The state would have a council devoted to assessing Connecticut’s economic competitiveness and encouraging business growth, if a bill introduced by the Finance committee comes to fruition.
The bill, S.B. 1137, was introduced by the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. The committee unanimously voted in favor of it last Thursday, sending it to the Legislative Commissioner’s Office.
The legislation aims to create a 10-person council that would be charged with encouraging and assisting private sector business growth, and evaluating and promoting Connecticut’s economic competitiveness in comparison to other states.
The group also would be required to develop a Connecticut Competitiveness Scorecard that would give “a comprehensive statistical assessment” of the state’s competitiveness. The scorecard must be developed by Jan. 31, 2017, and be presented annually after that, according to the bill.
The council would meet at least quarterly, under the legislation, and identify the state’s main economic challenges. Members would advise the executive and legislative branches, as well as the private sector, on topics related to competitiveness.
The state’s largest business and trade group, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, supports the bill, but the legislation alone will not make Connecticut more competitive, said CBIA Vice President and General Counsel Bonnie Stewart.
“I applaud the legislators that introduced the measure,” she said. “We support anything that could make Connecticut more economically competitive, (but) I don’t think this bill is going to be the thing that makes or breaks us.”
Lawmakers have opportunities every day to look at bills that come before them and consider whether they will help or hurt the state’s competitiveness, Stewart said. Many legislators say they want to make Connecticut more competitive but back a tax package that will hurt businesses, she added.
“Creating a competitiveness council alone is not going to solve our problem,” she said. “Connecticut needs to decide . . . are we going to try to make Connecticut a place where there’s more opportunity or less?”
Connecticut’s reputation is “less than positive” when it comes to economic competitiveness, she said.
Among other things, the state needs to better capitalize on its strengths — such as education, access to capital and the quality of life, she said.
“We do have positive attributes, but we have some real challenges and we need to work to overcome those,” she said. “We can do better.”
She noted that CBIA as well as CT20x17 — a nonpartisan coalition to make Connecticut a “Top 20 Economy” by 2017 — already are working to improve the state’s competitiveness and appeal to businesses. CBIA is part of the CT20x17 effort.
In a letter to lawmakers last week, the coalition wrote, in part: “Creating a vibrant economy is the only road to lasting fiscal solutions that balance budgets, maintain critical programs, and fund hospitals and community providers. When this happens, Connecticut becomes a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”
If passed, the bill would take effect July 1 and would require council members to be appointed by Oct. 1. Most members would serve four-year terms, and the speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate would elect the council chairpeople.