During this legislative session, we have the opportunity to enact An Act Concerning the Restructuring of Certain Taxes and Tax Equity (HB 6187 and SB 821), which aims to reform the tax system in Connecticut and address some of the deeply entrenched systemic and institutionalized disparities that create economic hardship for poor, working class and middle class people in our state.
As a supporter of the Recovery for All Coalition, which is a statewide coalition of labor, community and faith organizations representing more than half a million diverse residents, I recognize that this is the moment to act to eliminate extreme inequalities within our state and to begin the hard work toward building a more democratic, equitable, and just Connecticut.
This moment represents an unprecedented opportunity for positive change. If we do not act now, as we continue to witness the disparate burdens of the pandemic and the generational impacts of economic inequality and racism, then when will we ever be compelled to act?
Connecticut has a national reputation as one of the wealthiest states in the country and my community, West Hartford, consistently ranks among the best places to live, due to our collective community wealth, safety, and educational opportunities. Yet, the pandemic has forced many hard truths about my town, our state, and our country into the spotlight and into the public consciousness.
Across the state and right here in my own community, local food banks have struggled to keep up with worsening food insecurity and 14% of renters are behind in rent, with the threat of eviction looming in the future. More than 25% of the students in West Hartford public schools received free or reduced lunch before the pandemic, so it’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that those children and their families are likely facing even greater economic challenges now because of the pandemic.
The food insecurity problem is even worse in some rural communities and the Black communities and communities of color that have been historically disenfranchised, disinvested, and segregated. Even before the pandemic, Connecticut had some of the highest levels in the nation for income equality, education gaps, and health disparities for poor people and people of color. For example, more than 200,000 people in the state did not have health insurance before the pandemic and many continue to lack insurance during this global public health crisis.
These are some of the many reasons why we need a Recovery for All that focuses on the people and communities most impacted by decades of inadequate investment and the siphoning of what wealth they were able to accumulate. Connecticut needs a state tax policy that makes the wealthy pay their equitable share so that we all can benefit from investments that support our collective futures, such as public education, safe and affordable housing, and affordable and accessible healthcare.
Austerity budgets and tax policies that force working class people to pay a larger share of their income than rich people are harmful and inhibit economic recovery for almost everyone, especially for public sector and service sector workers, with the greatest burden falling upon women, Black workers, and other workers of color because they are disproportionately represented in those parts of the workforce.
Instead of a tax policy that continues to benefit millionaires and billionaires (who added $3.6 billion to their wealth during the pandemic), we need a tax policy that restores fairness. Why should people earning less than $53,000 each year be required to pay a tax rate that is three times higher than people who earn more than $680,000 each year?
Instead of a proposed budget that cuts assistance to families, the elderly, and people with disabilities, freezes Education Cost Sharing grants to public schools, and raises the gas tax, we need a tax policy that focuses on raising revenue from the people and corporations that have benefited the most from years of economic inequality, such as creating a 2% statewide property tax on the portion of market value of a home in excess of $1.5 million, increasing the base corporate tax rate to 11.5% for companies that have a gross income of more than $100 million, and establishing a 10% tax on digital ads placed in Connecticut from corporate giants like Google and Amazon that have digital revenue exceeding $10 billion.
We need our elected officials to be champions for the working class and apply pressure to their peers at the Capitol and Gov. Ned Lamont to ensure that the bill becomes law. This is important not only because of the moral imperative to address inequity and injustice, but also because we need to take a long-term approach to dismantling the system that created the harsh economic conditions that worsened during the pandemic by actually examining and reforming the policies in question instead of throwing a one-time windfall of federal funding at the problem as a stop-gap measure.
As constituents, I encourage all of us to contact our elected officials to let them know that the people of Connecticut support Recovery for All. I especially implore my West Hartford neighbors to do so because we believe in the values reflected by Mayor Shari Cantor’s statement on the homepage of the West Hartford town website: “We are an inclusive and engaged community with caring and responsible leadership.” If we truly are a community that cares then we will strongly urge our legislative leadership to support the tax policies that help to reduce the hardships that too many of our neighbors in our own town and across the state have been facing for years.
Janée Woods Weber is Co-Chair of the Working Families Party and President of the PoliticaCT Recovery For All Coalition.
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