Time to unshackle Connecticut’s economy
Connecticut seems to be dazed and confused. Democrats on Sept. 27 pushed for yet another state of emergency, through February 2022, despite us having one of the best vaccination and transmission rates in the country. As the economy, our schools and our personal lives struggle to achieve a new normal, legislative Democrats applied a psychological grip on our collective psyche by delegating broad executive authority to Gov. Ned Lamont for a sixth time. They missed an opportunity to follow other New England states and cancel a gubernatorial blank check, restrict the governor’s broad powers, and demonstrate that Connecticut is trending back to normal while the collateral damage of COVID continues to roll in like a thick fog.
Global and national trends like rising inflation and supply chain shortages, coupled with Connecticut’s economic malaise, are increasingly apparent all around us. In my own business those different spheres are colliding in ways that I have never seen before — staffing shortages, higher labor costs, product shortages, increased operating expenses, ever-changing state government mandates … all significant issues that keep many of us up at night.
There are currently 71,000 job openings in the state, but an estimated 90,000 people are still waiting on the sidelines before they return to the job market, according to Gov. Lamont’s own recent remarks. Extending mandates and gubernatorial emergency powers puts Connecticut at odds with what is going on around us.
As residents emerge from COVID, our businesses will begin paying back a federal unemployment loan of almost $1 billion, a hole created by the pandemic and government. It may be the last straw for so many, who have been struggling to keep their businesses alive.
My caucus led the conversation early on insisting that $400 million of COVID relief be used to shore up the Unemployment Trust Fund. Originally called a “dumb idea” by the governor, the state ultimately invested $155 million. This investment is the fourth-smallest contribution nationwide, while states like Ohio and Virginia contributed over $1 billion into their funds. We must do more, and with less than the $300 million left in federal funding to designate toward this purpose, this should have had the governor and Democratic Legislature’s unanimous support.
The state should also halt any efforts to pile on more mandates to our job creators, while they are already struggling to keep up with recently implemented programs like the paid family medical leave. Now might not be the time to roll out the retirement security program, which will be another pay cut for Connecticut workers and added bureaucracy for taxpayers.
Connecticut was recently awarded the dubious distinction of having the highest taxpayer burden in the nation at $62,500 per taxpayer. We have a lot of work to do navigating toward an affordable state. Let’s make it easier for the job creators to help us. We need more taxpayers, not taxes.