BRBC sees mixed news from Hartford

When this year’s legislative session closed Bridgeport Regional Business Council (BRBC) President and CEO Paul Timpanelli thought back on the detailed legislative agenda the BRBC had prepared prior to the opening gavel and attempted to characterize how many of his group’s goals had been realized.

“Well, it could have been worse,” he wryly noted.

The BRBC encompasses business organizations from Bridgeport, Stratford, Monroe, Easton, Fairfield and Trumbull, and is one of the region’s largest business organizations. Each year the BRBC crafts a pro-business agenda that it aggressively pursues in the state legislature.

“One of the most important roles that the Bridgeport Regional Business Council plays is to offer our members better access to elected officials,” Timpanelli explained. “Our voice on behalf of our members to those that make decisions in the halls of government has a significant impact on our ability to grow the region’s economy.”

Entering the 2014 legislative session, the business council selected some specific areas where it wanted local legislators to focus. Among those items were a balanced state budget, addressing long-term debt and unfunded liabilities, economic development, transportation, workforce development by closing the education achievement gap, regional cooperation and health care.

“Our ability to do business in the state depends on how well the legislature keeps its eye on controlling expenses, reducing debt and creating an environment for investment,” said Timpanelli. “Our collective message to legislative leadership continues to revolve around business taxes, worker’s compensation reform, health care costs, property tax reform, infrastructure investment, energy costs and availability and education reform.”

A long-time goal of the BRBC has been to increase regional cooperation among Fairfield County communities, and that concept was again a key component of the group’s legislative game plan. Such regional strength would particularly help the city of Bridgeport, which is burdened with a great deal of costs not shared by neighboring communities.

For example, the Park City boasts the area’s two biggest hospitals, Saint Vincent’s Medical Center and Bridgeport Hospital. When there is a snow storm, the City of Bridgeport is responsible for clearing the roadways to ensure access to the facilities, and this service is provided solely at Bridgeport’s expense.

The BRBC had several planks of its economic development program which it wanted the state legislature to address including reduction of regulations, the creation of an entrepreneurship investment fund, eliminating the electronic generator tax and preserving state investment in the region’s arts, cultural and tourism assets.

“Our goals are always to unify the state’s business interests around this agenda, which will ultimately reduce the cost of doing business in the state of Connecticut,” Timpanelli explained.

The BRBC also took up the cause for specific local issues, most notably delaying Bridgeport property tax revaluation for two years, an issue that Timpanelli testified in favor of in Hartford. The move paid off as the Malloy administration and the Bridgeport City Council signed off on the delay.

In the end, Timpanelli said a lot of legislative lobbying boils down to attempting to change the climate in state government to being one of pro-business.

“We want to make sure taxes aren’t too painful and that it is not excruciatingly painful to do business here,” he said. “People need to understand that some less government intervention is not necessarily painful. There is a lot of money in this state and we want to create opportunities for that money to be invested locally.”

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