(Update 3:58 p.m.)The state’s long-anticipated strategic economic planning document was finally released today by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
The close to 550-page plan, which was 16 days late, finally made it to Rell’s desk Wednesday.
Last week lawmakers, advocates, and municipal officials pressed Rell to release the document, but because she didn’t have it Rell’s office claimed she couldn’t release it.
Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Joan McDonald wrote to state Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, last week to tell him her staff was in the final stages of editing the plan.
“The quality of the final report is of much greater importance to the state and its taxpayers than the due dates outlined in the law,” McDonald wrote in her Sept. 10th letter to LeBeau.
LeBeau who had first asked about the plan on Aug. 21 said he received no reply from the commissioner until last week. At that time he was told it would be several weeks before the plan was completed, so LeBeau said he was pleasantly surprised when the plan was released Wednesday.
At first glance, LeBeau said the plan looks like a “Smörgåsbord” of ideas. He said what’s important will be how the ideas are knitted together and if there’s benchmarks to measure the state’s progress in various areas.
“This plan will shape policy and priorities as we recover from the current economic downturn and as we make our state’s economy second to none in the years ahead,” Rell in a statement Wednesday. “Goals are unlikely to be reached, however, without an effective plan – and that is why this document is so critical.”
One of Rell’s potential opponents in 2010 doesn’t see this new plan helping the state anytime soon.
Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said there’s almost nothing in the plan that reflects new and innovative thinking. In addition, Malloy said, some of the ideas included in the plan Rell has already dismissed such as tax credits for green buildings.
“The ‘strategic vision for Connecticut’ makes its first appearance on page 528…of a 540 page report,” Malloy said. “There appears to be nothing in here that commits the Governor to actually doing anything.”
But there’s still more work to be done.
Because of the enormous – and continuing – changes in the economic landscape and to ensure that people who helped in the development of the plan have a chance to review it, Rell is soliciting further input from business leaders and lawmakers and directing the DECD to hold a second round of public meetings.
As co-chairman of the legislature’s Commerce Committee LeBeau said he plans on holding hearings on the plan within the next month to make sure it doesn’t sit on a shelf. Connecticut has drafted some good plans over the years, but “has lacked the boldness to grapple with our shortcomings,” when it comes to economic development, LeBeau said.
“When I first proposed developing this plan, Connecticut’s employment was approaching an all-time high of more than 1.7 million jobs,” Rell said. “These economic challenges have made the plan all the more important even as they have complicated its development.”
The plan recommends more than 60 specific strategies and initiatives for the future, grouped in three general areas: Talent and Technology, Cultivating Competitiveness and Responsible Growth.
Some of the proposals include offering loan forgiveness to science and engineering students, implementing an angel investor tax credit, continued development in the area of regionalism, and building a New Haven-Hartford-Springfield, Mass. commuter rail line.