Gov. Dannel Malloy walked down two flights of steps at the Capitol with two binders filled with 1,800 pages of recommendations from his transition team on how to improve tax policy, delivery of services, and job creation in the state.
While he managed to keep his balance on the stairs, balancing the budget and finding room to prioritize all the competing proposals included in the two binders may prove a more difficult balancing act.
A dozen working groups on everything from education to information technology to economic development and transportation presented their findings to Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman Monday morning.
Some of the proposals were things Malloy has heard in the past such as the need for leadership in recruiting and retaining employers in the state and some were more radical such as one to completely rewrite the Education Cost Sharing formula.
“The whole [ECS] funding formula should be revamped,” former Rep. Cam Staples told Malloy.
“I think that that’s going to have to be done overtime,” Malloy said at a press conference following the presentations. “It’s one of the reasons we will be recommending to the legislature that they broaden the tax base for local communities.”
“Some of this has to be entertained at the community level,” Malloy said. “But I have to be mindful of the fact that Nancy and I were handed somewhere between a $3.5 and $3.7 billion budget deficit which includes a substantial cut on a structural basis to the ECS formula.”
He reiterated his position, which differs slightly from the one he held on the campaign trail, that he will do all within his power to hold communities “harmless or relatively harmless,” from the close to $540 million gap in funding over the next two years.
Malloy said he’s ready to going on some of the recommendations and some he will include as part of his first budget address on Feb. 16.
Some of the ideas he will begin to tackle immediately involve information technology.
“It’s clear to me just moving into this building that we don’t do things in state government that my local government’s been doing for 10 years,” Malloy said. “Someone’s going to have to explain to me why Wifi is not available in all of our buildings. And somebody’s going to have to explain to me why we’re not using new technologies.”
Richard Hegwood who co-chaired the Information Technology working group said the state lacks a true gateway website where a citizen is able to go and find state services they may need or want. The recommendation to consolidate the most downloadable forms and other frequently used services which are dispersed throughout separate state agency websites is similar to the one made by the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee a few weeks ago.
Another bold proposal is the creation of a “tax-free” zone around a specific industry cluster.
The examples given in the report include the following:
– Insurance and financial services within the Hartford and Stamford orbits.
– Life science, healthcare and medical devices within the New Haven and Hartford orbits.
– Defense, homeland security and maritime industries within the New London and Norwich orbits.
– Precision-machining within the Bridgeport, Waterbury, Meriden, New Britain and Torrington orbits.
The “tax-free” zones would sunset after five years and in order to maintain them businesses would have to meet certain benchmarks such as job creation.
“Under existing law we can waive upwards of 80 percent of property taxes, for instance for new project development on a categorical basis,” Malloy said. “It is not without precedent in the state’s history.”
It seemed many of the proposals presented Monday could cost the state money when it’s facing a $3.5 to $3.7 billion budget deficit.
“What we have to take to heart is that we need as quickly as possible to examine those levels of expenditure on programs that don’t work and replace them with expenditures in areas that can reasonably predict success,” Malloy said.
Asked if the reduction of management will be included in his Feb. 16 budget proposal, Malloy said, “No it won’t.”
According to the Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes Connecticut has one manager for every six employees. State governments on average have one manager for every 12 workers, and private industry has one manager for every 11 to 16 workers.
“The budget will contain assumptions about our ability to modernize state government and to change our management practices,” Malloy said. “I thought it was very interesting our management position per number of baseline or service delivery employees.”
“I didn’t know until relatively recently how out of whack we were with other states,” Malloy said. But he said giving the frontline workers more decision making abilities will help make government more efficient.
Asked if these means he’ll be laying people off Malloy replied by asking if there were any openings in journalism.
“This is not necessarily a time you want to push people out into a job market that doesn’t exist,” Malloy said. “So this will be a balancing act.”