State Leaders Must Act to Create More Sustainable, Equitable and Inclusive Economic Growth

Published by The Connecticut Mirror on April 26, 2018

Whatever your opinion on the recommendations set forth in the recently released report from the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, the alternative being the status quo, is demonstrably worse. The report confirms well-known facts about the structural issues that threaten the vitality of our state and makes a compelling case for a comprehensive, long view approach to addressing them. The report also makes clear that there is no viable way forward without shared sacrifice. No stakeholder or interest group is immune from the excruciatingly difficult decisions required to achieve the greater good of fiscal stability and inclusive economic growth. The next step must be discussion and debate that leads to timely action. This analysis, however, can no longer result in paralysis. Leaders must act decisively to enact an approach – even an imperfect one – guided by a commitment to sustainable, equitable and inclusive economic growth.

As community foundations, we partner with donors, nonprofits, business, community leaders and government to strengthen and sustain Connecticut communities now and into the future. Together, we serve cities and towns that comprise more than 75 percent of Connecticut’s population. We know that Connecticut’s needs and growth opportunities are seen most pointedly in our cities and that fiscal stability can only come through economic growth. For this reason, we are working together to create and advance an urban opportunity agenda for residents in the cities that we serve.

Guided by shared core values of equity and inclusion, we are committed to a Connecticut where all residents have an opportunity to thrive and contribute to the economic growth of the state. Only with a growing economy will our communities have the public resources necessary to support needed services. Only with a growing economy will our communities have the new private wealth that will translate to the next generation of philanthropy. Only through economic growth will Connecticut become, once again, a place of opportunity for all. While philanthropy alone cannot solve the state fiscal crisis, it can be a key partner in helping to drive public policy change. Some may perceive that public policy engagement requires political partisanship. It does not. Policy engagement can support research and convening, activities familiar and well-suited to community foundations.

In the coming months, we will work both together and independently to keep the Commission’s report at the center of public conversation and support responsive action. We will share insights from our investments, support deeper analysis of proposed approaches to understand the potential impact, create opportunities to further leverage our dollars and bring local and regional perspectives on challenges and solutions to advance desired change.

We will engage in other ways too. We will work with nonprofits, residents and community leaders to support civic engagement that informs viable strategies and holds policymakers accountable for actions that fall short of transparent, sustainable and equitable solutions. We will insist that any plan for economic growth address the deeply troubling income and racial disparities that have long characterized our state and incorporate the voices of those who will be most affected. As the gubernatorial election nears, we will convene candidates to understand how they would address the state’s challenges, including offering clear alternatives to those proposals with which they disagree.

The Commission focused on ways to attract and retain new talent to Connecticut, but we cannot wait to bring new people and new business to the state. We are committed to working with policymakers and business leaders to improve opportunity for the people who already live and work in Connecticut as critical drivers of the state's economic growth and competitiveness. The quality of life for all Connecticut residents is under siege, and we must act now. We embrace the urgency to work in new ways together as philanthropy, and alongside business and community leaders, to achieve immediate, comprehensive and sustainable change. There is no other way.

Jay Williams, President, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
Juanita T. James, President & CEO, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation
William W. Ginsberg, President t& CEO, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
Maryam Elahi, President & CEO, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut

Read the Report