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Is Connecticut to Blame for Hartford's Looming Bankruptcy?

by Liz Farmer | September 20, 2017

The state's way of governing may be causing some of its capital city's financial problems.

As Connecticut lawmakers debate the best way to close a $3.5 billion shortfall over the next two years, its capital city is having a fiscal crisis of its own, and it highlights how the state's parochial way of governing hurts big cities.

Connecticut has long been touted for its wealthy suburbs. The state has one of the highest median incomes in the country. But the departure in recent years of businesses such as Aetna and General Electric to New York City and Boston, respectively, have sent a signal that times are changing: Connecticut doesn't have the vibrant city life that many companies are looking for these days.

The state's small-town mindset was recently on full display when Gov. Dannel Malloy appealed to Amazon to locate its second headquarters there. In his pitch, the governor didn't cite Hartford or New Haven -- two of the state's biggest cities -- as a selling point, but rather the state's proximity to Boston and New York City.

That snub was acutely felt by Hartford, which is now on the precipice of bankruptcy. "I think one of the reasons Connecticut has been slower to recover from the Great Recession is that we long ago missed the boat and failed to recognize the role that cities play in economic development today," says Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. "If we want to position Connecticut to be competitive, we need to position our cities to be competitive."

Tim Holler