By Lisa Capobianco
With the General Assembley scheduled to convene on February 5, state officials representing Southington have reflected on their top priorities and goals, which focus on enhancing business climate, increasing job opportunities and assisting senior citizens.
The Connecticut Business Industry and Association (CBIA) reported that overall, the state has not scored high in terms of “business friendliness.” According to CBIA, business climate indexes like “CNBC’s Top States for Business 2013” ranked Connecticut number 45, based on factors of infrastructure, economic conditions, the cost of doing business and business friendliness.
Republican State Representative Rob Sampson said one of his goals for 2014 involves enhancing business development in the state, to make Connecticut more “business friendly.”
“We need to change the environment to attract our businesses,” said Sampson, recommending that reducing the cost of gas and energy serve as one solution to helping businesses. “You have to create an environment that will attract businesses to come here.”
Democratic State Representative Dave Zoni also said bringing down the cost of energy will help businesses thrive in Connecticut. Zoni added that other factors play a role in making Connecticut a business-friendly state, including high-quality education and improvements in infrastructure.
Although he would like to see these changes, Zoni said he plans to continue working with local businesses this year by reaching out to them through the Southington Chamber of Commerce, spreading awareness on different kinds of programs and tax credits that may offer financial assistance. He mentioned programs including the Small Business Express Program—which offers loans and grants to small businesses with the goal of enhancing job growth and creation—and the Economic Manufacturing Assistance Act (MAA), which offers incentive-driven direct loans for projects when strong economic development potential exists.
“I think we have done a lot of work over the years,” said Democratic state Representative and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, adding that he also hopes to continue informing local businesses about the number of programs in the state available to them, including the Job Expansion Tax Credit.
Calling small and medium-sized businesses the “backbone” of Connecticut, Rep. Aresimowicz added that in 2014, he would also like to see them have more resources in order to create more jobs. He applauded the recent construction of the Jackson Laboratory for Genome Medicine, which is expected to open this October, and Uconn’s expansion with the Next Generation Connecticut Program, which will focus on science, math, technology and engineering while adding hundreds of new professors and students. With the current unemployment rate at 7.6 percent, Connecticut has recovered 52.4 percent of the jobs lost during the 2008 recession, reported the State Labor Department.
“We are coming out of a deep recession,” added Rep. Zoni.
Besides creating more jobs, state officials plan to continue helping senior citizens, especially in Southington where in just a few years, 40 percent of the town’s population will reach Calendar House age. According to the Connecticut Commission on Aging, Connecticut’s older adult population is expected to increase by 64 percent from 2006 to 2030.
“Southington has a growing senior population,” said Aresimowicz, adding that helping the Calendar House expand serves as a top priority this year.
Recently, Zoni and Aresimowicz announced in a press release that the State Bond Commission is expected to approve $200,000 for the Southington Senior Center to benefit a study on how to best expand the Calendar House.
“We need to prepare for this,” Representative Zoni said, adding that the study will help determine what kinds of programs and services to add there.
Republican State Senator Joe Markley plans to continue his work to help senior citizens, advocating the improvement of their quality of life at home while saving their money.
“People with a fixed income are hammered on these increases,” said Senator Markely, adding that increases in the cost of living such as utilities serve as a burden for senior citizens who live at home.
This year, the session scheduling rules state that the General Assembly must discuss financial, budgetary and revenue matters. In an online post, Rep. Sampson expressed opposition for the current state budget, emphasizing the need to help Connecticut recover from a deficit that the Non-partisan Office of Fiscal Policy has estimated to be greater than $1 billion for next year. For Senator Markley and Rep. Sampson, the new legislative session calls for a re-examination of the state budget, looking for ways to cut spending and to lessen the burden on taxpayers.
“That should be our goal,” Senator Markley said.
In a recent letter to Governor Dannel Malloy, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo wrote that the Office of Policy Management (OPM) estimates a surplus of $273.3 million for the Fiscal Year 2014 General Fund, an increase of $137.4 million from last month’s prediction.
House Majority Leader Aresimowicz said with that number in mind, Connecticut has maintained a balanced budget despite any reported deficits. He added that state officials can continue to “keep a close eye” on the money spent in order to maintain a surplus.
“We have a balanced budget,” Representative Aresimowicz said. “Coming into this year, we found out that our budget is doing much better than expected.”
By Lisa Capobianco