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March 6, 2017 Editorial

CT is a good place to live; let's keep it that way

It's no secret that Connecticut residents can be a pessimistic bunch. Many of us complain when it's too hot during the dog days of summer, and then bark even louder when winter wind chills dip temperatures into the single digits.

One of our favorite pastimes is complaining about the state's business climate and fiscal condition. Taxes are too high, we've got too much debt and our lawmakers spend too much, are common refrains.

The constant wave of budget deficits and a fiscal outlook that remains tenuous at best, have left many residents and businesses questioning Connecticut's future prospects.

Sometimes, however, we get so cynical that we overlook our state's assets and top qualities. The media is guilty of this too at times, focusing on the negative — but also very real — threats to our state's future, while forgetting to remind residents, businesses and the rest of the country and world what makes Connecticut such a great place to live and work.

Our opinion pages have been critical of the state's poor fiscal management and condition over the years. We won't apologize for that because we believe Connecticut's fiscal crisis threatens job growth in the state, which is ultimately responsible for raising standards of living.

But it's also good now and then to reflect on the positive aspects that set the state apart, because it can serve as a reminder to our political, business and other leaders what they must safeguard and protect.

The U.S. News & World Report gave us that reminder last week, when it released a report that ranked Connecticut among the top states in the country.

The “Best States” report gave Connecticut an overall ranking of 12, including high marks for its quality education and health care, low crime rates and economic opportunity.

Indeed, quality of life in Connecticut remains a top selling point for many who live and work here. We've got world-class educational institutions, one of the most educated workforces in the nation, a vibrant arts and culture scene, among other assets.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, like any politician would, hailed the report's findings, exclaiming that “Connecticut is a great place to put down roots, raise a family, and grow a business.” He was particularly proud that the state was recognized for embracing and grooming gender equality, quality education and a talented workforce.

All of those things are true, of course, but they can be fleeting as well. The report, for example, did highlight our economy as a weakness, ranking us 38th in the country, which is a concern. Weak economic growth poses a threat to all that is good about this state, because it means there is less money to invest in education, public safety and infrastructure.

For example, Malloy's two-year budget proposal, which aims to close billion-dollar budget deficits for each of the next two fiscal years, cuts municipal and education funding too many cities and towns. That could mean fewer teachers in schools or higher property taxes for residents.

Meantime, eight of the 10 states that ranked highest in U.S. News & World's “Best States” report had economies ranked in the top 20.

Malloy himself admits that “our government must always be working to make [the state] even better.”

Of course, our political leaders don't always share the same philosophy of what “better” means.

The main priorities must be to enact policies that promote job growth and make it easier and more affordable to live and operate a business in the state. We understand satisfying those needs isn't easy during a time of fiscal crisis.

But more important than dwelling on what makes Connecticut a “best state” is enacting policies and an economic climate that safeguard and promote that position.

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