The new state budget is not finalized, yet the effect of taxing and underfunding hospitals is already being felt in the starkest terms: people are losing access to care, services, and jobs. This past week alone saw the announcements of clinic closings and hundreds of layoffs. If legislators do not restore much-needed funding to hospitals in the special session during the last week of June, hospitals will have to make additional painful choices. We can’t let this happen.
Today’s state budget crisis is as structurally deep as the Grand Canyon. I have watched this closely since 1991. It is the result of financial negligence in every budget adopted over two decades. It is insane that our budget has increased 255 percent since 1991. And we haven’t even paid all our bills along the way. To have $65 billion in unfunded liabilities, an amazing three and a half times our annual budget, and an increase of outstanding bonded debt from $9 billion to $21 billion since 1991, is criminal in my mind. And believe me folks, this is just getting started.
Connecticut’s funding system for all public schools is fundamentally broken. This dysfunction causes the incessant fighting over the state budget each year. Connecticut needs a funding solution for every school – charter, district, magnet, and the rest – that ensures that all students have the resources they need to learn.
General Electric and other major corporations have demanded these changes while threatening to leave our state. But the General Assembly shouldn’t do GE’s bidding. They should build on this year’s progress instead. To help everyone, including GE (despite what they say), the General Assembly should continue with property tax reform.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities strongly supports legislative efforts to reduce property tax reliance. We are appreciative that Gov. Dannel Malloy and legislative leaders have demonstrated their commitment toward finally addressing this outdated and overly burdensome tax system. The story, however, does not end there. Lost in the debate are details of significance to our local communities.
Contrary to the loud complaints of some in the corporate community, the state budget does not impose outsized demands on big business. When corporations complain of high business taxes, they are elevating fiction over fact. Let’s push back against the fear, exaggerations and misinformation and stick with the basic facts. No changes in the state budget should be considered in next week’s special session.
We know that a great education can be life changing for so many students. Looking ahead, we must continue to ensure that we have a funding system that puts a great public education within reach of every child. The economic and civic future of our students, our communities and our state, depends on it.
The bad news for education in Connecticut is that in the state budget, which takes effect on July 1, money will be spent on charter schools for 2 percent of Connecticut children that would have been better spent on the other 98 percent of Connecticut children. The good news is if the Connecticut legislature wants to address that kind of injustice, it now has the power to do so.
As someone who has battled two decades for more spending on transportation, you’d think I would be happy with the state’s new biennial budget. But when you drill down into the details, there’s reason for concern. Gov. Dannel Malloy promised a down-payment on his $100 billion transportation dreams. And he did get one-half of one percent of the state sales tax repurposed for that… but it only pays down the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s enormous debt service.
The students of Three Rivers Community College are frustrated with the way money is being spent at our school, while we, the students, continue to lack support for our community outreach projects that not only better our own educations, but support the school’s efforts to be an example of good stewardship, sustainability, and to benefit our community.
There clearly is a renewed interest in Republican ideals, and Gov. Dannel Malloy’s record $2 billion tax hike on Connecticut families will only continue to fuel the public’s pivot to a more responsible government. The challenge for the CT GOP is to figure out how to harness the public’s renewed interest in Republican principles, and convert local successes into statewide victories.
Thinly veiled threats from hundred billion-dollar corporations that the proposed state tax increases are “truly discouraging”’ and that General Electric would “seriously consider whether it makes any sense to continue to remain in Connecticut” are not to be ignored. We the people have a choice before us — one that requires us to choose the economic principles fundamental to the type of society we desire to create and live in.