A group of legislators, community organizations, and labor unions called for a tax restructuring Friday that would fund more than $2.7 billion annually in long-term investments aimed at reducing inequities in education, health care, and jobs.
The effort is not about targeting the state’s wealthiest residents for tax increases, according to members of the coalition, called Recovery for All CT, which encompasses more than 50 community, faith-based, and labor organizations calling for change in how programs that help low-income residents are funded.
It’s about addressing continued inequities that have been ignored for years, said state Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven.
“Equity requires revenue,” Winfield said during a press conference staged by the group Friday morning as the General Assembly continues its work on the state budget in time for the final days of the legislative session. “This conversation has been about what are we going to do with the federal money (from the federal American Rescue Plan Act). But it should be who as a state do we want to be?”
However, Gov. Ned Lamont has declined to consider a tax hike, his Communications Director Max Reiss said Friday.
“Governor Lamont has said clearly for months that he is opposed to broad-based tax increases like those on income. Connecticut does not need more taxes. We need more taxpayers,” Reiss said. “Our state has the opportunity to make historic and transformative investments in our most underserved communities utilizing federal funds which achieves the goals of supporting our residents, while also being welcome to the tens of thousands who have decided to move to our state over the last year. “
Recovery for All CT, which has support from dozens of Democratic legislators and lawmakers throughout the Northeast, wants $783 million in annual increases to fund universal preschool for all Connecticut children and to provide more money for struggling school districts.
The group also wants another $305 million for higher education, including $115 million for the University of Connecticut’s teaching hospital in Farmington, more than $700 million annually to expand Husky health insurance to more low-income residents including undocumented immigrants, and to give more money to community health centers and another $1 billion in aid for job training, job creation, and municipal aid.
The group’s request would push fund above the current levels recommended in the proposed biennial budget and in addition to the $6 billion the state will receive as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, according to Puya Gerami, speaking for the group.
People are hurting, including care workers who are making low wages, have no path to a retirement with dignity and no health care, said Pam Hunt, a home care worker who faced breast cancer in 2017. Hunt needs checkups on a regular basis to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. But she said her Husky health insurance is running out in three days.
“I refuse to go into medical debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said. But she also is concerned that she won’t be able to get the medical attention she needs. “I ask you all, how is it fair that 14 people in Connecticut were able to make $12.6 billion during this past year while many of Connecticut’s ‘essential workers’ have suffered through illness, lack of health insurance, and overall suffering?” Hunt said. “It is not fair. This needs to change now.”
Nursing home workers are suffering the same plight as home care workers, said state Rep. Anne Hughes, a Democrat from Easton. They were not allowed to show up to work remotely but had few benefits to support them through the pandemic, Hughes said.
“We have heard over and over that this pandemic has exposed care infrastructure that has been deliberately underinvested, borne mostly by women and often women of color,” Hughes said. “These workers are unwilling to be exploited anymore. We must take this one-in a lifetime opportunity and make equitable investments in our care infrastructure.”
The state needs to raise revenue responsibly, Hughes said. “We have to reject the untenable, the unsustainable status quo.”
The solution will not be “raiding the pockets of certain residents,” Winfield said, adding that it will be in redefining the state’s tax structure to make it more equitable.
“We have to understand that equity requires revenue,” Winfield said. “If we don’t understand that, then we’ve forgotten the reason that we’re doing any of the work that we’re doing.”