In Gov. M. Jodi Rell's final state of the state address, she is focusing on the state's difficult times and huge deficit, the need for jobs and to cut services.
Rell said not every service or program is essential and that higher taxes will not solve the state's problems.
“We need to acknowledge that higher taxes are not the solution to our problems,” she said. “It’s common sense: the taxes we already have on our books are not bringing in the revenue we thought they would, so why would new and higher taxes be the answer?? They’re not.”
“The stark reality of our struggles is all too real,” RelL said. “Housing prices are down; unemployment is up. The value of savings and retirement accounts are down; mortgage foreclosures are up. The amount of debt at all levels of government is up.”
TO READ GOVERNOR RELL'S ENTIRE STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS, CLICK HERE.
Rell called for a variety of proposals to boost the state's economy and create jobs, including a job creation tax credit and easing of credit restrcitions for small businesses.
"Today I am announcing new proposals that will allow us to spur job creation now and chart a course of economic vitality and growth for years to come, " Rell added.
Rell said the most critical problem facing businesses today, particularly the small and medium businesses, is credit availability. She said Employers need loans and financing to buy equipment and inventory, expand space or just to meet daily cash flow demands.
"As we all know the credit crunch has crippled a great many employers. Financing that was readily available in years past is difficult, if not impossible, to find, " Rell told the legislature.
Rell called for the creation of the new Connecticut Credit Consortium - a $500 million dollar partnership between the state --and Connecticut banks to substantially boost credit availability. It would modify the used job creation tax credit so it benefits small businesses with 25 or fewer employees.
Rell proposed canceling $100 million in old bond authorizations and to use the funds for the consortium, and leveraging at least $400 million dollars from banks all across our state.
“That’s $500 million that will immediately be put to work to help businesses save and create jobs. And here’s one key provision: $25 million of the state’s $100 million will be targeted strictly for small businesses for micro or small loans."
One issue Rell brought back in the address was to expand the sales tax exemption to include machines, equipment, tools, materials, supplies and fuels used in the renewable energy and green technology.
“This is in addition to the work of my Electric Vehicle Council that is preparing the way for green business opportunities for the arrival of zero-emission, electric vehicles,” she said.
Another critical area to address is the state's workforce. Rell urged lawmakers to help keep the state's best and brightest workers in Connecticut. She proposed a loan forgiveness program to encourage college students to stay here after they graduate -- specifically a $2,500 a year credit for each of the four years they attend college.
Rell also warned that things will be difficult in the future, so she wants to make moved to make state government more affordable.
"The Rainy Day Fund will be empty. Federal stimulus grants will be gone. All our outside funds will have been swept. And yet employee, insurance, heating, fuel and other costs will continue to increase appreciably. Quite frankly, the dire circumstances we are facing today will pale in comparison to the challenges that will face the next Governor, the next Legislature," she said.
Among the other highlights of Rell's address: the unfunded employee pension liabilities and unfunded retiree health care costs -- declaring the price tag for this rising debt is nearly $40 million.
The governor also called for the creation of 24-member commission to examine government cost and waste.
Rell ended her final address on a positive note, highlighting “375 years of incredible history, with remarkable people and achievements.“
“I foresee a bright future for our state, but we must first meet the many challenges of today,” she said. “We will continue to lead the nation in commerce, science, education, culture and so much more.”
She urged lawmakers to focus on the task at hand -- rebuilding the economy.
“We will create jobs. And we will put our state back on firm financial footing if we work hard and confront our problems with courage and common sense,” she said. “Our foundations are strong, our commitment resolute. The State of our State is challenged but hopeful. Extraordinary times call upon us to do our best. To accept challenges and triumph over them. And triumph we shall, if we work together, with respect and civility.”
Rell is not seeking re-election, and several of the dozen plus people who want her job were at the address.
One person who has not confirmed that he will run for office is former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. He has said he is considering a run, but is weighing personal and professional factors.
Shays was honored by the state Senate on Wednesday before Rell's address.