After more than two decades of no job growth and a post-recession unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says Connecticut “gets what it did wrong” and now is ready to do what it takes to reinvent itself and create jobs.
“This,” Malloy said at his Oct. 6 economic summit in Hartford, “is our battle as a state.”
The battle comes back to the state Capitol with the Legislature’s special session on jobs on Oct. 26. It’s focused solely on bipartisan actions lawmakers can take to create a climate in which jobs and economic development can once again flourish in Connecticut.
Creating that climate must start with restoring business confidence in Connecticut. Reinventing Connecticut truly happens only if employers have confidence that the state will help unlock private-sector investments to generate sustainable job creation.
A new start also means building on our strengths. Connecticut has a solid economic base with world-renowned companies in such industries as high-tech manufacturing, insurance and financial services, and biosciences and pharmaceuticals. Our workforce is highly prized throughout the nation.
Making the most of what we have and fulfilling what we can be means that lawmakers and everyone must stay focused and persistent. This emphasis on jobs can’t end with the special session. Everyone needs to keep pulling together to make our state the job creation leader it can be.
And we must recognize that while there is a role for state-funded programs to help stimulate job creation, Connecticut’s future ultimately depends on the ability of our private sector to compete nationally and globally.
CBIA’s agenda for this session is an outline of practical ways to restore business confidence and create a better climate for jobs. It contains five clear areas of focus.
Improve state tax and fiscal policy. The Malloy administration has begun the process of streamlining and increasing the efficiency of state government, but more needs to be done. Continuing to “lean’ government and expanding the use of quality nonprofit organizations to provide services at lower costs are examples of how to maximize tax dollars.
Strategically leveraging tax policy also is key. Research and innovation grow jobs, and Connecticut is a leader in both. But Connecticut’s R&D, research and experimentation and fixed-capital tax credits are limited by a 70 percent cap.
That’s why we are recommending eliminating the 70 percent cap on R&D and fixed-capital tax credits, or at a minimum, outlining a gradual rollback timeline for eliminating the tax-credit caps.
Produce a more competitive workforce. We have to close any “skills gap” preventing employers from expanding their workforces, and help current and future employees keep pace with changing skills requirements.
Restoring incumbent-worker training, creatively expanding the use of the state’s technical high schools and supporting national industry-recognized skill certifications for workforce development systems are ways to close the skills gap.
Modernize Connecticut’s infrastructures. Strategic, prioritized investments can bring our aging transportation system into the 21st century. At the least, we should require the state DOT to make sure all projects aimed at modernizing our major highways are coordinated. And we should support the efforts of the state’s new airport authority to fulfill their economic potential.
Cut red tape. If there is any one thing that businesses plead with policymakers to do, it is to help make it as easy as possible for employers to access whatever help they need from state government –from cutting red tape to compliance assistance and timely regulatory approvals. This is a major barrier to economic growth that must be taken down.
The special session on jobs is a great opportunity for Connecticut state lawmakers to create confidence and a more positive and productive partnership with the business community. That’s the best strategy to win the battle for jobs.
Joe Brennan is a senior vice president for public policy with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association in Hartford. Reach him at email@example.com.