Earlier this month, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin spoke at the University of Connecticut about his experiences serving as mayor and what his opinion of the city’s future was. Throughout much of Bronin’s tenure, the threat of financial crisis has loomed over Hartford, a situation that has been exacerbated by Connecticut’s state budget issues. The situation has grown so dire in Hartford that Bronin has stated he will not rule out filing for bankruptcy, an extraordinarily rare move for a major city.
There is not much debate that there are major problems with Connecticut’s finances, although the causes of these problems are contested. One analysis by The Atlantic indicated that the biggest problem is that people are leaving the state for major cities like New York. During the crime waves in urban metros in the 1970s, people left these cities for the suburbs, which had tremendous benefits for Connecticut. Now the reverse is happening, as educated young workers increasingly want to live in urban neighborhoods and feel safe doing so due to drastic reductions in crime rates. Another factor is that Americans are migrating to locations that are warmer and cheaper, which means gains for faraway metros in the south and west and losses for Connecticut.
Losing young and educated workers is a major problem for the state for several reasons. First, they won’t be paying taxes to the state, even though the state has invested money in them through public education and other services. Additionally, the loss of skilled workers is a primary reason that companies are leaving the state. Many people like to claim high taxes are the problem, but many corporations and people have moved to New York and Massachusetts, two states not exactly known for having low taxes.
Based on this analysis, Hartford may be one of the keys to rebuilding Connecticut. As Bronin mentioned during his talk, “I have always believed and continue to believe that [Hartford] has enormous potential and is a beautiful city with unbelievable assets,” in part due to his observation of thousands of UConn students at the new regional campus. Investing in Hartford and putting in an effort to make it the kind of vibrant city that people want to live in could pay off fantastically down the line. It is by no means an easy or quick fix but may be one of the best chances to create a state where people want to live and companies want to be.