Louis D. Brandeis said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
As the state legislature begins to debate a new two-year budget, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker teamed up with the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis (CCEA) to present a comprehensive analysis of the key economic challenges facing our state. Their publication is titled “Connecticut at Risk: Will the State Navigate to Prosperity?”
The report starts on a positive note describing the state’s impressive history and future potential, citing Connecticut’s prominence in maritime and defense industries, its highly educated workforce, its excellent higher education institutions, the natural beauty of its shoreline and Mystic seaport.
However, the bulk of the report details a negative environment. Connecticut has the worst job record of all states since 1990 (0.3%), and has lost nearly 5% of its employment base since 2008 while the cost of state government grew by nearly 300%.
The report states, “Shockingly, fewer people are employed in the state today than in 1990 even though the state’s population increased during the same period.”
This change stems in part from an over-reliance not only on the financial services industry, but also on federal funding. The state has also seen a fall in its income growth and ranks second slowest in personal income growth in the country.
Competitive posture goes hand in hand with the state’s financial condition, which this publication defines as the attractiveness of a state as a place to live and do business. The report states that “Connecticut also fails on this metric and is losing population, talent and wealth as a result. Income migration problems have already begun to emerge.”
In addition to wealthy individuals who have the means to leave, the loss of Connecticut’s young workforce, ages 18-34, is among the highest in the country. The report found that “Connecticut’s major investments in higher education succeeded in retaining a far higher proportion of its best academic performers — only to see the majority leave the state within a few years of graduation because of the absence of job opportunities.”
Connecticut by the numbers:
• The tax burden, outstanding debt, unfunded pension and retirement health care costs are $50,900 per taxpayer, the highest in the country.
• Connecticut is ranked 47th in the country for doing business, 48th in the cost of living, and spending is the third highest of any state as a percentage of GDP.
• Connecticut also has the second highest energy costs and the second slowest growth in personal income in the nation.
The report concludes that “the state will be unable to reach its full potential over the long term if it fails to address adequately its underlying financial and competitiveness challenges.”
We must stop underfunding pension and health plans by restructuring them. We must diversify industry into technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, energy, digital and information technologies, improve infrastructure, roads and power grids, simplify and streamline the tax code, reduce burdensome regulations, strengthen the education/workforce pipeline, use demographic and performance data to inform policy decisions, and adopt clear outcome-based performance metrics.
Sen. Toni Boucher represents Weston in the 26th Senate District.