There are those of us who follow the upcoming elections with a microscope, evaluating every word the candidates utter with avid attention to their nuance and detail. Others simply don’t have the time to read every article or watch each debate because they are busy with work and family. The candidates are making their final push to Election Day and they want desperately to convince you that their way is the right one for Connecticut’s future. Some candidates have taken particular aim at Connecticut’s public employee unions and have tried to make them the central issue in this election. These hard working individuals are not the issue but the values that they represent most definitely are.
Since Gov. M. Jodi Rell took office, Connecticut has seen the loss of 100,000 jobs. Our budget deficit has gone into historic numbers. Residents have lost their homes in the housing crunch and the demand for public services has skyrocketed. The need for unemployment services, home heating aid, continuing education and training programs to get people working again, and social services for the increasing numbers of middle class families struggling to make ends meet are just some of the needs being filled by government. The “Great Recession” has not been kind to the residents of the Nutmeg State.
In the race for Governor, which is arguably one of the most important elections this state has seen in recent decades, Tom Foley has proclaimed that state workers have nothing to fear if he gets elected. Yet Mr. Foley attacks the very values that unions represent. Unions have long stood for the strength of working families, decent healthcare for ALL workers, a reasonable retirement that allows seniors to face old age without fear and quality public services for our citizens at all times, but especially in hard times when they need them the most.
Mr. Foley argues that the state budget deficit is untenable and must be brought into balance only through cuts in services. He particularly favors the privatization of public services. Former Gov. John G. Rowland had the same idea – look how well that worked out. Rell thought outsourcing to private contractors was the right thing too and as a result, we got the I-84 debacle. Privatization does not save money and the quality of work cannot be guaranteed the way it can with state workers who are held accountable. In the end, this tactic eliminates jobs, which is bad for our state economy as a whole.
Mr. Foley doesn’t like Sustinet either, the self-insured health care delivery plan overwhelmingly passed by the legislature last year that would cover all Connecticut citizens. The unions worked hard to help pass that legislation and have lobbied tirelessly in support of the healthcare pooling bill which would give access to low cost insurance to many workers.
Mr. Foley is against pensions that workers receive. His solution? Switch to a 401(k) program which would only benefit his Wall Street broker friends. It certainly wouldn’t help anyone who wants to retire – just ask anyone with a 401(k) who has seen their savings dwindle during the last 5 years. Pensions are better for our economy because they are stable.
So if Mr. Foley can’t solve the problems of the state by cutting pensions, or switching healthcare programs or cutting services, how can he balance the budget? He certainly won’t raise taxes.
“I pledge not to raise taxes if I’m elected governor.” He couldn’t be clearer on that. And his reasoning is pretty clear too. He couldn’t raise them on the working poor since they already pay 12 percent.And he can’t raise them on the middle class because they pay 10 percent on state and local taxes. Think he’ll raise them on his friends, the rich, who in effect pay only 5 percent? No way. So that means layoffs for workers, huge service cuts for the people of Connecticut and an economy facing serious trouble. Those are not the values Connecticut needs.
Sharon Palmer is president of AFT Connecticut.