority Leader State Rep. Themis Klarides (R-114) of Derby.

"Business leaders and business owners need to become much more involved in the legislative process," Klarides said. "What goes on up there [in Hartford] affects you, and it affects our state."

Contact Michael Bingham at news@newhavenbiz.com

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