The state’s chief business lobby took to the airwaves Monday to press for bold spending reforms to mitigate growing state budget deficits.
Joseph F. Brennan, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, also warned state officials that companies statewide considering adding jobs or other expansions in 2016 are watching the Capitol closely.
“The choices aren’t easy, but we must reform how state government operates and close short- and long-term deficits without raising taxes,” the radio ad states.
The commercial, launched Monday and scheduled to run for at least one week on more than a dozen stations across Connecticut, adds that “ending the cycle of deficits followed by tax hikes will help keep people, jobs and businesses here.”
Malloy and legislative leaders from both parties began talks six weeks ago to reduce projected deficits, and possibly to find new funding to support hospitals and to finance modest business tax cuts.
The talks are ongoing but haven’t borne fruit to date. All sides say they are working to have a deficit-mitigation plan ready for the legislature to consider on Dec. 7.
The governor warned last week he would consider using his limited authority to unilaterally order more emergency spending cuts soon if agreement hasn’t been reached.
Brennan told Capitol reporters Monday that the new radio campaign was launched “just to bring some sense of urgency to the talks that are going on. We really feel like this is a critical time for the state’s future.”
Businesses still are dealing with major hikes in state taxes ordered in 2011 and earlier this year, he said.
Brennan also repeated a warning he has made several times in recent years: Companies are wary of adding jobs, investing in technology or launching new products or services when the state struggles with deficits all too often.
According to nonpartisan legislative analysts, this fiscal year is $254 million in deficit. The projected shortfall grows to $552 million in 2016-17, and $1.72 billion in 2017-18 — the first new budget after the 2016 state election. That last deficit represents a gap of 8.5 percent of annual operating costs.
We’ve had really hard times over the last several years getting the kind of investments we need in Connecticut and a large reason for that is the precarious fiscal situation that the state is in,” Brennan said.
Brennan urged lawmakers to focus on spending cuts that yield savings year after year, including reducing the state’s workforce and curbing overtime.
He also cited two of the ideas highlighted in a series of studies the business community sponsored in 2010 and 2011: reducing the state prison system with more community-based rehabilitation programs; and providing more long-term care for the elderly at home rather than in nursing homes.
“If we don’t see some real structural or long-term changes in the way Connecticut budgets its tax dollars, then we’re going to continue to see that lack of confidence … that businesses talk about so often,” Brennan added. “We’re just concerned if we don’t see some bold action this time we may not have this opportunity again for a while.”