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State Needs New, Different Answers

Rick Green

December 10, 2009

Give the business guys credit: They are ready to talk about the tough issues.

To run government more efficiently, leaders from chambers of commerce around the state say consolidating school districts and other substantial regionalization initiatives must be on the table. They want to discuss taxes that would actually pay for vital services to build an economy around - such as high-speed rail.

To be fair, liberals and Democrats need to listen to some of the other ideas business leaders are tossing around. Would, for example, eliminating corporate income taxes actually benefit the state by attracting new industries? The same is true for privatizing some government services. It's worth looking at.

I stopped by the MetroHartford Alliance breakfast in Hartford this week because I wanted to actually hear whether all this means more than the usual chamber of commerce whining about taxes.

There was too much talk about taxing millionaires, as if that's the major crisis facing Connecticut. The real problem is the regressive property tax and what it's doing to working folks, not the income tax bite into Greenwich's multimillionaire set.

But it was heartening to hear business leaders like Webster Bank CEO James Smith and MetroHartford Alliance President (and potential candidate for governor) Oz Griebel talk about more far-reaching change.

In between his warnings about "the wealthy" leaving the state (it's actually the young and the educated and not-so-wealthy who are getting the heck out) Smith made an important point:

"If you cannot invest in your future, you are not likely to have a bright one."

Griebel, an intriguing gubernatorial candidate, emphasized a point to me often lost in a state where population growth has been flat-lining for years.

"There's a mentality that assumes that we've been a fortunate state and it's going to continue," Griebel said. "The business community can't simply sit on the sidelines and our only answer can't be do no harm or don't raise taxes."

Griebel and the business community are talking. We should listen.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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