Norwich Bulletin -- Our View: Economic summit produced host of good ideas

Norwich Bulletin Editorial, Dec. 10, 2015

A broad coalition of leaders representing the interests of businesses, municipalities, labor groups, educators and social services this week released a set of high-level recommendations for state leaders aimed at improving Connecticut’s economy.

The proposals stem from a first-of-its-kind economic summit held in early November and involving more than 175 leaders from across the state and the spectrum of interest groups. It was organized by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

The conference produced a bevy of worthy ideas. This morning we’d like to highlight a couple of them, with the caveat that this is by no means a comprehensive review. You can see the full list at CCM’s website, ccm-ct.org. This newspaper has long advocated for greater government transparency and supported freedom of information.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the first proposal that caught our attention was: “Reform the process for the ‘implementer’ bill for the state budget to bring back greater transparency and avoid unvetted state law.”

The implementer bill approved in June, which ratified the state’s 2015-17 budget, also contained provisions that never went through the public hearing process or received ordinary legislative scrutiny. Meant to do nothing but codify the negotiated budget, the implementer instead becomes “a Christmas tree of sorts,” as state Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, put it in June.

This year’s 686-page bill contained too many such rider provisions to succinctly summarize. (The Connecticut Mirror did a deep dive in the summer.) It suffices to say that the practice is a direct affront to the public trust that dilutes transparency and accountability.

Another recommendation that caught our eye was a call to adjust the Education Cost Sharing grant program — the state’s main school funding channel for cities and towns — to “create a more transparent and equitable funding formula.”

As we reported in September, no fewer than 15 Eastern Connecticut municipalities are receiving less than 100 percent of the ECS dollar amount yielded by the state’s own formula. For Norwich — which, granted, does receive state support through other grant programs — the shortage is $10 million. These are just two examples among 26 proposals coming from the summit.

We encourage lawmakers to take them all seriously.

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