An estimated 175 municipal, business, and labor officials met last month to see if they could agree on a set of policies to help improve the state’s economic climate.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, and the Connecticut AFL-CIO held a first-of-its-kind, two-day brainstorming session as a way for business, government, labor, education and social service leaders to reach what CBIA President and CEO Joe Brennan called a “workable consensus” on how to improve the state’s economy.
The result of that two-day summit was a set of 20 key policy ideas for state leaders to consider as they head into the 2016 legislative session.
One of the top issues for the group was transparency in the budget process. The group wants to shine more light on how the language to implement the state budget is written. The group also agreed on the need for the creation of a constitutional lockbox for transportation funding. That proposal is one lawmakers may take up as early as Tuesday during a special session.
There was also a proposal to streamline the closure of public schools where enrollment has declined. They also agreed reforming Connecticut’s tax structure was important, but they didn’t detail exactly how they would do that.
“We felt we really tapped into some angst by both public and private officials about Connecticut’s economy and how the state can work better with it,” Kevin Maloney, a spokesman for CCM, said Monday.
He said these areas detailed below represent key areas of agreement from the various groups.
Taxes and Regulations
—Reform the process for the “implementer” bill for the state budget to bring back greater transparency and avoid unvetted state law.
—Establish an advisory council across business, labor and municipalities to define, create and report on specific metrics that can assess the best pathways to grow jobs in Connecticut.
—Create a truly sustainable business environment that attracts jobs, people, opportunity across all levels.
—Establish and enforce the discipline needed for the state to live within its fiscal means.
—Bridge the economic growth and income gap among counties in the state.
Education and Workforce Development
—Create one coordinated voice to represent educational administrators, teachers, boards of education and other municipal officials, in order to best address, reduce unfunded state mandates.
—Reformulate the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Grant Program for towns and cities and local public schools to create a more transparent and equitable funding formula.
—Enhance and expand the work of regional educational service centers to more extensively collaborate with boards of education, chamber of commerce and teachers.
—Give priority to community-college affordability & strengthen their community college links to high school programs across the state.
—Better recognize that public education is a direct investment in the Connecticut economy.
Transportation and Infrastructure
—Establish and maintain a “lock box” to ensure adequate and sustained funding for necessary transportation projects.
—Prioritize congestion relief when choosing transportation projects to pursue.
—Apply a cost-benefit analysis, test for pursuing transportation improvements.
—Ensure regional councils of government (COGs), local governments, and all stakeholders are at the table for all regional infrastructure projects.
—Better engage the public and create a long-term master transportation plan.
—Provide a clear and streamlined process for consolidation and closing of public schools with inadequate enrollment.
—Provide towns with municipal-revenue diversification options.
—Increase financial incentives for municipal service collaboration and provide predictable state financial support.
—Leverage Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding to incentivize regional education cooperation.
—Develop regional plans and one common set of regional boundaries based on many state studies already completed.
Quality of Life Matters
—Use business incentives for workforce development (rather than the workforce doing it, business should provide the training).
—Collaboration through communication is vital to enhance quality of life; enhance what is already good about Connecticut
—Fund and clean Brownfields for development.
—Renew and develop strategic affordable housing plans.
—Focus on long-term state plan to limit state debt.
—Reform Connecticut’s tax structure.