A newly formed, permanent commission has begun tackling the question of how to make Connecticut more economically competitive.
The 13-person Commission on Economic Competitiveness, created by legislators, had its first meeting earlier this month. Members heard from Department of Economic Development Commissioner Catherine Smith.
The group is tasked with examining how Connecticut’s policies, including those pertaining to taxes and regulations, impact businesses in the state.
“The goal of this commission is to look at state policy in terms of ‘does it grow the state’s economy?” said commission co-chair Joe McGee, vice president of public policy and programs at The Business Council of Fairfield County.
McGee, a Republican, co-chairs the commission with state Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford.
While a schedule has not been finalized, the group plans to meet four or five times over the next couple of months, according to McGee.
“This is the first permanent committee on economic competitiveness — really, the economy — that’s been created by the legislature,” he said, and the group will play an important role by taking a comprehensive look at how policies impact economic growth.
The state has done only three detailed analyses of the economy, each spearheaded by the Department of Economic and Community Development, over the past 30 years, said McGee. The first was under former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker (McGee was DECD commissioner under that administration), the second was under former Gov. John Rowland, and the third is happening now, he said.
“Over 30 years, things change, and you need to be doing these things (analyses) constantly,” he said.
Lawmakers formed this commission as the state’s business climate has undergone close scrutiny. Several large employers, including General Electric, have threatened to leave the state in light of recent tax increases.
Among other things, the group will examine and report on the impact of tax revisions included in the latest state budget, as well as what businesses need to stay competitive. Members also will offer proposals to the legislature to promote business growth in the state.
Often, lawmakers may not realize the implications that tax and regulatory policies have on business, McGee said, and the commission will help them become informed.
“There’s a real service that could be performed here,” he said, adding the commission could be “a terrific resource for the legislature that they don’t regularly have.”
In addition to Tong and McGee, commission members are:
• Department of Economic and Community Development Catherine Smith
• Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan
• Connecticut Business & Industry Association President and CEO Joe Brennan
• Norwalk Community College economics professor Steven Glazer
• Jeffrey Hyde, senior state tax counsel at IBM
• Connecticut AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier
• Seth Harold Ruzi, vice president and associate counsel at Starwood Hotels and Resorts
• Ellen Shemitz, executive director at Connecticut Voices for Children
• Heather Somers, business owners and former Republican lieutenant governor nominee
• Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfied
• Rodney Williams, owner of Mr. Rock Drywall.
The group will not duplicate the work of other groups, McGee said, but rather will take a comprehensive look at existing economic studies and other resources.
Group members also hope to shift the tone of business-related discussion in Connecticut from negative to more positive, he said.
“We want companies to tell us not what’s wrong with Connecticut, but why are they here and what would make them grow,” he said.