“What’s the Matter With Connecticut?” the Wall Street Journal, a publication read by some business investors, asks in a recent editorial. Of course, the editors, businesses that have been fleeing the state, young college graduates who have been kicking the dirt of Connecticut from their feet and moving to less predatory states, all know the answer to the question: If you’re sitting on a bed of nails – you move. It’s the nails – or us! That is the central message young college graduates are sending to state government.
Here is the lede to the editorial: “Connecticut’s progressive tax experiment has hit a wall. Tens of thousands of residents are fleeing for lower tax climes, which has prompted Democrats to propose—get this—paying new college grads a thousand bucks to stick around. Maybe they’re afraid an exodus of young people will turn the state Republican.”
Outside the state, this sort of twitter response to the pain we all feel strikes people as amusing. Tragedy is comedy turned inside out; your tragedy is my comedy. Connecticut is one of the only states in the union to have lost population since Democrats seized all the heights of political power after Governor Dannel Malloy’s successful run in 2011.Those who have since left the state in the great exodus write back to their families and friends from their New Jerusalem, an embittered tone in their messages, that they are happy to have shed their ceaseless struggle to balance their own family budgets in a state that is chronically incapable of balancing its own. In Tennessee – or wherever – they are less beset by ferocious taxmen and authoritarian regulators. “Pity you can’t join us. Maybe next year.”
The editorial continues: “Connecticut’s top tax rate is now higher than the 5.1% flat rate in the state formerly known as Taxachusetts. In 2012 the Tax Foundation ranked Connecticut’s state and local tax burden second highest in the country behind New York. Due to recent property and income tax hikes, the Nutmeg State may now be in the lead.”
Message to businesses: battling on a "level playing field" with contiguous states such as New York and Massachusetts, Connecticut loses. Solution: un-level the playing field. Connecticut, nutmeggers clinging to the state with bloody fingernails will recall, competed best when taxes and regulations were less burdensome than those of its neighbors.
We know this. Everyone knows this. Politicians who continue to insist, in the face of unimpeachable evidence to the contrary, that Connecticut is suffering from a revenue rather than a spending problem know this. And, knowing it, they know the state will never lift itself from its ditch through tax increases – because, despite two massive tax increases, the largest and the second largest in state history, the state is still in the red. Been there, done that. The notion that one more tax increase will reanimate a crippled state continues to be pedaled at the State Capitol by GREEDY – no other word better describes the suicidal itch of progressives – Democrats yoked to union chariots. Legislators at the Capital who pursue such courses are pretending to govern. Stop pretending, start governing.
Some public schools in Connecticut cities and elsewhere are graduation certificate mills. Today, too many high school graduates must wait until they arrive at community colleges before they acquire skills once mastered in fourth grade -- reading, writing and figuring without computers. Some school systems are pretending to educate children, and the pretense will not be shattered by transferring tax money from the New Canaan School (reading proficiency 82%, math proficiency 74%, average teacher salary $84,411) to the Thirman Milner School in Hartford (Reading proficiency 11%, Math proficiency 9%, average teacher salary $70, 398). The unreformed Educational Cost Sharing Grant in 2013 for New Canaan and Hartford was: New Caanan $1,495,604; Hartford $187,974,890. Dollar expenditures are far less important in providing children with a real rather than a pretense education than the structure of a family and its ability to support basic needs without resorting to state aid. Stop pretending, start governing.
Governing maneuverability in Connecticut is seriously compromised by what are called “fixed costs.” A large chuck of the state’s fixed costs is devoted to satisfying contractual obligations to state employees. Unfix the costs, Chris Powell, Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer, demanded in a luminous column. Past and present governors -- and a cowardly General Assembly -- have gagged and bound themselves in order to pretend they cannot solve the problem of unavoidable fixed costs that pacify union interests. The larger the portion of state funds “dedicated” to special interests, the fewer funds will flow to secure general interests. The notion of a “dedicated fund” in Connecticut has become a term of art. Such lockbox funds in the past have been plundered by politicians to satisfy special interests and grease the skids to their own reelections – or, nearly as bad, to plug holes in a budget that is, for all practical purposes, a slush fund used to disguise the predictable consequences of reckless spending. Stop pretending, start governing.
Do it now. Many people who have not yet fled the state think it is already too late.