Connecticut residents have grown weary of budgets that both cut services and increase taxes — understandably so. It’s time to bring the oppressive cycle of tax increases, followed by revenue shortfalls, service cuts, and yet more tax increases to an end. But it can only happen if there are structural changes to the way our state does business. Connecticut’s leaders — at both the state and local levels — must work together to prune and reshape a legal and regulatory thicket that is choking Connecticut’s growth, and putting the cost of state government on a steep upward trajectory.
The state budget is still an open book. It is not hard to see that Connecticut has serious unresolved fiscal challenges, but it is also apparent that our state has fundamental advantages and strong economic development tools at its disposal to promote job creation and infrastructure investment. One such tool is the Connecticut Green Bank.
A tentative deal has been reached by the Democratic and Republican leadership in Connecticut’s unresolved budget crisis. According to published reports, there will be no concessions by the state workers’ unions, miniscule cuts to the University of Connecticut and a bail out of the bankrupt city of Hartford. In return, teachers will have to pay one percent more of their salary to their pensions, there will be no sales tax increase and the car tax will be eliminated.
Connecticut is known for many “firsts” and “onlys.” We can be proud of many of them. The first telephone book, the first hamburger and the only steam-powered Cider Mill in the U.S. just to name a few. But right now, we’re leading the nation in something else, and it’s not good. Worse, it’s to the detriment of our children. After a stalemate of more than 100 days, we are the only state in the nation without a budget. And for the children of Brass City Charter School in Waterbury, specifically the children we work for every day, this isn’t just unfair — it’s unacceptable.
As student debt mounts nationally, with the $1.4 trillion in U.S. student loans now surpassing credit card debt, it’s critical to ensure Connecticut parents and students have smart college financing options. A little-known mechanism — tax-exempt Qualified Student Loan Bonds — provides Connecticut families an important pathway to finance their college dreams.
But as Congressional leaders tackle tax reform this fall, that tool could be on the chopping block.
At this time of fiscal hardship in the state, districts are looking for ways to save money, such as by closing schools, sharing services and, sometimes, consolidating districts. As they are looking for more efficiency with at least continued effectiveness in carrying out their mission, they should keep an eye on their district’s enrollment projections.
This year’s complicated and difficult process to develop a state budget has inflicted disproportionate injury on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. While the protracted negotiations continue, young graduates from our public schools have been forced to sit at home in state-imposed isolation, as there is no funding for the critical and longstanding Employment and Day Services program. As difficult as this has been, there is some reason for hope.
During my nearly 40-year association with higher education, I have made the same equity case about the value of community colleges. Their history is rooted in the public good. Their mission embraces the community. Their vision points to a stronger future. Their core values demand respect. They are the embodiment of the Civil Rights Movement. They are splendid institutions.
In its 92 years, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has been a steady resource throughout the Greater Hartford region despite the rise and fall of the economy. We have been through uncertain times before: the Great Depression… the oil crisis of the 70s and the recession that followed… the dot com bubble burst of 2001, and the 2008 Great Recession. While this fiscal uncertainty is not new, our response must be. It cannot be business as usual.
On Thursday, Sept. 28, the Connecticut Supreme Court heard arguments in a landmark education case, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, (“CCJEF”). It is no hyperbole to say that CCJEF has the potential to be the Connecticut equivalent of Brown v. Board of Education. As in Brown, the CCJEF trial court found the disparities in Connecticut’s public education system to be too vast to ignore. In Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and other urban centers across the state, fewer than one in three children is on track to be college and career ready, “nearly 1 in 3 students … can’t read even at basic levels,” and many high-school graduates are “functionally illiterate.”
Yet there is no question Connecticut’s public schools can do better
The news reports about the proposals for the higher education budget for Connecticut, now vetoed, still seem to resemble a horror movie plot more than a plan for Connecticut’s future. This may seem a bit overstated, but I don’t think this budget is good for Connecticut’s future.
The Republican budget passed by the legislature had some terrible things in it: the elimination of the Citizens Election Program and the absorption of commissions that speak for the less fortunate into larger departments. One of the worst parts of the budget is the micromanaging of the University of Connecticut.