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OP-ED | We Still Need Jobs; State Lawmakers Shouldn’t Stick Their Heads In the Sand

by | Sep 25, 2015 10:00am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Analysis, Business, Jobs, Labor, Opinion, Taxes, State Capitol

After a rather rosy presentation on the state’s economy at the first meeting of the new “Commission on Economic Competitiveness,” Joe Brennan, CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said he didn’t want to be a “skunk at the garden party,” but he also felt compelled to speak honestly.

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have a problem,” he said, pouring the cold water of reality on a meeting that had, up to that point, been a demonstration in the kind of boosterism that state officials have felt compelled to engage in since our “permanent fiscal crisis” started.

CTNEWSJUNKIE FILE PHOTO The commission was created to placate the business community during state budget negotiations, but at its first meeting even Kevin Sullivan, commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services, expressed skepticism that this group was going to accomplish anything given that lawmakers have for years ignored other commissions just like it.

In her presentation to the panel, Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, urged attendees not to speak negatively about Connecticut.

But Brennan didn’t come to play. He hears from business leaders every day about what they’re seeing and how they’re feeling about the state — and he’s worried.

“There is an extreme amount of concern out there right now about our economic future,” he said.

Brennan doesn’t have an incentive to talk Connecticut down — CBIA loses membership dollars as people move out of the state. He wants to see the number of businesses in the state increase, so he’s not using “negative” language to drive them out.

He’s being a skunk at the garden party because something stinks, and he’s frustrated because Malloy administration officials pretend they don’t smell it.

It isn’t just business leaders who are frustrated — the frustration is felt from the young man in Hartford looking for a job, to the suburban mom whose property taxes keep going up, to the small business owner who is trying to figure out how to pay the state’s excessive estate taxes while still leaving her children a nest egg.

How can the “Commission on Economic Competitiveness” succeed if there isn’t first an acknowledgement that there are real problems facing the people of Connecticut?

Just this week we saw another round of budget cuts because revenues are projected to come in lower than previously forecast. You don’t have to tell the hospitals, which took the brunt of the cuts, that the state has a problem.

At the Republican budget hearing in May, New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Tony Rescigno said that he recently met with a group of corporate site selectors — the women and men who tell companies where they should relocate. But after three days of showing them all that Connecticut has to offer, they told him his efforts were in vain.

He said they told him, “We can’t recommend Connecticut to any of our clients, because if we did they would not be our clients for very long, because they go by the cost of doing business here.”

It shouldn’t be this way. Much of what Catherine Smith told the economic competitiveness panel was true: We have an educated workforce, a prime location, great universities, and a beautiful state. Business leaders — and the jobs they bring with them — should be flocking to our state.

But they’re not.

Thanks to the strength of the national economy, Connecticut is seeing some job growth. But the state still has not recovered all the jobs lost in the 2008 recession. Despite Connecticut and a few other states still lagging behind their pre-crash employment levels, the nation’s job growth overall reached full recovery by April 2014.

In 2011, we saw some signs of recovery right before the state was hit with the biggest tax hike in history. We saw some signs of recovery again earlier this year, but will the latest round of tax hikes set us back?

From January to May of this year the state added 17,000 people to the labor force — which is the number of people working or looking for work in Connecticut. Since May, the labor force has shed 18,000 people, so it is now smaller than it was in January. We’re still higher than we were a year ago, but the numbers are headed in the wrong direction.

Our state needs jobs. I’m going to go against the prevailing wisdom here and say we need any jobs — not just high paying jobs, but entry-level jobs and jobs anywhere in between.

One of the problems our lawmakers have from spending so much time listening to organized labor is that they’ve bought the argument that low-paying jobs are bad. Most of the people who are out of work just want a job, and they’d take an entry-level job even if the pay is low — not because that’s where they want to stay, but with the hope that the first job will lead to another job, and so on.

Jobs don’t just bring money. They bring dignity and a sense of self-reliance. No government program can replace that.

We also need to see a cultural shift in the way we talk about businesses and the men and women who run them. House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz did the state no favors when he claimed the tax hikes would mean taxpayers would just have to “take a weekend off from the yacht.”

That kind of language is unsurprising when it is used by the far left at a rally, but it is not the kind of thing you’d expect an elected official to say.

The drumbeat against wealth continued this week when Malloy administration officials tried to cover their move to cut millions in health care spending by blaming hospital executive pay.

Of course, there was no talk of the raises Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave his closest advisors that put them well up in the top 2 to 3 percent of all earners in this country. At the time, the administration claimed it needed to stay competitive if it wanted to retain top talent. Apparently hospitals are not given the same latitude.

Yes, the state needs to slow spending, and yes, it needs to lower taxes and reduce regulation. But until we end the open hostility toward the people and businesses who pay for most of our state government, we’ll likely continue to see them packing their bags and heading for friendlier states.

