Governor Malloy recently gave his annual budget address to the General Assembly, the first step in the months-long legislative budgeting process. As in past years, the state still faces fiscal challenges as a result of the slow national recovery from the global recession, but these challenges are not as severe as they were when the governor introduced his last biennial budget in 2011.

Now it is time to place more of a focus on Connecticut's future. While it didn't claim many headlines, much of the governor's proposed budget is a blueprint for economic growth over the next 20 years.

For too long, Connecticut did very little to encourage new companies and emerging industries to settle or start-up within our borders. Our growing bioscience sector is one example of a recent exception to that trend, and I am encouraged to see the governor propose ongoing support for this industry and the high-value jobs it will produce.

To provide the skilled workforce such companies will need, the Next Generation UConn project will expand enrollment at our state's flagship university, hire additional faculty and construct new facilities with a renewed focus on the important fields of science, technology, engineering and math. At the new UConn Tech-Park, students and professors will work hand-in-hand with private industry researchers and entrepreneurs to bring new ideas from academic concept to market. These efforts will help to attract an expected $270 million in research dollars and $527 million in business activity to Connecticut.

Of course, our state's existing businesses still need help, especially small companies, and so I am pleased to see the governor propose continued support for low-interest loans to small businesses. This will help hundreds of Connecticut's employers to create and retain more jobs.

I am also encouraged by some of the local education funding proposals. Locally, Norwalk could receive a substantial increase in Education Cost Sharing Funds, perhaps as much as 32 percent. This could provide much-needed additional support to our city and its schoolchildren. The governor also proposed a new Office of Early Childhood, which would bring a more coordinated approach to early childhood education and other services for infants to children 5 years old.

Much of the press coverage following the governor's budget speech has focused on his proposals concerning Payment in Lieu of Taxes to municipalities, and the reduction in the car tax. These ideas are certainly worthy of debate, but we must also be mindful of their potential impact on municipal governments, and effect that might have on local property taxes.

Though the governor's proposal is only a first draft of what might finally be enacted, it is a good place to start. A good budget must stabilize the state's finances and put our economy on the path toward long-term growth. Over the next few months, many public hearings and deliberative meetings will be held. I encourage everyone to weigh in on this process, and never hesitate to let me hear your thoughts at

State Sen. Bob Duff represents the 25th district which includes parts of Darien and Norwalk.

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