Can Connecticut afford The Department of Economic and Community Development? The 2017 budget for this agency was $35 million of which $15 million was for administrative expenses and self promotion. The remainder was split between economic development and sponsorship of the arts as a means to develop the state’s tourism.
Government is bad at economic development and Connecticut’s efforts have been particularly ineffective, expensive and hurtful to its residents. One of these led to what Reason Magazine listed as one of the five worst decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court, Kelo v. The City of New London, where the court approved the city’s use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another to further a developers idea for economic development.
Pfizer, for whom the project was proposed, unfortunately for New London’s progress and the Supreme Court’s reputation, exited from the deal. So Kelo and the other property owners needlessly endured the hardship of being displaced from their land, originally intended to be a cleared waterfront, but now used as the city’s dump. Leaving well enough alone was the better course for economic development and it’s a lesson the DECD can never learn because of its mandate to meddle.
Because of Connecticut’s history in the Pharmaceutical business the DECD had the General Assembly pass this February Bill 446 An Act Concerning A Strategic Plan for the Bioscience Sector in Connecticut . “to develop such strategic plan the department shall (1) evaluate the state’s current assets, strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the bioscience sector; (2) consider the findings of the report on bioscience metrics completed pursuant to special act 17-2 and the report on the state’s bioscience education pipeline completed pursuant to special act 17-20; and (3) solicit input from bioscience industry stakeholders, including, but not limited to, institutions of higher education, bioscience businesses located within and outside the state, and the Connecticut Health Data Collaborative established under section 2-124a of the general statutes.”
In other words a consultant’s dream assignment to develop a web page that declares success with impressions made and influencers conferenced. A useless enterprise and harmless enough were nothing were to come of it, but which becomes really costly when a self-described success reels in a fishy deal the likes of Kelo v The City of New London which was best described by the court’s dissenting judges as a reverse Robin Hood scheme of taking from the poor to give to the rich.
While one is philosophically opposed to the state subsidizing the arts, at least there is solace in recognizing it is harmless — unlike state sponsored economic development schemes that run roughshod over its citizens property and collected taxes.
A reasonable budget cutting proposal, even in good times and not necessarily because of Connecticut’s awful pension crisis, would be to eliminate the DECD entirely and put together an advisory board to make direct payments to the arts, leaving an immediate $25 million saving for our state and sparing us the cost of boondoggles such as trying to give the mega rich hedge fund Bridgewater Associates a $100 million dollar credit to move from their plush campus in Westport to Stamford’s waterfront, thankfully rejected by its residents, proving the reverse Robin Hood effect of the DECD.
Vincent Arguimbau is a member of the Libertarian Party.