Five ideas for Ned La­mont to fix our state

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Opinion - By David Ste­mer­man David Ste­mer­man is a busi­ness­man and for­mer Repub­li­can can­di­date for gover­nor.

Af­ter the elec­tion, Gov.-elect Ned La­mont promised a fresh start for Con­necti­cut and struck a tone of bi­par­ti­san­ship, not­ing that he had reached out to leg­isla­tive lead­ers in both par­ties.

This was en­cour­ag­ing, since more than half the vot­ers in our state did not vote for La­mont and many worry that his elec­tion as gover­nor, along with large ma­jori­ties for Democrats in both houses of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly, will mean the next four years in Con­necti­cut will be much like the last eight.

Re­gard­less of who we sup­ported, all of us want to see our state suc­ceed. Here are some ideas to im­prove our state that could be adopted by a Demo­crat­i­cally dom­i­nated leg­is­la­ture with strong lead­er­ship from Gov.-elect La­mont:

Taxes: En­act rev­enue neu­tral tax re­form that stim­u­lates growth.

The num­ber of days Con­necti­cut res­i­dents must work to pay their taxes is the se­cond long­est of any state and busi­nesses la­bor un­der a tax code ranked in the bot­tom 10. Res­i­dents and busi­nesses worry that a Demo­cratic gover­nor and Demo­cratic leg­is­la­ture will com­pound the prob­lem by rais­ing taxes to close the pre­dicted $2 bil­lion an­nual bud­get deficit.

In North Carolina, the busi­ness com­mu­nity com­mis­sioned the non-par­ti­san Tax Foun­da­tion to pro­vide op­tions for tax re­form to im­prove com­pet­i­tive­ness with no change in over­all rev­enues and col­lab­o­rated with state of­fi­cials to adopt land­mark leg­is­la­tion. Any change to Con­necti­cut’s taxes should in­clude this type of re­form.

Reg­u­la­tions: Con­vene a com­mis­sion to pro­pose elim­i­na­tion or mod­i­fi­ca­tion of reg­u­la­tions.

State gov­ern­ment man­dates and rules in­crease the costs of liv­ing, do­ing busi­ness and op­er­at­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments. Gov.-elect La­mont should in­sist that leg­is­la­tion that in­creases the min­i­mum wage or man­dates paid fam­ily med­i­cal leave also pro­vide em­ploy­ers reg­u­la­tory re­lief at least as great to pre­serve jobs.

Trans­porta­tion In­fra­struc­ture: Use pri­vate-pub­lic part­ner­ships to re­build our roads, air­ports and rail­roads.

While charg­ing a user fee for roads through tolls seems sen­si­ble, Con­necti­cut res­i­dents are in­censed that our trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture is so poor de­spite bear­ing such a high over­all tax bur­den. Tax­pay­ers do not trust that a toll would be used solely for our trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture, nor do they trust that ad­di­tional funds would be spent ef­fi­ciently by the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

Flor­ida formed a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship to over­come grid­lock on I-95 in Mi­ami. The part­ner­ship con­structed two lanes that re­verse di­rec­tion at rush hour. Fund­ing for con­struc­tion came from charg­ing con­ges­tion-based pric­ing only in those new lanes. Mo­torists still have a toll-free op­tion and traf­fic speed has in­creased for all.

Un­funded Gov­ern­ment Em­ployee Re

tire­ment Li­a­bil­i­ties: Ne­go­ti­ate a one-time buy­out of legacy li­a­bil­i­ties with a lump sum pay­ment and a new plan ad­min­is­tered by pub­lic em­ployee unions.

Con­necti­cut’s chronic bud­get deficit is the con­se­quence of mas­sive un­funded state em­ployee and teacher re­tire­ment li­a­bil­i­ties. Un­til re­tire­ment plans are re­struc­tured, our bud­get will not bal­ance, state em­ploy­ees will not be se­cure in their re­tire­ment and our econ­omy will not grow to its full po­ten­tial.

The Big Three auto com­pa­nies and the United Auto Work­ers faced a sim­i­lar prob­lem in the 2000s — prom­ises for health ben­e­fits ex­ceeded the com­pa­nies’ abil­ity to pay. Man­age­ment of­fered the union a one-time pay­ment that the unions would ad­min­is­ter in a ben­e­fit plan of their de­sign. The union ac­cepted and the money set aside pro­tected work­ers’ health ben­e­fits dur­ing the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis that hit the auto com­pa­nies.

Ed­u­ca­tion: Re­place the state’s ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing sys­tem, which has 11 dif­fer­ent for­mu­las based on the type of school with a sin­gle uni­fied sys­tem. An equal amount of state fund­ing would fol­low each child to which­ever pub­lic school that child at­tends.

We are fail­ing too many of our chil­dren. Con­necti­cut has the high­est achieve­ment gap in the coun­try be­tween our top and bot­tom per­form­ing pub­lic schools. Pub­lic schools of all kinds — lo­cal neigh­bor­hood, vo­ca­tional, mag­net or char­ter — should re­ceive re­sources tied to each child, so fam­i­lies can choose the school they pre­fer.

While these pro­pos­als do not rep­re­sent all the poli­cies that I be­lieve are needed to save Con­necti­cut, they are a start­ing point to find com­mon ground. Let’s hope that Gov.-elect La­mont and the Demo­cratic leg­is­la­ture have the courage to take the bold ac­tions needed to save our state from a loom­ing fi­nan­cial cri­sis and build a solid foun­da­tion for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

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