Five Ways...

The following article, written by CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan, was first published in the Hartford Courant's opinion section on August 21.

The path out of Connecticut's current fiscal crisis is challenging, loaded with difficult and painful choices.

Poor policy decisions, made over several decades, are at the root of many of our problems. Those choices provide hard-earned lessons that must shape future decisions.

We need new ideas, aggressively implemented, to make Connecticut an economic leader that provides good jobs to all people.

Greater economic growth is the best way to solve our fiscal problems.

Here are five ideas to make Connecticut's economy more robust.

No. 1. Balance the Budget Without Crippling Tax Increases

Large tax hikes, used to close big budget deficits, haven't worked.

The huge tax increases in 2011 and 2015 made the problem worse. Now we're paying the consequences with shrinking tax revenues, ballooning budget deficits, and job and economic growth that trails much of the region and country.

We need more taxpayers—not higher taxes.

No. 2. Reduce the Cost of Services

In 10 of the 14 years between 2002 and 2015, Connecticut failed to cover its fiscal obligations, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

We cannot afford to deliver services at the current level. State government must become leaner, more efficient and more cost-effective.

For instance, the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance says shifting more state-run services to community-based nonprofit providers could save taxpayers at least $1.3 billion over the next three years. We need more taxpayers—not higher taxes.

The Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century recommends the state take advantage of the downward trend in prison population.

It estimates savings between $250 million and $300 million by 2020 through closing facilities, reducing staff and curbing overtime.

The institute also recommends allowing municipalities to share services without being subject to collective bargaining and changing local charters to allow these cooperative arrangements.

Despite the recent passage of the union concession deal, state government must benchmark the cost of state personnel against the private sector.

No. 3. Focus on Talent Development and Retention

In the 21st century economy, skilled workers are key. Yet, many employers across our membership have difficulty finding qualified employees.

Manufacturing gets the most attention. Growing demand and a wave of retirements means that Connecticut's manufacturers need more than 13,000 skilled workers by the end of next year.

Attracting, training, and retaining the next generation workforce is a major challenge.

Although there has been progress, we need better alignment of industry needs and curriculum development at all levels of education.

Millennials and post-millennials are a critical part of the workforce puzzle for Connecticut's economy.

We must attract and retain young people by making Connecticut more affordable, reinvigorating our cities and towns, and sustaining our great quality of life.

No. 4. Upgrade Our Transportation Infrastructure

Connecticut's overwhelmed and aging transportation infrastructure represents one of the state's major economic and quality of life concerns.

Commuters pay the price, with an average 42 hours lost each year, while the hit to the Connecticut's economy is around $100 million a day in lost productivity.

How can we support upgrades to our transportation system? Attracting, training, and retaining the next generation workforce is a major challenge.

Step one is protecting transportation funding.

Voters get their say in November 2018 when they act on an amendment to the state's constitution to ensure money earmarked for transportation is spent on transportation projects.

Second, as we investigate new revenue sources to meet our critical transportation needs, we must pursue innovations such as private-public partnerships to develop and implement infrastructure projects.

No. 5. Make Business a Greater Partner in Connecticut's Economic Renaissance

For too long, the legislature has focused on incremental approaches when it comes to economic development and not fully understood the importance of creating a positive business climate.

If we want Connecticut's economy to be competitive, we must stop adding new mandates and costs on our job creators.

Rather, we must foster an environment that encourages innovation and investment so entrepreneurs and large corporations—and every size business in between—looks to Connecticut as the place to thrive.

After years of economic stagnation, we are starting to see encouraging signs of growth.

The business community and lawmakers must nurture this momentum and that starts by working together.