“The US economy is creating new millionaires at an astonishing rate… more than five times the growth rate of the population” and Connecticut is at the forefront of this trend. Since 2004 the number of state tax filiers reporting annual income over one million has grown by over 3,000 and we have more billionaires than ever. Encouraging as this may seem, all the new wealth has not reversed a decade of economic contraction. Higher paying manufacturing jobs have been outsourced, replaced by jobs paying much less and this exchange has taken its toll. Connecticut has a smaller economy today than it did in 2004.
In 2014, the Department of Revenue Services released a study showing how much Connecticut residents contribute in taxes. The information is illuminating. Earners of $75,000 or less paid at least 14 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Earners of $2 million or more paid at most 6.5 percent. The reason for this inequity? Connecticut relies more heavily on property and sales taxes than other states -– two regressive taxes that hit lower income earners significantly harder than higher income earners.
Connecticut’s economy has been stagnant now for two decades. Employment remains at 2000 levels and a major exodus of jobs, firms and residents is underway. How can this have occurred for the nation’s wealthiest state sandwiched between the two modern high-tech industrial powerhouses of Boston and New York City?
I am a proud union member from a union family, and a lifetime member of the United Auto Workers union. In the mid- to late 80s I remember walking picket lines with my father and the union workers at Colt Firearms as they endured one of the longest strikes in Connecticut history. Today we are still reaping the benefits of the sacrifices that were made by so many union members willing to stand together united for a just cause.
In the last minutes of the 2018 legislative session, we got a state budget. Legislators showed commitment and determination in reaching a bi-partisan agreement. The dust hasn’t cleared yet — there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding what got funded and what didn’t. It is all too evident, however, that even dust-settling won’t clear away a fundamental reality. Children have fallen through system cracks due to a failure to plan and budget appropriately to meet the behavioral health needs of children in and at risk for being in the juvenile justice system.
Over the past few months, multiple situations have come to light unveiling a pattern of failures at UConn Health that have severely damaged the public’s trust in your institution. We have seen blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars, failure to implement basic oversight, and apparent disregard for your core responsibilities to the state and people of Connecticut. I am writing today to ask UConn Health to commit to rebuilding public trust.
Should the state seize money belonging to Girl Scouts, without their knowledge, and give it to politicians to fund their campaigns? What about money from animal shelters, volunteer fire departments, the Red Cross, or other charities? How about all of those plus countless businesses and individuals — and maybe you? That’s happening and it’s disgraceful.
Now since the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision has struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which banned sports betting nationwide except for Nevada, states across the nation are scrambling to grab onto this judicial breakthrough by seeking to legalize sports gambling. However, we cannot be too hasty in this endeavor before proper legal statutes are established to regulate the proper way to ‘play the game.’ Aside from Nevada’s policy implementation, Connecticut lawmakers would have to quickly tend to a series of simple but tedious legal disputes.
“Still revolutionary?” Hardly! Connecticut isn’t the least bit revolutionary. But it could be if we stopped preventing good people with good ideas from running for office by making it impossible for them to support their families. There are many different things that we could be doing, but none of it will get done because our legislature is too insulated. There are no new ideas because there are no new people. Why? State legislators in Connecticut only earn $28,000 per year. In one of the most expensive places to live in this country our legislators earn the equivalent of around $13.50 an hour, and that’s only if you pretend they only work 40 hour work weeks.
Gov. Dannel Malloy is leaving office as our state’s most unpopular governor in decades having secured Connecticut’s reputation as the most mismanaged state in the nation. For a well regarded mayor and former public prosecutor from our only prosperous city, it is a surprising outcome. What are the lessons here?
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.