Finally some reason for economic optimism

Dare we say that there should be reason for optimism?

After hearing negative economic prognostications for several years, the latest quarterly report by the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis arrived like a mild breeze on a waning winter day. It holds out the expectation that the worst may be over, though there are a few more chilly days still to come.

The forecast may serve as an arguing point in the debate as to how government should confront economic malaise. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, working with large majorities of fellow Democrats in the House and Senate, has set a different course than many of his fellow governors.

Gov. Malloy and lawmakers approved a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to balance the state budget and they maintained the level of state aid for municipalities. Republicans joined in a bipartisan jobs bill that calls for the state to invest heavily to encourage development, while streamlining permitting and offering grants and loans to small business.

This approach contrasted with many other states that cut deeply into public-sector spending and reduced assistance to towns and cities to balance budgets, resulting in significant government layoffs in many.

The report estimates that Connecticut's real gross domestic product rose 2.65 percent in 2011, outperforming the national rate of 1.85 percent. This is particularly encouraging since the state has often lagged behind much of the nation when recovering from past recessions.

More importantly, the latest report sees the positive aspects of the state's economic stimulus efforts and the ability to maintain the public sector labor force as outweighing any negative affect the tax increases may have on growth, despite protestations to the contrary by many fiscal conservatives.

"These strategic public policies and investments promise to deliver both strong short-run benefits and create the foundation for sustained long-term growth. A bevy of major capital projects has the potential to give Connecticut growth rates above the national pattern through the end of 2013," states the Connecticut Economic Outlook report.

Over the past year, the Connecticut legislature approved investing $864 million in the UConn Health Center campus in Farmington and $291 million to support the development of The Jackson Laboratory genetics research facility there. Meanwhile, a $567 million rapid transit bus line will be built to link New Britain and Hartford and take commuter traffic off Interstate 84.

The economists project these projects will add about 7,000 construction and related jobs over the next two years. "These capital projects really have the chance to hype the economy," Fred Cartensen, director of the Center for Economic Analysis, told The Connecticut Mirror. That could contribute to a potential growth of 43,000 jobs by the end of 2013, according to the report.

Perhaps more importantly, these projects hold out the potential to make Connecticut a world leader in bioscience research and development.

While offering no specifics - aside from reminding local leaders that southeastern Connecticut should benefit from the state's $15 million tourism promotion campaign - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut Thursday that he will not ignore the region as he continues to push job creation.

New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio should remember that pledge as the city pursues development in the Fort Trumbull section. So too should Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom as that city continues to try to kick start its moribund downtown.

The economists tempered the good news with warnings that the recovery is fragile and any number of events could fracture it; more troubles in the European economy, a stock market dip, some unanticipated crisis. But cautious economic good news is far better than the stifling bad news that had become far too common.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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