Economic summit makes key recommendations

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Putting a "lock box" on money targeted for transportation, reforming the budget "implementer" process to keep lawmaking transparent and revamping the state's education cost-sharing formula to make it more equitable are three of the top recommendations that came out of last month's first-ever Connecticut economic summit.

In a report released Monday, the state summit of leaders in business, government, labor, education and social services indicated more than two dozen areas of agreement in how to get Connecticut back on track economically. A few of the recommendations were specific, but most dealt in generalities, such as that there should be a "long-term state plan to limit state debt."

The Westbrook summit, attended by about 175 state leaders, was organized in mid-November by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the Connecticut AFL-CIO and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

"The summit achieved its first goal, but our work has only begun," Joe DeLong, executive director of CCM, said in a statement.

From here, a summit subcommittee plans to push the agenda with statewide political leaders.

Joe Brennan, president of the 1,000-member Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said Monday that he is hoping for long-term structural changes in the way the state does business. He said the hope is that the group can flush out recommendations to make them "more specific and actionable."

"We want to do much more going forward," he said in a phone interview. "At least it's a start."

In the past, members of the General Assembly had regularly raided the state's transportation fund to help balance the budget or pay for other programs. "Lock box" reform would not allow legislators such latitude.

Concerns about the "implementer" bill have focused on legislation that has not been debated or voted on making its way into the final version of the budget. And grumbling over the state's contribution to local school budgets has been a constant source of angst over the years.

Other recommendations of the summit included:

  • Creating a group representing educators, boards of education and municipal leaders to reduce unfunded state mandates.
  • Expanding regional educational service centers.
  • Making community colleges more affordable.
  • Creating a long-term master plan for transportation.
  • Increasing incentives for municipal and educational collaboration.
  • Reforming Connecticut's tax structure.

l.howard@theday.com

Twitter: @KingstonLeeHow

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