Let’s not reinvent the budget wheel, we already have a good one

Gov.-elect Ned Lamont will take office in January and on February 6, about a month into his tenure, will present his budget proposal to the legislature and to the people of Connecticut.  Except for a few carefully crafted messages during the campaign he didn’t tell us how he intends to address the state’s mounting financial issues, so we have few hints about what he will propose.  He is, though, assembling a transition team to help him in this endeavor, getting input from current Gov. Dannel Malloy, and has invited people from all across the political spectrum to advance ideas.  In short, he appears to be following in the noble tradition of reinventing the wheel.

Prioritize children and families; defend the Office of Early Childhood

Faced with a projected two-year budget deficit of over $4.6 billion, you and your administration will soon be confronted with many difficult choices. Amidst these challenging decisions, and with an eye toward the future of Connecticut, we offer you one easy answer. To ensure that young children and their families can thrive while contributing to the shared prosperity of our state, preserve the independence, momentum, and power of the Office of Early Childhood.

Our next governor faces ‘mission impossible’

Each of the major party gubernatorial candidates have discussed the usual litany of expected issues facing Connecticut: budget deficits, high taxes, unfunded pension liabilities, high salaries/benefits of state and municipal workers, depressed cities, exodus, lack of jobs, disadvantaged educational funding, lack of school funding in the inner cities, health care, needed reforms in provision of social services to our most needy residents and so on. But in casting a broad net of promised reforms/action steps, none of the candidates have zeroed in the “mission critical” actions to help restore our state’s economy.

‘Tax talk:’ And why it might be misleading our votes

In many ways, Connecticut’s gubernatorial race has boiled down to a referendum on taxes. Many residents feel they can’t spare another cent on taxes, especially when it doesn’t seem like it ‘comes back’ to them in any substantial way. We want to ‘save money.’ But how? ‘Tax talk,’ as I like to call it, is often convoluted at best. One candidate will say he would ‘cut taxes’ and argue that his opponent would ‘raise’ them. But then his opponent will say the very opposite. Voters are left scrambling to make sense out of what often feels like an overwhelming, convoluted heap of conflicting claims. In this chaos, it’s all too easy for us to end up voting against our own interests.

Pension debt proposals that exacerbate the problem

Two candidates compete against each other for office in one of Connecticut’s electoral districts.  Each candidate seeks to distinguish himself by offering a purportedly creative solution to the problem of Connecticut’s massive and growing debt for public employee pensions. Each deserves credit for an attempt to move beyond a naked demand that taxpayers pay more and receive less, but taxpayers should be informed about the potential pitfalls of each proposal, and should be aware that neither candidate is willing to address the fundamental problems creating and increasing the debt arising from Connecticut’s public employee pensions. 

Voters need to test candidates on how their policies will support seniors

In the coming weeks, our state’s elected leaders – from governor to senators and representatives – must face the voters and win their support in the November elections. There are many important issues confronting our state, including negative economic growth, huge debt in our state employees’ and teachers’ pension funds, aging infrastructure, high taxes at both state and local levels, and diminishing state financial support of our towns. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that to make Connecticut’s recovery a reality, we also need to keep our seniors from moving away.

We have income tax fever because the real issues are boring

I have to admit that I am confused by this year’s election season income tax fever in Connecticut. I have heard over and over how 2018 is the moment where jobs and economic growth will be the major concern. So my question is: why are we constantly talking about the income tax? What does the income tax have to do with creating jobs? I conducted my own very unscientific research to find companies that would expand or create new jobs and facilities in Connecticut only if the state cut the income tax. I could not find one.

The Connecticut Mirror’s shallow and biased analysis

I have read numerous articles by the Connecticut Mirror that routinely lay the blame for our unfunded health and retirement benefits on under-saving for these plans for decades. While this is true, it ignores the fact that the unions were complicit in this under-funding and other significant contributing factors. State pension and healthcare agreements are rife with abuse. 

What happened in Kansas is a cautionary tale for Connecticut

Imagine, if you will, a state that was unable to draw itself out of the deep recession of 2008. Neighboring states fared better and were chugging along at a nice clip. Talking about Connecticut? Well, it could be, but, actually the state I was referring to is Kansas. There is a reason why some candidates for governor here talk about Kansas.

S.O.S. Save Connecticut from insolvency

It’s time we all acknowledge Connecticut’s grievous financial condition. It is not simply a matter of the legislature needing to confront budget deficits of $2 billion in 2019 and $2.6 billion in 2020. No – there is a far bigger problem; Connecticut is insolvent. Its debts are $70 billion bigger than its assets. This equates to $53,400 per taxpayer or $19,500 for each and every resident of the Nutmeg State.

What price do Connecticut residents pay for state and local government?

Conventional wisdom is that the total price charged by the state and its local governments in Connecticut is one of the most burdensome in the country. A common measure upon which this conclusion is based is the total amount we residents pay in state and local taxes, relative to our aggregate personal income, i.e., our capacity to pay.  On this basis, the Tax Foundation tells us that Connecticut ranks either first or second highest in the nation, depending on which of two analytic models it uses. However, taxes are not the only price paid to governments. Residents also pay a number of fees and other charges, separate and distinct from taxes.

A Trump Administration progress report

Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration I thought that the true test of the Trump administration will be on how much it could deliver. If President Trump could just deliver on a third of his promises, it would be a successful presidency. Batting .333 is good in any league. I hoped that commentators would begin to focus on what the Trump administration actually does, and not what Donald Trump had done in his past or what they fear he will do in the future. Little did I realize how hard it would be to find out what the Trump administration has actually accomplished.