HARTFORD, CT — Instead of focusing on individual races or party politics, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association is taking a broader look at the state with its new “Fix Connecticut” campaign.
The state’s largest business lobby is seeking to raise public awareness of the issues impacting Connecticut’s economic future and job growth through January.
“Opinion polls consistently show that taxes, jobs, and the economy are the top issues for people in our state,” CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan said. “We want to make sure those issues are front and center during what we believe is a make-or-break time for Connecticut.”
Connecticut has recovered 109.7 percent of the private sector jobs lost in the Great Recession, but it has failed to recover all the jobs lost, including government jobs and jobs at the two federally-recognized casinos, which brings the number to 86.1 percent. It means, Connecticut has recovered just 86.1 percent of all the jobs lost during the employment downturn and the latest GDP data shows Connecticut 49th in economic growth of all 50 states last year.
“Connecticut has tremendous economic potential,” Brennan said. “It’s time to unlock that potential by attacking the issues that are holding us back and make this state a leader in economic growth and job creation.”
Brennan said the business community has concerns about state spending, high business costs, a shortage of skilled workers, and transportation infrastructure. The campaign features a five-point plan to address those concerns. CBIA thinks by investing in workforce development and transportation and reducing state spending and taxes and renegotiating state employee health and pension benefits that Connecticut will be in a better position to grow businesses and jobs.
Brennan said CBIA and its board feels like it’s necessary to call attention to Connecticut-specific issues since most everyone’s attention in 2016 turned toward national politics with the election of Republican President Donald Trump.
In 2016, CBIA formed a PAC and spent $415,000 on 15 races — 4 in the Senate and 11 in the House.
“We’ve been challenged over the last couple of years putting together working majorities in the House and the Senate,” Brennan said in 2016.
He dismissed reports that they were specifically looking to flip control of the Democratic majority in the Senate to the Republican Party. But they ended up helping Republicans make gains and the Senate in 2016 became evenly divided, 18-18.
This year CBIA isn’t planning on forming an independent expenditure group to help boost certain House and Senate campaigns like it did in 2016.
Brennan said they will endorse candidates for office, but they’re not going to be spending money on any General Assembly races this year.
He said the $600,000 the group is dedicating toward the campaign will be focused on educating the general public about the issues the state is facing.
“We need to make sure that message stays front and center,” Brennan said.
Earlier this year, CBIA lobbied against an increase in the minimum wage and paid Family Medical Leave.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 63 percent of 1,029 voters surveyed support an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Democratic lawmakers who hold a slim majority in the House have failed to pass an increase in the minimum wage for the past four years. Connecticut’s current minimum wage is $10.10 an hour.
The Working Families Party, a proponent of paid FMLA and an increase in the minimum wage says CBIA has it wrong.
“Cuts to essential services, privatization schemes, and attacks on collective bargaining rights are not a road to economic growth — just to further stuffing the pockets of the few at the cost of the many,” Carlos Moreno, state director of the CT Working Families Organization, said. “If we want to get serious about fixing Connecticut, then we need to fix our lopsided economy by investing in our middle class and working poor families.”
The economy and tax policy has been front and center in the race for governor.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont has proposed an increase in the property tax credit and Republican Bob Stefanowski has proposed the elimination of the income tax over eight years.
One of the five goals of CBIA’s campaign is to “make Connecticut more affordable,” which starts by lowering taxes.
“Connecticut’s personal income, business, and property tax burden is one of the highest in the country— a key factor behind the state’s population decline, including the loss of billions of dollars in income,” the campaign states.
The next governor will face a two-year, $4.6 billion budget deficit and will be unable in the first two years to layoff any state employees based on a labor deal inked in July 2017.