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Businesses Concern About State’s Fiscal Health

Budget Deficits Affecting Companies’ Long-Term Decisions

HARTFORD — Some Connecticut businesses are worried about the state’s pending budget deficit and the impact on thier long-term decisions, according to a report by Connecticut Business & Industry Association in collaboration with the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce

According to the CBIA, businesses in northwestern Connecticut say virtually all businesses are concerned about state’s fiscal problems, and almost three-quarters are “extremely concerned.” In a post-recession economy, many believe the manufacturing and technology sectors will be critical to their region’s success.

Those are among the key findings of the March  2010 Survey of Northwest Connecticut Businesses. The survey examines the region’s business climate and economic factors that shape companies’ ability to compete and grow in Litchfield County.CBIA received 346 completed surveys from companies in the northwestern Connecticut region.

“While the survey may show some improvement in economic conditions, our biggest challenge will be to keep our state leaders focused on the key issue: fiscal responsibility, resulting in a major reduction in our uncontrolled state spending,” says Peter B. Kent, CEO and chairman, Bicron Electronics Co.in Canaan, and chairman of the CBIA Board of Directors.

While the cost of doing business in a high-cost state remains a top business concern, perceptions regarding which variables drive up business expenses have changed, CBIA states in a press release.

Two years ago, energy and health care costs were tied for the top spot among companies’ biggest cost concerns, each getting 31 percent of the vote. Today health care is the number one concern, with 71 percent calling it a significant burden. The price of electricity, oil, and gas is second, and labor costs and local property taxes were identified as the third most burdensome cost to doing business.

Other key findings include:

  • Over two-thirds of businesses (68 percent) surveyed give the national business climate a below-average rating and an even greater number (80 percent) say Connecticut’s business climate is below average.
  • More than half of northwestern Connecticut businesses (55 percent) anticipate reducing employee benefits in 2010 in response to current economic conditions. A significant number expect to reduce employee benefit compensation (41 percent) and/or the size of their workforce (39 percent).
  • Health care continues to be the most significant cost burden to operating a business in northwestern Connecticut. The vast majority (92 percent) believe tort reform can help to reduce malpractice costs, while 90 percent believe a greater focus on wellness and disease/injury prevention are the most effective strategies for controlling health care costs.
  • Maintaining and growing the region’s manufacturing sector is seen as the top economic priority for northwestern Connecticut, followed closely by regional collaboration to attract business investment.
  • Most businesses believe economic recovery in northwestern Connecticut will begin in earnest around 2012.

“The results of this year’s survey suggest a heightened interest in regional collaboration, greater emphasis on the area’s manufacturing sector, modest expectations for economic recovery in the near term, and significant concerns about taxes, health care costs and the state’s budget deficit,” says Peter M. Gioia, vice president and economist, CBIA. “All of these are factors influenced by legislators in Hartford.”

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Rell: State To End Fiscal Year With Surplus

HARTFORD — The state’s budget surplus increased by $76 million as it nears the end of its fiscal year, according to state officials.

Gov. Jodi Rell yesterday announced that her budget office is projecting that the state will finish this fiscal year with a budget surplus of $242.9 million, an increase of $76 million over last month’s estimates. The budget year ends June 30.

Rell said the state has seen three straight months of surplus and has added jobs iin each of the last five months.  That’s one reason, Rell said, to pay down the debt.

“Our state is now in a much stronger position to cut down borrowing,” Rell said. “If these projections hold, we will be able to apply more than $100 million of that surplus to pay down our securitization debt.”

The two-year budget, which the Governor signed on May 7, requires that the first $140 million in surplus be used as revenue to balance Fiscal Year 2011. Any amount of surplus over that will be used to reduce borrowing needs.

The Office of Policy and Management (OPM), the Governor’s budget office, said the latest figures reflect increased revenue of $58.9 million, an increase in projected agency lapses of $20.5 million and a $3.4 million adjustment of refunds for escheated property.

According to OPM the state sales tax estimate increased by $30 million, largely due to improving collection rate. It is the second straight month of growth in sales tax revenue.  Other changes include an improvement of $10 million in tax refunds that were lower than projected.  Collection of fees, licenses and permits also have improved by $12 million, according to a press release by the governor’s office.

Governor Rell also announced this week the creation of 700 new engineering jobs as a result of Electric Boat’s purchase of a former Pfizer facility in New London. The state is helping EB by providing a $15 million grant and other tax incentives to move forward with the deal. Just this week, the Connecticut became the first state in the nation to gain federal approval to transfer 45,000 low-income single adults from a state-funded health plan to Medicaid

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