State legislators discuss Connecticut's economy in New Canaan
Officials and residents alike have been talking about money, money and more money this budget season. If anyone in town thought it was just a local conversation, three state legislators assured them the same talks are happening at the state level during Thursday night's town hall meeting.
Nearly 40 people attended the event, which focused on dollars and "sense." Before the meeting, Hetherington cautioned that this was by no means an attack on Malloy.
"We deliberately structured this meeting so as to not have it be an adversarial forum," he said. "We're coming to present the problems and see what people think."
The legislators pointed out how the current problems facing Connecticut is a result of years of mismanagement by both Republicans and Democrats. But that is not to say they did not have any problems with Malloy's plans.
The three legislators gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting their issues with Malloy's budget, including increases in spending and taxes. They also presented a plan to get the state back on track called "Common Sense: Commitment to Connecticut," which they hope will be a bipartisan effort.
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In the past 24 years, state spending increased from $1,509 to $5,364 per person based on a chart the legislators presented with data from the census and the Office of Fiscal Analysis. That is a 287.5 percent increase in spending; the population has increased 9 percent since 1987.
They also highlighted budget deficit projections for the fiscal years of 2012 and 2013 which set at $3.18 million and 2.95 million respectively.
After the presentation, the legislators opened the floor to the public.
New Canaan resident Keith Simpson asked why Connecticut is considered one of the least business friendly states in the country.
"If anybody understands economic development as well as anybody who could be governor, it would be Governor Malloy because he oversaw the great growth down there in the city of Stamford," Frantz said. "He understands the value of it, and he knows how to do it, he's a very aggressive business recruiter type and he knows how to play defense."
Although Frantz praised Malloy's business acumen in Stamford, he said the governor hasn't been as successful bringing businesses into the state thus far.
He attributed the difficulty to one the nation's highest electricity costs and other taxes but stressed the conflicting and confusing message the legislature sends to businesses. He said mandating continuing practices such as paid sick days is too expensive to impose on corporations and discourages them from coming to the state.
"There was a survey done nationally," Boucher said in response to Simpson's question. "We ranked 47 on that. The only thing that brought us up from 50 was actually quality of life, the beauty that we live in, and also education. But there is no question that part of it is also our inconsistent message in policies."
The inconsistencies Boucher was referring to included the recent film tax credit where movie makers would be relieved of 30 percent of their taxes if they filmed in Connecticut. However, after a year or two the government started changing some of the rules and Hollywood's stay in Connecticut turned out to be temporary, she said.
The evening was not dedicated to simply identifying the problems; the legislators' Common Sense Initiative also highlighted some solutions. Their detailed suggestions were distilled down to a some basic principles. One guideline they recommended was to "spend no more than you make" which they said could be accomplished by implementing spending caps and freezing state employee salaries for two years among other things.
Another recommendation was to "borrow only what you can afford to pay back" by limiting bonding to keep debt services below 10 percent of the annual budget in addition to things like specifying borrowing. Other important recommendations included "empowering local governments to make local decisions" as well as stressing government does not create jobs but people do.
The three legislators hope these solutions become a bipartisan effort to create effective changes in Connecticut.