Let’s not waste the work of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth

The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, created during the drama-fraught 2017 budget battle to recommend bold action for jump starting Connecticut’s economy, fulfilled its mandate to produce a comprehensive plan by March 1 of this year. That doesn’t mean, however, that the study, like the dozens that have preceded it, won’t be consigned to the proverbial dust-covered shelf where its recommendations will forever be ignored. It would be a travesty if that occurred – again. Yet the likelihood of that happening is high.

Education funding inequity in Connecticut ‘among the worst I’ve seen’

I hope that state legislators will see that public charter school leaders want only to be a part of the solution for communities that we care deeply about. We have proven through our results that we are able to help students overcome the bigotry of low expectations. But in order for our schools to truly thrive, we need our leaders fund our students fairly, and allow more success stories like ours to lift up Connecticut’s children.

Time for Connecticut to act on Tesla

Automobile accidents are fourth leading cause of death in the world.  If these new technologies save a single injury or death, I say bring it on. I will gladly get ready for the future knowing that we will need to adapt to thrive and survive. But not everyone in our state is ready to embrace change.   For those of you who may not have been paying close attention, Tesla – the electric car manufacturer that has been leading the charge against climate change – is trying now for the fourth year to gain the ability to sell its vehicles and other products here in Connecticut.

Can Connecticut regain its former glory?

As the gubernatorial campaign heats up with dozens of candidates, we’re hearing plans and promises to restore Connecticut to its former glory. Yet none of the candidates so far give any evidence of careful study of our distress — nor any evidence of being familiar with the well developed field of municipal and state economics and fiscal policies. So a new governor is likely to be more of the same. Regaining our past glories will be a matter of decades.

No inclination to stop spending

There is spending….and there is saving. No where do I see an inclination to stop spending. The state needs to roll-back (God forbid) what we pay for things. And…just so everybody sees it…that doesn’t mean “business as usual ” for the union paid folks….and the purposeful cutting of everything else (no pain for the unions) so we all foot the cuts. It means everything/everybody suffers.

Better procurement practices could save Connecticut millions

We have completed an in-depth study of State procurement procedures and have found significant opportunities for improved efficiencies to save the state a significant amount of money. Deficiencies found included an appalling lack of competitive bidding on contracts (55 percent of all open contracts and 73 percent of personal services agreements did not have competition), a lax approach to the waiver process which is intended to allow exemption from seeking competition, and a lack of desire in securing knowledge transfer to state employees. Implementing the changes contained in our findings may save the state, and the taxpayers of Connecticut, an estimated $174 to $264 million annually.

Protect funding for school-based health centers

Under pressure to end a long running stalemate over the Connecticut state budget last year, lawmakers made a number of decisions that continued the destructive trend of unraveling the human services safety net. The continuation of recent years’ cuts to state subsidy funding for School Based Health Centers (SBHC) is among the most destructive of these reductions. With the new legislative session underway, we are hopeful lawmakers will find a way to halt this trend and reject the governor’s current proposal to reduce the budget further, by 5.84 percent, on top of the 2.14 percent cut to the SBHCs in last October’s approved budget.

Property tax levies are hurting nonprofit organizations and their clients

MARC Community Resources, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing residential and day services to individuals with intellectual, physical, and developmental disabilities throughout Middlesex County, recently received notification of denied tax exemption on several group homes, as well as two-day programs owned and operated in Cromwell. This tax forces community nonprofits like MARC, burdened by years of state budget cuts, to choose between costly litigation and paying taxes on property that is exempt by state law. Either of these options takes critical funding away from essential services for MARC’s program participants.

The ‘Students First’ plan is not transparent, clear, truthful or fair

The proposal for substantive change presented by the Connecticut Board of Regents to the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and College, (NEASC) called “Students First” offers many promises but little evidence and even less that is new except more budget cuts that diminish local campuses and the services they provide to their students and communities.

Connecticut must open pathways of opportunity for all

Last week the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth released a much-anticipated report that provides a business perspective on the causes and suggested responses necessary to cure our state’s economic woes. Overall, we support the report’s clear call for state investment to spur economic growth with a focus on education, workforce development, transportation, regional development, and core city revitalization. However, we fear the compressed time frame within which the Commission worked resulted in inconsistent — and in some cases unsound — recommendations, many of which are grounded in four fundamental errors. First, the vision and goals articulated at the outset of the report upon which the Commission bases its recommendations for “short-term, medium-term and long-term actions that will enable improved competitiveness and higher growth” omit any mention of the toxic impact of existing racial disparities and income and wealth inequity in the state.

Provide for better mental health care — on your state income tax form

It would be easy to miss a major victory in the cause of improving mental health services and awareness for Connecticut residents on the CT form 1040 this year. At the end of the form, there is a list of causes to which taxpayers can donate all or a portion of their state tax refund. It’s a who’s who of well-known causes: wildlife, breast cancer, military families, AIDS research, college funds, safety net services, organ transplants … and now mental health and substance use.

Paid family leave could potentially attract more people to Connecticut

Many members of the General Assembly have promised to address the state’s declining population through public policies that both keep people here and attract newcomers, but we have yet to see much in the way of concrete solutions that aren’t going to cost the state money we don’t have. But one solution that has the potential to improve the state’s economy, draw in and keep talent, all at little to no cost to the state government, is paid family and medical leave.