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Carol’s Column: Let’s Transform Connecticut from a “Waiting Place” to a Destination State — Together

We all know the saying, “Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.”

It’s a warning of which Connecticut’s wisest Democrats are no doubt aware. With nearly insurmountable legislative majorities, coupled with a governor of their own party, opportunity is nearly limitless; so, however, are the pitfalls.

Our state is struggling. Barron’s just ranked Connecticut 45th for creditworthiness. The Tax Foundation has placed the Constitution State at 47th in the country for its business tax climate in the annual ranking – and dead last for its property taxes. Our “tax freedom” day is the 46th in the nation. And historically, our state is one of the top ten for drug overdose deaths, which have climbed amid the isolation and despair of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Our state’s leaders have their work cut out for them.

Yet amid the devastation of the COVID pandemic, there’s good news. Connecticut has benefited from its suburban character and its location midway between Manhattan and Boston — expensive cities packed with people who can afford to work remotely, and who’ve been eager to flee both a pandemic and widespread urban unrest. 

Reeling from years of steady declines in real estate value resulting from an ever-expanding tax and regulatory regime – coupled with a steady exodus of its most affluent residents to more economically welcoming states — Connecticut has suddenly experienced a dramatic uptick in real estate sales and inflated property values. Real estate agents are selling expensive houses sight-unseen and Greenwich homeowners are reveling in the heady experience of receiving cash offers for homes not even on the market. (The only downside to this sudden boom is that it’s been limited to Fairfield County, which boasts excellent schools, idyllic beaches, charming towns and of course, proximity to Manhattan.)

All these new residents are most welcome. Now, we just have to convince them to stay.

Here’s the truth: Connecticut has gotten lucky. Yet some politicians have taken to touting favorable statistics — like the growth in real estate prices — as a vindication of the policies drove our state into economic distress in the first place.

What all our state’s leaders – Democratic and Republican alike – must realize is that these newcomers see Connecticut a little like “The Waiting Place” in the Dr. Suess classic Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. It’s a convenient way station as these new residents evaluate whether they will ever want to resume their old lives in Manhattan and Boston or should simply move south to freer states with fewer tax and regulatory burdens. 

But just because Connecticut has made mistakes in the past doesn’t mean we can’t be smart in the future. There’s an opportunity here. Connecticut’s leaders can adopt smart policies that will make this a “destination state” — and a model for other blue states that want to persuade their affluent residents to remain.

At the very least, we’re well advised to resist the siren song of the left to interpret the election’s outcome as a mandate to double down on the failed policies of the past. New Jersey has just implemented tax rates similar to those CT Voices for Children and government unions want to see in our state; yet even Governor Andrew Cuomo has wisely resisted the call for higher taxes, insisting they would drive people from his state of New York. Connecticut would be foolish to eliminate one of its chief advantages over neighboring states.

Ultimately, in the wake of hard-fought elections, it’s hard for the victorious and defeated alike to remember Winston Churchill’s observation that “Success is not final; failure is not fatal.”  Even in the flush of triumph, let’s hope Democrats remember Donald Trump will not be on the ballot in 2022. And gracious openness to opponents’ ideas provides political cover in the event of disaster, yet costs nothing in the event of spectacular success.

As always, at Yankee Institute, we stand ready to work with those of any party – and of none – who are committed to the well-being of our state and its people. Call us. You might be surprised what we can get done – together.

Carol Platt Liebau

Carol has worked as an attorney, author, political and policy advisor, and media commentator. In addition to practicing law, she has served as legislative assistant to Senator Christopher S. “Kit” Bond of Missouri; as a consultant to the U.S. Senate campaigns of John D. Ashcroft of Missouri (1994) and Congressman Tom Campbell of California (2000 and 2010); and as law clerk to Reagan appointee Judge David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

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