Recovery For All, a statewide coalition of legislators, unions and community and faith-based organizations is hoping to blunt the impact of policy recommendations made by the Yankee Institute with the release of two reports claiming the Hartford-based think tank favors billionaires over working-class residents.
According to the reports released Wednesday, the Yankee Institute has lobbied heavily against unions, wage increases for working class people and spending on social services while at the same time seeking a lower tax rate for the wealthiest state residents.
“It’s time for the lies and misconceptions to end,” Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven said.
The critique comes as lawmakers consider proposals such as a child tax credit and a tax break for the working poor.
Porter and Rep. Anne Hughes, D-Easton, who is also on the Labor and Public Employee Committee, said the think tank has considerable influence on lawmakers even as some of their funding comes from the same groups who also donate to right-wing hate groups named by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They said the group’s recommendations are based on exaggerated information.
Hughes used the example that the think tank is rallying against the “captive audience” bill which was approved by the Labor and Public Employee Committee along party lines. The bill prohibits employers from forcing employees to attend meetings that have nothing to do with their jobs such as discussions on how forming a union will not help employees.
“They (the Yankee Institute) are claiming the bill limits what employers can say,” Hughes said. “It does not limit what businesses can say.”
The Yankee Institute refutes many of the claims made in the reports, said the organization’s president in a statement issued to CT News Junkie. “This predictable complaining from pro-status-quo special interests is a tribute to Yankee Institute’s success in exposing their destructive policy agenda,” said Carol Platt Liebau, president of the Yankee Institute. “Notice the lack of solutions in their so-called “report” – it’s nothing but an attack on our proposals to empower people rather than government. Instead of stooping to smears (many of them inaccurate), we hope Recovery for All will engage with us on the issues, and offer its ideas for improving the lives of people throughout our state.”
The reports done by Recovery For All with the help of the Center for Popular Democracy and the Hedge Clippers, a campaign to ferret out dark money used to gain wealth and power among the elite, point to information gathered by the nation Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that showed Connecticut residents were still suffering with financial setbacks well into the pandemic.
About 15% of Connecticut households were not caught up on rent during the period from September to October 2021 and about 25% of state households were having difficulty meeting household expenses during the same time frame
The issue, according to Rob Baril, president of SEIU 1199 is that the Yankee Institute continues to promote austerity measures even as low-income and middle-class families, particularly in communities of color, are struggling. “One out of two women of color make less than $15 in our state,” said Baril who called on legislators to reject the Yankee Institute as a “legitimate source of information.”
Baril and others are supporting better wages, more public sector hiring, and other supports for Connecticut residents including affordable housing and education funding.
But the think tank has lobbied against many of those programs instead calling for a two tiered state tax system that would have couples making $55,000 paying the same percentage in tax as those making $1 million or more, one report said.
The Yankee Institute will often mail information directly to the homes of legislators, Hughes said.
“As policymakers and community leaders, we must not amplify the Yankee Institute’s so-called objective or reliable voice anymore,” Hughes said. “I urge my colleagues not to be fooled by the concept of ‘Yankee, individualistic, scrappy, sound values’ that its title suggests, but understand that this organization is a mouthpiece for national, right-wing, big money interests.”
Porter added: “We need to be more vigilant about doing our homework. We need to make sure we’re being led and not misled. Our constituents are counting on us to get this right. I will dispel the myth that we need to compromise. I don’t believe that there is any compromise in doing what’s right.”