Fawcett Op-ed / Working on multiple fronts to spark economy
Published 4:56 pm, Thursday, October 23, 2014
Improving Connecticut's economic growth remains the No. 1 concern of many voters I meet. Access to a variety of well-paying jobs, the ability to save for the future, and faith that our children will have similar or better opportunities are cornerstones of a thriving economy. While the state has seen gradual improvement in job growth in recent years, we can do better.
As an eight-year Fairfield state representative and now a candidate for state Senate in the 28th District, I am deeply committed to continuing efforts to fuel our economy and make Connecticut more business-friendly. There is no one solution or quick fix. We must move on multiple fronts to improve our economic outlook, while ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to succeed in a fast-changing and technologically driven world. Here are specific policy initiatives I have championed and would continue to work on as a state senator in 2015:
Investing in transportation
Here in Fairfield County, where so many men and women commute to employment hubs in New York City and Stamford, our transportation system plays a vital role in the economy. Our clogged highways, inefficient mass-transit system and aging bridges are holding back progress and making life miserable for workers with long and stressful daily commutes.
As co-chairwoman of the Legislature's Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and the Transportation Bonding Subcommittee, I have worked to make transportation investment a priority. We need a long-term plan for modernizing our infrastructure.
The critical first step in this process is prioritizing projects to facilitate the movement of both goods and people around the state. TransformCT is a project underway at the state Department of Transportation to help set that vision and move us in the right direction.
Investment in Fairfield County likely will focus on Metro-North Railroad. With proposed modernization of tracks, catenary lines and bridges, our system would be safer, faster and provide more frequent service. These critical investments would be life-changing for commuters and their families, coax more drivers to commute by train, help attract new businesses interested in ready access to our highly educated workforce, and stimulate job growth in construction and related services.
In 2011, the General Assembly passed bipartisan, job-creation bills focused on stimulating job growth in the short term, while strengthening the state's economic position for the future. Our long-term, economic-development strategy aims to further develop already growing business sectors, including bioscience, healthcare, insurance, financial services, digital technology and precision manufacturing.
The legislative package addressed the immediate economic downturn by providing much-needed access to capital for businesses looking to grow and hire. It also set in motion a statewide effort to reduce unnecessary and outdated government regulations that are known to slow growth, and it initiated a restructuring of our workforce-development efforts at community colleges and state universities.
Through the Small Business Express package and Manufacturing Assistance Act, more than 2,000 small businesses have received loans, grants or tax credits, creating 17,000 jobs. Loans and grants through this program have allowed 55 precision manufacturing companies to expand -- with thousands of high-paying jobs in the pipeline -- and earned Connecticut a ranking among the top 10 exporters in the country. These programs, combined with others, have allowed our state to leverage $1.9 billion in private-sector investment to grow jobs.
Over the past three years, each state government agency has been charged with identifying and reviewing regulations. During the 2014 legislative session, we passed two comprehensive packages that removed 1,000 pages of regulations, from onerous monthly filings to needlessly lengthy permitting processes. This project is not finished; state agencies will continue to collaborate with leaders, business owners and individual citizens on the next round of regulatory reform in 2015.
Developing the workforce
Next Generation Connecticut and the reorganization of the Connecticut State University and Community Colleges systems have been at the heart of the new long-term workforce development efforts. More than 6,500 new undergraduate slots are coming to the University of Connecticut, with expanded campuses and new programs that emphasize STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
Connecticut has more work on the horizon, but I remain optimistic about our economic recovery. I will continue to fight for investment in transportation, partnerships with businesses, reduction of burdensome government regulations, and education policies that help position Connecticut as one of the best states for business in the country.
Kim Fawcett is the Democratic nominee for state Senate in the 28th District.