Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told the business community what they wanted to hear Wednesday.
“The only way to save money from being spent is to stop spending it,” Malloy said.
This year the business community and Malloy, who haven’t always agreed, seem to be on the same page.
Malloy made his remarks at an annual event sponsored by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, which attracts business leaders from across the state who show up to lobby their lawmakers.
Joseph Brennan, president and CEO of CBIA, said they agree with Malloy’s budget philosophy that the state can’t spend money it doesn’t have. He said it’s a message that resonates with their members, who are asked to live within their means to run their businesses.
If the governor does what he says he wants to do and cuts spending, focuses on core services and tackles the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, then businesses will have more confidence in the state and will be more likely to invest, Brennan said.
“Connecticut has many assets, but they are at risk if we don’t take immediate action to improve the climate for investment and job creation in the state,” JoAnn Ryan, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Northwest Connecticut, said.
Tony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, said businesses are frustrated and feel that the state isn’t being a good partner.
He said businesses would prefer it, if everybody, including the state, just got out of the way.
Beyond balancing the budget and putting its fiscal house in order, Brennan said lawmakers need to show “a sincere desire to improve the competitiveness of our companies.”
He said it’s not about business anymore, “it’s about the future of the state of Connecticut.”
Malloy warned that it will take Connecticut’s economy another five to six years to adjust to a post-recession economy.
“It’s going to be an elongated period of time for full adjustment,” Malloy said.
However, Brennan isn’t worried.
“Businesses are poised to grow more, but they need confidence in the state,” Brennan said.
Malloy’s message since February has been that the state has to live within its means and spend only the money it has. Malloy has not proposed any new tax increases this year.
“Everyone bemoans the cuts, although they agree I should cut,” Malloy said.
The governor asked Republican and Democratic legislative leaders for suggestions about where to cut this year’s more than $200 million budget deficit.
He suggested that reducing the state workforce would save $6 million and the recent decision by the Supreme Court not to dole out raises to 700 non-union judicial employees saved $4.6 million.
The governor went on to recommend the following cuts:
—$4.2 million from the legislature
—$12.5 million from the Judicial Branch
—$7.3 million from higher education
—$51 million from private providers
—$5 million from the executive branch
—$20 million in municipal aid
He also suggested the state keep $18 million in the fiscal year 2016 budget, instead of transferring that money to fiscal year 2017.
On Wednesday, Malloy solicited the help of the business community to help him convey the need to balance the state budget and put pressure on lawmakers to make the necessary spending cuts.
“Folks, when you discover there’s less money coming in, the longer you wait to make the adjustments you have to make, the more difficult they get,” Malloy said.
Legislative leaders were asked to submit their suggestions to Malloy by Monday, March 14.