Governor Malloy is spending this week in Puerto Rico at the annual Democratic Governors Association meeting and then taking some time off with his family. Puerto Rico is facing bankruptcy and looking for a federal bailout. Years of poor fiscal policies, government cronyism, overreach and interference in the free market has left the island-state with high unemployment and crippling debt. Hopefully the policy lessons of Puerto Rico’s struggles will not be lost on the governor. The island may be pretty but the economic challenges it faces - like Connecticut’s - are pretty ugly.
We at the Yankee Institute support the Governor’s budget plan. We know it is a bitter pill. Like you, we agonize over the hardships it will impose on some of the most vulnerable residents of our state. But even so, we have concluded that, at this point, it is necessary to make these difficult cuts in order to put the state back on a more sustainable path.
Currently, lawmakers get the same benefits that state employees receive through contract negotiations. This gives the appearance of a conflict of interest. Instead, lawmakers should repeal this law and set their benefits separate from benefits for other state employees. Similarly, state employees in management receive the same benefits as those set by collective-bargaining agreements. Even the negotiators sitting across the table from the unions get the same benefits. Lawmakers should set the benefits of any state employees not covered by collective-bargaining agreements separately from unionized employees and by statute.
The number of people working or looking for work in Connecticut, known as the labor force, decreased by about 3,000 people, according to the latest jobs numbered released Monday by the state Department of Labor. And despite some job gains in 2015, the state still has not recovered all of the jobs lost during the 2008 recession, unlike the nation as a whole and most other states. For example, Massachusetts recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession by Jan. 2013, and is now up 6 percent compared to its pre-recession peak.
With the news that General Electric is leaving Fairfield for Boston fresh in the mind of lawmakers, 2016 can be a year of opportunity for Connecticut. It can be, that is, if lawmakers make it one. We can argue over blame, but that would be a distraction. We can give up, but that would be a shame. But if we accept that policy needs an altered direction we can build on our state’s strengths, prevent future losses like GE and bring new opportunities to Connecticut.
General Electric announced this week it would move its headquarters from Connecticut to Boston, Mass., highlighting the need for policies focused on increasing opportunity for all Connecticut residents. While many officials tried to cast blame elsewhere, GE officials warned lawmakers the company would consider moving if they went ahead with what amounted to a 40 percent increase in corporate taxes.