(WTNH) — The Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the state’s largest business organization, held its annual economic summit virtually on how to rebound from economic losses due to the pandemic.
Small and mid-sized companies with one to 100 employees make up the majority of the group in attendance. Governor Ned Lamont was asked about taxes and whether he would be increasing them to help pay for a projected $2 billion deficit in 2023 and beyond.
“To be blunt, I have no interest in raising taxes. No broad-based tax increases,” Gov. Lamont says.
That was the biggest takeaway for businesses. Governor Lamont reported to Connecticut Business and Industry Association members at the state’s fiscal house is stable.
He doesn’t depend on the federal government but is happy to have its help under a new Biden Administration. Repair of roads and bridges and creating a better faster transportation system is key to CBIA members. However, on the state’s special transportation fund, Lamont said, “is going broke.”
Lamont recently signed onto TCI – Transportation Climate Initiative. He claims it will raise $90-million for the special transportation fund. Opponents say it’s a gas tax hike at the worst time.
Governor Lamont admits the idea of charging a fee to fuel suppliers for permits to sell fuels that harm the environment is not popular but, “the greatest source of pollutants are transportation-related.”
Business leaders also heard about potential state relief. 1,100 restaurants and hospitality businesses have closed. Some say the state picked winners and losers in the pandemic by allowing big box stores to stay open while small mom and pop shops on Main Street were quarantined.
State Representative Tom O’Dea a republican from New Canaan says he believes the state should prop up the unemployment fund. “This pandemic is not your fault. I don’t believe you should have to bear the brunt of the unemployment fund deficit.”
And the governor announced he’s supportive of a new incentive to hire if an employer forgives student loans of its employee. “If they forgive a student loan, hire someone from Connecticut and stay on for three to five years we will credit you.”
Many in the workforce pivoted during the pandemic from espresso shots to COVID shots. Gov. Ned Lamont reported, “300 waiters and baristas, we made them into nurses.”
Governor Lamont said he watches COVID numbers and revenue numbers daily. He reported to the business community that by the end of February, they’ll be able to register for COVID vaccine appointments for their workforce. Consumer confidence CBIA says is key to a rebound.
The governor presents his budget address in February.