Connecticut is considered one of the richest states in the country, yet headlines spread fear about the state of our poor economy. There are several key factors that have caused Connecticut’s financial problems, many of which were preventable. These include deteriorating infrastructure, population trends and burdensome financial obligations. Connecticut has been the thoroughfare for much of the northeast’s wealth and commerce for many years, but times have changed, and Connecticut is feeling the squeeze from its own economic downturn.
Infrastructure in any state is as important as the heart and lungs are to the human body. Interstate 95 runs the entire length of the eastern coastal United States and it also traverses the state of Connecticut, carrying countless amounts of commerce and trade. This highway has been neglected, along with many other roadways in our state.
After years of neglect, the state has been forced to pump millions of dollars into the repair of the outdated and congested transportation infrastructure. Connecticut is the corridor that connects two of the Northeast’s large business centers, Boston and New York City. What leaders in Hartford should have seen as a vital conduit into its state was left to the hard cold winters and high volumes of traffic that have caused vast material failures for travelers.
Population trends have also played a role in Connecticut’s troubles. The higher than average median age for the residents of Connecticut is influencing economics in several ways. Older residents are more likely to be retired and to be living on a fixed income. The restrictions associated with a lower, structured income make living in Connecticut difficult because of the ever increasing property, income and sales taxes. This has caused a great migration of Connecticut’s population to states where the tax environment is more stable, which may explain why over 300,000 more people have left the state than moved to it over the last 20 years.
The final and probably largest reason for Connecticut’s financial crisis is the huge, unfunded public-sector liabilities which Connecticut has continued to retain even though these numbers are impossible to maintain. Inflated entitlement programs and state responsibilities have placed an economic burden on the state that property, sales and income tax alone cannot fix
Connecticut is showing signs of economic turmoil. Some are blaming our current situation on big government spending, others point to income inequality and high taxes, while others blame slow growing employment rates and increasing retirement rates. So the question many politicians seem to be asking themselves is, do we increase our tax rates, again, and hope that the increased state revenues help offset the budget deficit, or do we cut state-spending and better manage our expenditures?
Like most debatable topics, it’s hard to find the right answer. What we need to do is compromise, set a budget plan and stick to it. Seriously looking at what we take in and what is going out is step one. We need to analyze our fixed and varying expenses, and take a closer look at what programs or services can be eliminated, outsourced or delegated to other organizations. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t seem like this should be so difficult, even if it means making hard decisions now. Short-term pain can lead to long-term economic gains.
Jammie Barnhill is a student at Goodwin College.