This year, more than ever, state elections matter.
Why? Because we have the opportunity to make a great state even better.
We can all take pride with Connecticut’s prominence in key economic areas such as aerospace, shipbuilding, bioscience, insurance, and financial services – just to name a few. And our tourism industry promotes our great quality of life.
The reality is, however, that our economy, despite its advantages, still lags much of the region and the country.
If you’re satisfied with the state of the economy in Connecticut, then vote for the status quo.
If you think we can do better, and bring greater investment, economic growth, and job creation to our state, here’s how we can make it happen.
We can start by electing state House and Senate candidates on November 8 who will make economic growth their top priority.
We can’t tax our way out of the state’s ongoing fiscal problems–only greater economic growth will provide the jobs and tax revenues to put our state on a more sustainable path.
And we can’t let the obvious attention given to the presidential election obscure the fact that many of the serious issues facing Connecticut will be dealt with in Hartford, not in Washington.
That’s why voters must know where candidates stand on the critical issues the legislature will tackle in January–fiscal policy, education, transportation, and more.
Ask your candidates how they will work to make sure that Connecticut reaches its full economic potential. Engage them when they knock on your door. Pick up the phone and call, or send an email.
Here are a few questions to get the conversation started.
Is greater economic growth your top priority?
More than six years after the recession ended, Connecticut’s economic recovery continues to trail most of the region and the country.
The state’s economy grew just 0.6 percent in 2015, while the rest of New England saw more than double that growth. The same year the U.S. economy grew 2.4 percent –four times Connecticut’s growth.
Voters deserve real commitments from General Assembly candidates who, if elected, must focus on making Connecticut more economically competitive.
What specific actions will you take to grow jobs in Connecticut?
Connecticut has recovered just 76 percent of the 119,100 jobs lost during the recession. By contrast, Massachusetts has recovered 304 percent of lost jobs during the same period. Overall, the U.S. has regained 173 percent of lost jobs.
This stubbornly slow growth, and the fact that we are adding lower-wage jobs while losing higher-wage jobs, are issues that candidates must address.
Will you vote for new tax increases?
We’ve seen two of the largest tax increases in state history over the last five years, continuing a pattern of budget deficits followed by tax increases followed by more deficits.
And with billion-dollar plus deficits forecast for the next two fiscal years, there are no guarantees that lawmakers won’t resort to more harmful tax hikes to balance the budget.
Voters have a right to know how candidates plan to balance the budget and whether they will support additional tax increases.
Will you support long-term structural spending reforms?
State government spending soared 201 percent over the past two decades, far outpacing the growth of Connecticut’s population, inflation, and household income.
We’ve made positive steps to begin addressing some of the biggest cost drivers such as corrections and long-term care, but escalating costs continue to crowd out funds for the state’s neediest citizens.
Lawmakers must eliminate unnecessary programs, properly fund core services, aggressively attack the state’s unfunded liabilities–and do so with real structural reforms.
Also, ask candidates where they stand on enacting the constitutional spending cap that voters overwhelmingly approved in 1992–an important tool for controlling state spending.
How will you improve Connecticut’s business climate?
Numerous independent surveys show that Connecticut’s high cost of living, high business costs, struggling economy, and aging infrastructure undermine the state’s strengths and threaten our quality of life.
Uncertainty caused by fiscal instability, along with a steady stream of costly mandates and regulations, stifle innovation and investments that lead to good jobs.
Ask candidates how they will make this an even better state for employers to locate and support good jobs in the community. You have a right to know.
Do your part to boost the state’s economy. Learn about the candidates and vote on November 8.
Joe Brennan is the president and CEO of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.