I used to be known for fighting Lowell Weicker’s state income tax, that grand error that set us on our road to economic ruin. The sight of the crowd at the Axe the Tax rally —65,000 citizens standing up for common sense– was the defining vision of my political life. Powerfully as the people responded, we lost that battle. I believed then as I do now, that taxes must not be raised, for government has grown far too large, expensive, and intrusive. Throughout my time in the Senate I have opposed taxes absolutely, yet it’s not for that I am best known.
We — as in everyone who lives and works in our state — have a problem. We will never, ever, be able to generate enough revenue to cover the cash demanded by our unfunded union liabilities. It doesn’t make a difference how we got here. Pointing fingers and demonizing each other does nothing. It’s our fault; we are here and it is up to us to fix it.
Connecticut has many assets that can help us grow our economy, create jobs, and address our serious fiscal challenges. But one significant competitive hurdle that must be overcome is our distinction as the most costly energy state in the country. New England has long been at an economic disadvantage for energy costs, largely due to the distance from where traditional energy fuels were harvested and processed. This meant we paid the costs associated with constructing and maintaining several thousands of miles of pipeline infrastructure and other costs associated with transporting fuels to our region.
According to a new national study, Americans overwhelmingly support teaching our children about global warming – in all 50 states, including Connecticut – and including Republican and Democratic strongholds. Despite this strong public support for climate education, however, there have been recent debates in several state legislatures about whether to include climate change in K-12 science education.
Connecticut faces an ongoing budget crisis and somehow the community colleges have become the scapegoat. Why is the sector of public higher education that serves the highest number of minority students, the most economically disadvantaged and has a majority female student population under attack?
Upon discovering that three Biblical excerpts were included in my university’s required “Literature Humanities” seminar, I was shocked. After dropping out of my Confraternity of Christian Doctrine education at a young age, my exposure to the Bible had been nonexistent. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is the liberal social norm that dominates in Connecticut when it comes to religious beliefs. Consistent with that norm, my public high school education avoided Biblical references. Whenever students mentioned the Bible, my teachers uncomfortably shuffled their feet, awkwardly looked to the side, and quickly changed the subject. Consequently, participating in classroom Bible analysis was an enlightening culture shock.
With the political conventions to select gubernatorial candidates for the November elections coming up in the next few weeks, I would like to offer some observations. Regardless of party, these apply to all candidates. First, we as the general public know the lobbyists and legislators under the gold dome are more interested in their personal benefit and aggrandizement than in improving the lives of 3.5 million Connecticut residents. If they were interested in us, they would have a 401(k) pension instead of the current defined benefit pension, with mileage and years of service included. Most of the news is inside baseball antics that do not change the price of rice (taxes or services either).
Last week we learned that state funds for critical programs that serve high-risk youth and families was “swept” as “an inadvertent casualty” of the transfer of juvenile justice services and its funds from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to the Court Support Services Division (CSSD), a branch of the Department of Justice. The transfer resulted in a $7 million shortfall for DCF-funded behavioral health services. Letters have been sent to providers informing them funding for these programs will be eliminated as of June 30, 2018. And the high-risk children are those with substance use, mental health, and behavioral problems severe enough to land them in juvenile court and in jeopardy of out-of-home placement. One hundred kids and their families, in one Waterbury program alone, are to be terminated from services.
On Saturday, April 28, I attended the ceremony unveiling a monument in New Britain for the Borinqueneers – the Puerto Rican Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army. The audience members were dressed up for the occasion holding Puerto Rican flags, veterans were in full uniform, and it was a festive environment full of pride. It was a culmination of six years of hard work to find a location, seek state funding and obtain city support to commemorate a unit that became a national icon in Puerto Rico and among Puerto Ricans on the mainland for their heroic combat role, especially during the Korean war.
Nationwide we are celebrating National Charter Schools Week, and noting how far the charter movement has come since the passage of the first charter law in 1991. But locally we are on the cusp of celebrating something equally as important, with the potential to change lives right here in our proverbial backyard. For the first time in four years, two new, high-quality charter options are being proposed to serve kids in our state: Danbury Prospect Charter School and Norwalk Charter School for Excellence. These would be the first new charter schools to open in Connecticut since 2014.
An unpleasant surprise for Connecticut ratepayers that could cost billions of dollars is just around the corner, but the good news is that we still have a chance to stop it. What’s the surprise? Another round of huge rate increases is on the horizon from Eversource to build a new $6.6 billion fracked gas pipeline that our state doesn’t need. We have a chance to stop these rate hikes by supporting House Amendment #4118.
The immigrants gathered at the border waiting to get into the United States face an uphill battle. They claim that they are subjected to brutality by gangs and cannot live in that environment any longer. Others claim that there is no credible proof (more than hearsay) that these conditions exist. We also don’t know who, among these people are actually fleeing legitimate oppression and danger, those who want to gain access to America for the purpose of simply creating a better life for themselves, or, how many wish to gain access for illegal purposes. Regardless of which camp they may fall into, here they are, and we’re a compassionate country. This proposal is simple, and, it can eliminate the need for a border wall.