‘Don’t forget to vote’ is my key message in this month’s “Hartford Current” column in The Darien Times.
The future of our country’s political leadership is unraveling in ways that many of us couldn’t have imagined. With Connecticut’s primary a month away, you may feel that there is little or nothing that you can do or that your vote is meaningless. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can do something about the state of our state. We live in a democracy; your thoughts and voice and votes do matter. I’d like to challenge you to learn about key state issues and how they will affect our town and state. Focusing solely on national politics and voting only in the general election every four years, creates a myriad of missed opportunities to influence the issues that most impact our daily lives.
Every day, laws are set in Hartford, from the mundane to the significant. Laws that range from how many days kids must be in school to how various crimes are handled to our level of taxation on individuals, families and businesses. Your elected state legislators represent you, period. We represent your voice, your values; not the party leadership, not the governor, but you.
If you’ve been distracted by the national election news, here’s what you need to know about Connecticut and the current financial situations most directly affecting your livelihood.
Increasingly sobering news comes out of Hartford. Last week, news broke that state income tax revenues have plunged by hundreds of millions of dollars. Falling far below what was budgeted, this shortfall is now $266 million for FY ’16 and projected $900 million on a $20 billion budget for FY ’17.
Why the drastic drop in income tax revenue? Though we have gained back the total number of jobs lost during the aftermath of the recession of 2008, the jobs that have come back are lower paying jobs. The higher paying jobs have not rebounded to previous levels. Of the 55,000 jobs paying more than $80,000 lost in 2008, only 8,200 have returned.
The second reason for lower than budgeted tax revenue is the continued net migration of citizens leaving our state. Citizens and businesses are leaving for tax friendly states. Connecticut has one of the highest tax rates on retirement incomes and businesses. This is a truth that the Democrats in leadership fail to acknowledge. Head in sand is not a productive driver of policy.
The state employee unions (45,000 current and 45,000 retired state employees) continue to drive the state Democrats and as a result our state. Democrats are in the majority in both legislative chambers and the governor’s office; one party rule rules. Many Democrats in the legislature are beholden to the union leadership. Some legislators, in fact, are union leaders.
Continued support of legislation that supports the unions is testament to that. In an Appropriations Committee meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23, legislators voted, along party lines, to approve guaranteed annual raises of up to 4.5 percent for members of the UConn Non-Teaching Professional Employees Association. This vote will make it more difficult to modify contracts with the states’ 32 other bargaining units. It is well documented that the salaries and benefits of many state employees far exceed those in the private sector. These benefits need to be modified in order to bring fiscal balance and sustainability back to our state.
Many believe some legislation pending this session will further challenge our economic recovery. Among these are paid family leave, a state run retirement plan, and a $1 per hour tax on businesses that do not pay their employees at least $15 an hour. All of these programs would involve the development of another state agency to manage the additional collection of taxes and/or delivery of services. While there may be merits to these concepts, there is no way Connecticut should be adding one more mandate on businesses/employees or one more state run bureaucracy. The mindset of the Democrats controlling Hartford is one of far left, top down government with little regard for the benefits of grassroots and local control.
I feel our most important job as legislators is to develop and pass a responsible budget. It is imperative to set fiscal policy for our state that is sustainable, business friendly and encourages a diverse and vibrant population. These are not mutually exclusive ideals. Substantive dialogue on key issues should be expected. Our job is to represent your views, to safeguard democracy and perpetuate common sense in Connecticut. I challenge you to hold us — your representatives and senators in Hartford — accountable. Ask us where we stand on these critical issues. Legislators in Connecticut, both in the house and senate are up for election every two years.
Here are some sources to stay current and engaged:
CT-N is the news channel for our state government, found on channel 59 and may be streamed on your computer through the CGA website: www.ctn.state.ct.us/
The CT Mirror is an excellent online news source with daily coverage of news in the Capitol. The articles are well researched and well written, a valuable news source.
Contact your local legislators via the Capitol website: www.cga.ct.gov. This website has a calendar of all the committee meetings and agendas.
Make sure you are registered to vote! Visit your town registrar of voters. You may also register to vote online through your town website. Please keep in touch at and 860.240.8718.