Chances are, before you’re done reading this, you’ll have left Connecticut for a lower-tax state.
According to a new Gallup poll, 46 percent of Connecticut residents want to move somewhere else. Gallup also found a high correlation between states with a high tax burden and residents who are looking to skedaddle; residents in high tax states were the most likely to want to leave. The only saving grace is that the New Jersey of bombastic Gov. Chris “I’ll be waiting at the border for your jobs” Christie is just as bad.
These are hard times to live in Connecticut, and harder times still to be optimistic about our state and its future. The economy is creating jobs, but not always good or high-paying ones. GE dealt us a blow by deciding to abandon its longtime headquarters in Fairfield for a Boston high-rise. The government has been stumbling from massive deficit to massive deficit, while the overhaul of computer systems at the agency people interact with the most, the DMV, has been an utter disaster. Companies large and small complain constantly about the rotten business climate here.
We’ve been through tax hikes, massive storms, lengthy power outages, political incompetence, a spike in crime in the capital city, the current heroin crisis, and worse.
It’s hard to blame us if we’re not in the best of moods.
It’s also hard to blame people who want to leave. Sure, taxes are part of it. But what’s worse than that, I think, is the cloud of failure and malaise that seems to be hanging over the state.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, in advocating for his new austerity budget, isn’t helping. He spoke at a town hall meeting in Middletown recently, and said that “Our recovery in low-paying jobs far exceeds the number of low-paying jobs we lost in the Great Recession, but our recovery in high-paying jobs is only 8.2 percent of the jobs we lost. That is where we are today. You can’t wish that away.”
A ray of sunshine, that one.
One of the outcomes of all of this is this belief that moving to another state is the only way to get out from under the psychological, economic, and financial weight of decades of bad decisions and global forces chipping away at us. I don’t feel this way, but I have some sympathy for the people who do.
It also leads to a lot of people believing that we simply can’t, or shouldn’t, try to do big, risky things anymore. It’s better to save money and sink into the muck, the thinking goes, instead of taking a risk to try and drag ourselves out—because there’s a chance we might just end up further in. It’s also not worth the risk, they believe, because our leadership is so incompetent that they won’t ever be able to work. I have a lot less sympathy for this point of view, though I do at least understand it.
So . . . what, if anything, should be done about Connecticut’s Era of Bad Feelings?
Well, a certain Eeyore-like lack of optimism has been a part of our cultural makeup for a long time, now, and I don’t think we could shed that without becoming a very different people. But our current rut seems especially deep, and part of Connecticut’s recovery really should be almost like therapy.
Here’s a few things we can try.
First, we need better leadership. This is one of the main reasons I think Speaker Brendan Sharkey shouldn’t run for another term as speaker, because the state does better when someone new steps up to the plate. That said, I’d love to see the House take a chance on someone who isn’t just the person tapped to be next in line. I’d also like to see more of our great civic and business leaders take an active, positive role in government instead of carping from the sidelines.
Second, we should do what we can to convince all those people who want to leave that they’d be better off staying. Connecticut has a lot to offer in education, quality-of-life, services, and more — and maybe it would make a difference if those people believed uncaring Connecticut actually wanted them to stay.
And lastly, we should reach out to all of the people, young people especially, who have left. Come home, we could tell them. You are wanted. You are needed. Come help us build something better here.
And maybe, just maybe, we could find the energy and the resolve to move forward.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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