Suzanne Bates is the policy director for the Yankee Institute for Public Policy. She lives in South Windsor with her family. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(8) Archived Comments

posted by: Clean Agent | September 25, 2015  6:45pm

At one time Connecticut was probably the most industrious state with people flocking here for great paying jobs and low taxes, however this is no longer the case. Too many years of a tax and spend Democrat legislatures have ruined it. I don’t want to hear that there were Republican Governors because Republicans in CT are just watered down Democrats. (Perfect example is the gun laws. Republicans all could have voted against it and it would have still passed but there were Republicans like Len Fasano who voted for it just to play along) My guess is that if two or three big companies pull out of the state, real estate value will collapse and it will be just as bad as Detroit.

There are two things that do not create wealth; taxes and gambling. This state LOVES passing tax increases. All taxes do is remove money from the local economy to be wasted by state employees. The income tax was supposed to be temporary, but we love it so much in CT that we kept it. Good for us. A slot machine parlor near the border isn’t going to save jobs. Lets get real people. To create wealth you need to make real, tangible, durable goods like airplanes, firearms, radiators, tools and jet engines. Oh wait, those are all of the things we used to make here but other states were better at attracting them. Think about it, we had these business here and lost them. DEMOCRATS have lost our good paying jobs.  How good are those other states that were able to entice businesses to pack up and relocate.

The legislature should sit down with people like Joe Brennan and say “what is it really going to take to grow business in this state” and agree going in that the top two or three issues will be addressed immediately and fixed. If they were able to pass sweeping anti-gun laws in a matter of weeks, they should be able pass some REAL job creating bills just as fast.

posted by: artythesmarty | September 25, 2015  10:42pm

catherine smith is a nice lady who can regale you with the great universities(ie Yale), location between Boston/NY(worthless in the age of internet), beautiful state(?) but the influence of unions(all of which are public now) has killed the state for all but govt/ed employees.  I know phys ed teachers that make as much as UTC mid managers, and park rangers retired at 65k pensions by 55.  If I know it the decision makers do to so it is hopeless.  Malloy and Sullivan are lifelong govt employees and think of business as sport enterprises(i.e ESPN w.layoffs, golf channel bust, ticket broker guy) and not real business that make/design products.  This seems harsh but is all true

posted by: shinningstars122 | September 26, 2015  10:26am

shinningstars122

Whether it is Mr. Brennan, the state GOP or even @MsBates the residents of CT are fed up with being told what is ” wrong” with our state.

As we walk on egg shells awaiting the announcement of the all and power Jeff Immelt we are continually force fed how unlucky we are in this state.

Well that attitude will not shift anything. The powers at be both political and corporate have worked non-stop in too many ways, to drive the middle class to the brink in our state and country and folks keep blaming Malloy and state workers… my goodness wake up kids this is the results of four decades of the shifting our country’s values and economic and tax policies.

To believe that some quick fixes as the CBIA proclaims are the “silver” bullets to have the CT economy come roaring back is an exercise if futility and denying the facts on the ground.

Here is my short list of things that can begin to shift this sooner rather than later.

Let’s start in the hometown of @MsBates. What is up with that projected film studio project?

The last I heard the town was still fighting over it. The film credits are their and working, I just saw that a Pakistani film is being filmed here in the Waterbury Republican


That is a niche market which should have been going much better at this point.

Let’s talk abut water, granted we are in a moderate drought, but many CT municipalities like Torrington and Waterbury have an abundance of it which will become more and more lucrative to small and larger manufacturing companies as climate changes shifts other areas of our country into periods of prolong droughts.

The state has been working on a state water plan but it is far from complete and that should be a top priority.

Tourism, yes we have a missed opportunity there. We need to attract wealthy Chinese and other new world traveler to our historic state.

The casino’s need to do what Vegas did, become a one stop vacation destination, not just gambling “meccas”.

Foxwoods should open a 2,000 person capacity music club to host up and coming rock and rap acts that could be booked 5 or 6 nights a week.

The Wolf Lounge is a joke kids and for millennials there is nothing like that in the state.

Quality of life is what makes our state great and to attract young people and young families we have to sell that hard. Areas of Mew York and Boston now price out many people for a home or even studio space. Areas like Bridgeport can attract these young people with the opportunity to actually afford where they live. You can’t stay in Brooklyn that much longer kids.

We need to focus support on niche ideas that can support larger industries. Think of all the machine shops that supported Pratt, and still do.

CT will not have a major car company open a factory anytime soon but we can create the specialized manufacturing with our smart and most productive workforce in the country.

posted by: shinningstars122 | September 26, 2015  10:37am

shinningstars122

We have a choice either surrender to the narrative that we live in a black hole, which we clearly do not, or we can fight to promote what makes our state great and work to restore balance to our economic and tax systems which have clearly only favored one side of this equation.

I am sure there are numerous other   ideas others readers can contribute to broaden people’s limiting reality of the true state of affairs.

Yes we have challenges but we also have much more that we often care to admit.

