How to bring prosperity back to Connecticut

dt_150102_scissors_dollar_money_800x600With all the controversy at the presidential level this election season, it is quite easy to lose sight of the important races for state representative and state senate. Arguably, more laws that affect our personal prosperity and our daily lives are passed by the legislature in Hartford than in our nation’s capitol.

 

A stark reminder of the importance of focusing on local races was in the news last week.  Kiplinger’s ranked Connecticut, the second “worst state in which to retire.” Their article lists the top ten states that are least tax-friendly states for seniors…Vermont is first, followed by Connecticut.  Put another way, Connecticut ranks 49th out of 50.  

The 50-state analysis shows which ones offer seniors tax-breaks and also compares taxes on income, property, everyday purchases and estates.

Per Kiplinger’s, “these 10 states impose the highest taxes on retirees, and exemptions for…retirement income are limited or nonexistent. Property taxes are on the high side, too. And…some of these states are facing significant financial problems that could force them to raise taxes, cut services, or both.” Among the best places to retire on a tax basis are Florida and Georgia.  

 

Separately, the Tax Foundation, a non-profit and non-partisan tax research group educating taxpayers about sound tax policy, recently listed CT as 43rd in the nation for its business tax climate. Additionally, Connecticut Business and Industry Associates (CBIA) reported that recent polls consistently show “the overwhelming majority of Connecticut voters believe our economy is struggling and that job creation must be the top priority for state lawmakers.”  

 

What’s the simple conclusion from this data? Connecticut over-taxes and over-regulates people and businesses to the extreme. The Democrats in our state don’t see this. CBIA states, “The rich can pay more” mentality continues.  But, the sad result is these policies are the catalyst for decisions by seniors on fixed incomes, by wealthy citizens concerned about estate taxation, and by businesses seeking a fair profit to pick up and move to other states. We all know people who have had to make this tough decision.

 

Every day that I’m in Hartford, I see this seemingly blind refusal by the Democratic majority to look at another path other than, yet again, increasing taxes and fees on businesses and people. While there’s no question Connecticut residents fully expect to pay taxes to support core government services, e.g. public health, public safety, transportation, social services and education, we need to look seriously at redefining how we deliver and fund those services.

 

House Republicans along with Senate Republicans have presented not just one alternative budget…we’ve offered five within the last four years! Our proposals provide for all these services without raising taxes. The most current budget, entitled “Pathway to Sustainability” (fiveyearbudget.com), was vetted by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis as viable with valid fiscal solutions and lauded by newspaper editorial boards across the state. Examples of our common-sense ideas…a proposal requiring a full vote in the legislature on all union contracts; new protocols to oversee union overtime and computation of retirement benefits; offering all new hires a 401K plan rather than guaranteed defined benefits; centralizing legal staff under the Attorney General’s office; expanding privatization of DMV services; and, providing municipal mandate relief. Very simply, we need to make structural changes to achieve a return to fiscal prosperity.

 

Democrats have held the governor’s office and both legislative chambers for six years. They’ve had time to return Connecticut to prosperity. But, in that time they chose to raise taxes a record $4.8 billion in the hope that it would turn our economy around. It has not. Instead, it has created a vicious cycle of retirees and businesses leaving the state, and businesses choosing not to locate in Connecticut. The result…continued loss of revenue, forcing more tax and fee increases.

 

Let me clarify, though, that the vast majority of our legislative work in Hartford is done on a truly bipartisan basis, is highly collegial and warmly respectful. The reality, however, remains that control of our state budget is a partisan issue, driven by one-party rule. Despite ongoing entreaties to work together toward a fiscally sound budget, particularly with needed structural changes, this rarely happens.

 

Our citizens deserve more than the uniform rhetoric from the Democratic leaders in Hartford who seek to falsely place blame on the Republicans for our state’s budget crisis. They cry “finger-pointing” and “lack of bi-partisanship” when we highlight their reckless spending and taxation policies. The reality is Connecticut competes with 49 other states in the nation for personal and business revenue. When these policies place our state so close to the bottom of the list where people want to live, work and retire, we need to seriously reevaluate our budget.  

 

Connecticut has so many positive assets…a well-educated workforce, abundant cultural opportunities, a historic coastline and scenic landscapes. We can match our natural assets with fiscal prosperity to benefit all.  As your State Representative, I promise to continue to represent you with common sense decisions, by listening to your concerns and working in a bi-partisan way in solving our fiscal issues to bring our great state back to prosperity. I believe strongly, that working together, we can and we will.

 

A version of this article also appeared in the Darien Times.

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