Fiscal stability Enlisting the business community

April 20, 2018

With time running short in the current session of the General Assembly, representatives from a committee focused on righting the state’s economy are looking to get their fellow business leaders involved.

In an address to members of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, the co-chairs of the state’s Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, Robert Patricelli and James Smith, called the private sector to action as a way to encourage local legislators to embrace their proposal package, which awaits votes in Hartford.

The duo discussed concerns over the current condition of the state economy and offered insight into the commission’s recommendation package, which calls for a several changes to state taxation, spending and revenue programs.

“There is no doubt from the findings that we presented that Connecticut needs to face up to the brutal facts of its current reality while recognizing that we have it within our power to change the course of Connecticut’s future,” said Smith, the former CEO of the parent of Webster Bank.

“That’s what our proposals are all about,” he added. “One, we show how dire the situation is; the other is we show what we can do to improve it and put Connecticut back on the road to growth and prosperity.”

The 14-member commission, made up of business executives, submitted a package of a dozen proposals in March that offered potential solutions they said could help stabilize the economy.

The plan includes proposals to lower income tax across brackets, raise the sales tax, incorporate highway tolls, cut state spending by $1 billion a year and raise the minimum wage, among other things.

With two weeks left in the session, the commission is still waiting on legislators to vote on the plan.

“The private sector has got to get back in the game,” Patricelli said. “Twenty-five to 50 percent of the senior business people need to get in the game and make it clear to our Legislature that doing nothing is not an option.”

While the proposals offer a holistic plan designed to change taxes, spending, and revenue, there is a chance that only a portion of the recommendations may pass the Legislature — if any.

Patricelli said the chances of getting any of the commission’s suggested changes, particularly to the tax system, pushed during an election year are unlikely, but they remain hopeful that some revenue and spending proposals have a chance.

That was cause for concern among some members of the business community in attendance, including Michelle McCabe, director of the Center of Food Equity and Economic Council of the Churches of Greater Bridgeport. She said she could get behind the full plan, which she described as a balanced proposal.

“My concern is more with worrying of how to get the package passed, because, to me, the modules look very yin and yang,” McCabe said, “Each subsection, it’s true you can just focus on just one piece of it as it has that yin and yang element that was the concern. It was not about the report, it was more about how we move and have forward momentum on it.”

Even with concerns, business leaders were supportive of the commission’s proposal package.

“More business leaders need to hear this and understand the full scope of what the commission undertook,” said BRBC chairwoman Kate Donahue. “We obviously need a comprehensive solution and I’m hopeful that there is more that we can do to make sure that happens.”

Jordan.grice@hearstmediact.com: Twitter: @JordanEGrice