It is what we choose to do with the battling narratives,  which is one of the most important political and social questions of our time.

I for one believe it is not us vs them per say but a mutually beneficial private and public trust that lifts all boats not just the yachts and schooners.

posted by: oldtimer | September 27, 2015  3:01pm

Malloy and his democratic/socialist cabal have no desire to create jobs. They’ve imposed the two largest tax increases in CT history and given the mess the current budget is in, will likely impose another huge increase. Those tax increases also further tightened the noose on businesses. National statistics clearly show, CT is anti-Capitalism, ranking at or near the bottom of job creation and business friendliness. No, the democratic gameplan in CT, as well as nationally, is not to create jobs. Rather, it is to keep the poor, the very people they claim to champion, enslaved to them. In return for their votes, Malloy and the democrats will continue their generous handouts of taxpayer money in the form of welfare, food stamps, assisted housing, free healthcare and the like. This public assistance may sound noble, but the democrats have no plan to help these people rise out of their poverty and instead attack the character of others who want to see these programs reformed. Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. We Americans are a generous people and will willingly give help to the needy. But we do them a disservice by not helping them with the means to provide for themselves. For democrats like Malloy, it’s all about power and control. And the easiest way to remain in power is to keep your constituents subjugated to your programs. Hopefully, those suppressed by the democrats will see what is being done to them and put true leaders in charge of our state and our once great country.

posted by: Greg | September 28, 2015  8:04am

SS: You do realize we are in competition with 49 other states, yes?  And other states don’t have the systemic fiscal issues we do, and other states are growing like weeds due to a number of factors that CT is deficient on…namely cost of living and so forth.

There’s probably more tower cranes around Greater Nashville alone than in the entire state of CT.

And how do we naysayers conveniently ignore when the sitting administration (D, mind you) calls our situation a “permanent state of fiscal crisis”?  Like that’s something a prospective employer looking for a home is going to conveniently ignore when looking for stability on the state government front?

O Pls.  If the CT economy was so great as you see it with your “facts on the ground” wouldn’t the state’s tax revenue be keeping up with the various cuts…er…decreases in the increases in rates of spending in each biennium? Wouldn’t our top-of-the-nation tax rates be producing that revenue to at least break even and not have billion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see?  If things were so great, wouldn’t we be seeing growth rates on par with other states? 

Sure, cherry pick projects that are going well to show what’s going on but at the end of the day the proof is in the numbers: Deficits galore and sub-par economic growth.  You can’t blame national trends for our problems either since we compete with the same Federal Government as 49 other states.

Also, I don’t think you’ve been to Foxwoods or Mohegan lately: Foxwoods has 2 theaters, 2 ballrooms, and a nightclub among other things and is currently putting in an outlet mall.  Mohegan has a theater, a 10k seat arena, a WNBA basketball team, and a host of other non-gambling activities.  I’m not sure how you can say they are “gambling only” since if you’ve been there any time in the past decade you would have seen the entertainment/dining/etc options for people that have nothing to do with gambling. 

This millennial only goes down to the casinos for shows, as do many of my other cohorts.  You should check it out sometime, maybe you’ll change your perception of what the casinos now have to offer…or just look at the website…

posted by: shinningstars122 | September 28, 2015  7:47pm

shinningstars122

@Greg you missed my points. There are plenty of cranes in Boston these days too.

I just looked at the bookings for Mohegan Arena through the end of November, nothing that exciting and no major touring bands coming there at all.

Oh the Cowsills are playing the Wolf Den, you wanna go?

For your information CT was ranked number 23 in GDP in 2015, with Massachusetts the only other New England state ranking higher at number 12.

So please stop believing in the religion of lack and try to remember that the government does not control the economy.

The free market does and for all the taxation you think corporations are paying, which they are not; and a perfect example is GE only paying $250 in state income tax, it is the workers who are stuck holding the over spending bag.

It has been that way since the Great Recession as consumers are not spending, which drives 60% of US GDP.

You should also look at the ratio of Federal taxes paid by CT residents that subside a large variety of social programs in these so called weed states, Colorado exempted, you describe.

Maybe if those residents actually paid more in federal taxes you might not complain so much?

Plus what is the US deficit these days?

That has not stopped the plutocrats, who have been cleaning up with zero percent interest for 9 years running now dude.

So keep clicking those ruby slippers and take another red pill, and watch that Keno screen…that is exactly what they want you to do.

posted by: oldtimer | September 29, 2015  7:12am

I visited Yellowstone Park years ago. As we gathered for a hike a young girl asked our guide about a sign that warned us not to feed the animals under penalty of Federal law. Our guide explained that when humans habitually feed the wildlife, they become dependent on us and lose the desire to forage for themselves. It then becomes a dangerous situation. Hmmm, the government can see the wisdom in not making animals dependent upon our providing for them yet they have no problem enslaving humans. The fact is… Capitalism is proven to lift people out of poverty… Federal entitlement programs only perpetuate poverty.

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