An opportunity to do right by Hartford students

As a Hartford teacher of 28 years, I’ve seen how inequitable state funding deprives our students of true educational opportunity. Shrinking budgets year after year mean students have few, if any, advanced courses to choose from, and elective courses like art and music, designed to catalyze students’ creativity and ingenuity, are often entirely eliminated.

Society for the Avoidance of the Ubiquitous ‘T-word’

My brother-in-law, Jay, has heard enough and doesn’t want to hear another word, one in particular. No more conversations dominated by the “T-word.” Ever!
Blather on about the weather, the Olympics, the price tea in China, my recent colonoscopy, Jay pleads with me —anything but the T-word.
Do I really have to spell it out for you?

Connecticut judge not fit for promotion

If public figures with an animus against the Catholic Church were driven out of public life, Connecticut’s Andrew McDonald would not be sitting on the Connecticut Supreme Court today. That he has been nominated by Gov. Dannel Malloy to be Chief Justice makes this story all the more surreal.

Saying no to a tax break for the rich in Connecticut

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget gives a tax break to the rich.
Here’s what it is:
He advocates extending the 529 college savings plans, called CHET (Connecticut Higher Education Trust), to savings plans that can be used for K-12 education as well as college. As reported in the well-researched and comprehensive article in The CT Mirror by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas on Jan. 16, the state currently allows parents to avoid paying state income taxes each year on up to $10,000 that they put into a college savings account. In addition, they don’t have to pay taxes on the earned income when the money is withdrawn to pay for college.

The Hudson River tunnels should have been done by now

It should have been done by now. 2018 was the expected completion date of the new railroad tunnels under the Hudson River first proposed in 2009.  At the time the $9 billion project was the biggest infrastructure project in the country.  Now it’s just a footnote to history. Why do rail tunnels from New York’s Penn Station to New Jersey matter to us here in Connecticut?  Because they are the weakest but most crucial link in the northeast corridor, the $50 billion heart of the US economy.  Imagine trying to get to Philadelphia or Washington without Amtrak running through our state, into those tunnels and to points south.

On the Parkland massacre: ‘Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We must do something now’

It is with profound sorrow and empathy that we try to understand and come to terms with the massacre that occurred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day of all days. It is unthinkable that, once again, children and adults were shot and killed at a school, with at least 17 people dead and more wounded. We mourn for the victims and the survivors and reach out to all of their families who will be forever changed by this brutal act of violence.

A prescription for a better health care system for Bezos, Buffett and Dimon

As a primary care physician who’s worked in the trenches for 31 years, I’d like to offer some advice to Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon as they prepare to tackle the health care system. If you want to improve health, increase access and lower the cost of health care, you need to emphasize primary care at all levels of the system: individual patients, patient populations, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and hospital systems.

To put this into perspective, consider the cost of American health care compared to outcomes. In 2015, the United States spent almost three times the amount on health care as countries with comparable incomes. This data was reported by the Organization for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), a group of 35 countries with advanced economies that works to promote economic development.

Another budget, another (likely) tormented struggle to the finish line.

Much has been said and written about the state of nonprofits in Connecticut and the impact on services being provided to many of our must vulnerable citizens. Nonprofits providing human service exist to partner with government – the one of the people and by the people and for the people– to look out for those most in need, helping government and our society to fulfill one of its most basic obligations. I know we can parse around the edges about what being “in need” means. Some have more restrictive definitions than others, but in the end it’s our collective sense of common humanity that brings most of us together in solidarity and collaboration to be there for folks who, often through no fault of their own, turn to nonprofits for help.

Regional governance: Not an option, but a necessity

The issue of regional cooperation, regionalism, regional governance is gradually rising from a faint whisper to an almost audible level of tone in the Land of Steady Habits where the myth of municipal home rule reigns supreme.  I have been involved with issues of regional cooperation for close to 30 years in various capacities. I have observed the concept progressing in symbolic or fragmented ways, a little here, a little there; but not in the systemic ways that can achieve a more dynamic economy, and overcome the many constraints we now experience in our current mode of state/municipal governance

Sovereign immunity and Connecticut’s pension obligations

For those who have been following its economic and tax fortunes, Connecticut has been lagging behind other states and has a millstone of unfunded pension liabilities around its neck. Depending on whom you ask, the unfunded pension liabilities for the State Employee Retirement System and the Teacher’s Retirement Fund are $39 billion, if government standards are applied, they are in excess of $100 billion if private sector accounting standards are applied. While Connecticut has contributed more to these pensions in the last few years, Connecticut at the same time has been losing population; seen more capital and high earners leave the state than enter the state; and the budget shortfalls continue unabated.