With less than five days left until the Connecticut General Assembly adjourns for the year, there are two paths our state can go down.
One path would bring about a budget that is regressive, shreds the safety net, and fails to create jobs. The other would create a budget that protects working families, maintains vital safety net programs, and invests in Connecticut’s workforce. Obviously, we hope for the latter. So with the end of the legislative session just around the corner, where are we?
Gov. Malloy has invested significant political capital in both his infrastructure proposal as well as his “Second Chance Society.” One might think these ideas have little to do with one another but they are connected on the most basic of levels — jobs.
Having a criminal record makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find employment. And that costs the state money. We lose potential tax revenue when someone cannot find work, it costs tax dollars to then provide social services, and there is a the possibility of re-entry into the criminal justice system since without a job, people who have been incarcerated are more likely to return to crime. Not to mention the creation of a group of second-class citizens.
However, if we provide a second chance and the opportunity to get a job that pays a family supporting wage, including health benefits and retirement security as prevailing rate jobs do, then the cycle of crime and poverty will be broken.
Family supporting jobs give our economy the fuel it needs to run. The more money in the hands of working class consumers, the more money is spent and the more product is made and that is the cycle we want to keep turning. Family sustaining jobs put money in the taxpayers’ budget as well as in the local and state government budget. Despite those who will have you believe that every dollar paid in taxes is misspent, government uses your money wisely.
Investing in public education, infrastructure, first responders, and the safety net are necessities and must be funded at the appropriate levels or we all suffer for it. But the reality is our tax structure is not fair. A report from the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services found that the state’s wealthiest residents pay the lowest share of their income in state and local taxes while those living paycheck to paycheck pay nearly four times as much in taxes.
The Democrat-controlled legislature proposed a budget that seeks to make changes in this unbalanced tax structure and they should be applauded for their work. They also restored a number of the proposed cuts all while honoring the contracts the state has with its employees. Unfortunately Republicans went down the same old tired path of the past by suggesting layoffs and wage cuts to those very employees who provide much-needed services. Lest they forget, state employees have already given concessions twice in the last few years to save the state billions.
If this state wants to create a budget that represents our values, the legislature must ensure a fair tax system that doesn’t burden working families, protect our safety net, create jobs through infrastructure programs, and allow nonviolent offenders to have a second chance. That is the path we need to take. There is still time.
Lori J. Pelletier is the Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO
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