Business Community Rates The Session
The legislative session just past made some major changes in the state of Connecticut. It abolished the death penalty, established Sunday alcohol sales, legalized medical marijuana and began a process of reform of the education system. But what was in it for the business community? WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.
The dust is beginning to settle on the short session that finished last week, and reflection is beginning.
“From the small business perspective I think honestly there’s not much that was achieved.”
That’s Andrew Markowski, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Connecticut.
“There was an ambitious agenda all around on the part of the Governor and lawmakers, but at the end of the day from the business community’s perspective, there’s not much to show for it.”
Governor Dannel Malloy had labeled this the education session, and his original bill on reforming the school system was strongly supported by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. The CBIA’s Joe Brennan says he’s not surprised that the final legislation is somewhat tamer.
“Going in you know that in a major reform bill like that, it’s going to change.”
Brennan says CBIA supported more funding for charter schools, additional pre-K places and intervention in low-performing schools in an effort to close the state’s achievement gap. While some of that will begin as a pilot program, he says all parties must regard what emerged as at least a good start.
“We probably would have like to see a little bit more aggressive start with the commissioner’s networks and other things, but the fact that we’re putting them in place is really the most important thing.”
Malloy also found himself having to plug an unexpectedly large hole in the state’s budget. He came under fire from Republicans who charged that the no-gimmick Governor ended up using the same money-shifting tactics he’d vowed to avoid. Brennan says he can live with what was done – for now.
“Fortunately the bill that passed didn’t raise any revenues, but on the other hand there weren’t a lot of significant cuts or changes made that would grow savings over time. A lot of it was transferring money from different funds, and doing some more borrowing. Going into the next legislation session when we do a full two year budget that will be the top priority to make sure we get better control over long term spending.”
Among the economic issues that did surface this session was the minimum wage, a bill that proved highly contentious, not only in the business community, but between Democrats in the House and Senate. Andrew Markowski of the NFIB says he’s delighted the bill failed to make it.
“Our NFIB members were recovering from last year’s tax increases. They’ve recently been faced with high unemployment insurance compensation costs and surcharges. They said Connecticut already has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation and now is not the right time to do it.”
And now – on to a special session that looks likely to convene next month. Markowski says legislators had better not try to fit in too much.
“The business community hopes that the scope of special session is extremely narrow, in the sense that the legislature does what they need to get done in terms of budget implementers, and that’s it.”
By then, he says, all attention will have turned to the fall, and election season.
For WNPR, I