Danbury Letter: Economic Outlook Still Bleak In Connecticut

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State Rep. Richard A. Smith.
State Rep. Richard A. Smith. Photo Credit: Connecticut State House of Representatives

DANBURY, Conn. -- The Danbury Daily Voice accepts signed letters to the editor. Send letters to danbury@dailyvoice.com.

To the editor:

In recent months, and as the November election approaches, Gov. (Dannel) Malloy has ramped up his efforts to convince Connecticut residents that thanks to his hard work, our economy and employment opportunities are strong and competitive.

He recently asserted, “Now our deficit is down, and we’re creating jobs again,” and claimed he “helped small businesses create thousands of jobs.”

Reality contradicts this fantasy of a growing and robust economy under Democrat lawmakers’ stewardship.

Nonpartisan, independent organizations continue to come forward with grim statistics which illustrate Connecticut’s economic woes, in stark contrast to the strides other states have made in the past few years.

Since Malloy took office, the state’s labor force is down by about 40,000 people, and average earnings have decreased almost every month, with the average person making $20 less per week than before he was elected (Source: Connecticut Department of Labor).

A recent article in The Economist states that Connecticut earned a “D” for its overall friendliness to small businesses – only ranking higher than five other states in the nation. Even worse, when it comes to our tax climate, Connecticut earned an “F” rating.

While some may blame the recession for our economic failures, national statistics show that Connecticut is faltering as other states recover and improve. In fact, CNBC ranked our state as having the nation’s second-worst economy, fourth-highest cost of doing business and third-highest cost of living.

These distinctions are not assigned at random; they are the result of policy decisions that overburden the private sector with a tax and regulatory structure that inhibits job creation and drives up the cost of doing business. Record-setting minimum wage increases, an unprecedented paid sick leave mandate, the doubling of the corporate surcharge and the refusal to eliminate the unemployment special assessment on businesses are just a few policies from recent years that reinforce this climate – and majority party legislators and the Governor are solely responsible.

Moreover, it is their fiscal mismanagement that has led to a projected $3 billion deficit for the next budget cycle.

With a colossal shortfall on the horizon and a continued refusal to make the structural changes necessary to keep government living within its means, families and employers can be all but guaranteed of another hefty tax hike after the election.

Gov. Malloy’s fictitious narrative is not fooling residents who continue to struggle for job opportunities and are continuously asked to pay more in taxes with no increased return on their investment. According to a recent Gallup poll, 49 percent of Connecticut residents said that given the chance to move to a different state, they would like to do so – the highest percentage in the country.

In an effort to reduce the cost of doing business, this year I introduced a bill that would provide $60 million in tax relief to state employers. The proposal would have eliminated the special assessment businesses pay on money the state borrowed from the federal government, allowing employers to save more of their resources for job creation and expansion.

The measure was part of the balanced budget I joined fellow Republican legislators in proposing. Our alternative budget would have reduced the projected deficit and taken a step toward paying down our long-term liabilities. Legislative Democrats, who excluded Republicans from closed-door budget negotiations with Malloy, defeated the amendment on a party line vote.

Until we begin to tackle the size and cost of state government and create policies that spur private sector growth, I fear that Connecticut’s economy will continue to flounder and lag behind the rest of the country.

Richard A. Smith

State Rep. Richard A. Smith represents the 108th District communities of New Fairfield, Sherman, New Milford and Danbury. He is Ranking Member of the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee.

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