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Carol’s Column: 2021 – A Year for Freedom and Opportunity

Welcome to 2021! I’ve always believed it’s just human nature to welcome the new – it is, after all, a fresh start, limited only by the imagination’s boundaries. Perhaps for that reason, I found myself once again engaged in an annual ritual of formulating a resolution with my family at brunch last weekend. Of course, this exercise represents the triumph of hope over experience, but let’s be honest: one needs to be an optimist to thrive in Connecticut these days.

Fortunately, I am one. And along with the rest of the Yankee Institute team, I’m refreshed, recharged, and ready to take on whatever the governor and the legislature has in store for the people of our state this year.

Make no mistake – they’ve already been busy. While many of us were about our business preparing for the holidays, Governor Lamont quietly signed Connecticut on to the highly regrettable Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional plan that originally included 12 states and DC (now boasting only CT, MA, RI and DC). It includes all the extortionate features of tolls without any their benefits to our transportation system, or, indeed, to our state at all.

The TCI establishes an emissions cap, forcing gasoline distributors and producers to purchase carbon allowances. The emissions cap would decrease annually, with the money extracted from the sale of carbon allowances being sent to DC before being redistributed to participating states, both to fund electric vehicles and to allow politicians to posture about securing “climate justice.” So far, even Governor Lamont’s two counterparts in the Northeastern Wearisome Threesome – Governors Cuomo of New York and Murphy of New Jersey – have declined to sign on to a deal this terrible.

Count me confused. Connecticut is facing massive unemployment with an epidemic of small businesses closing in the wake of a pandemic – yet our governor’s priority is “climate justice”? When Connecticut’s people already pay the 15th highest gas tax in the country, and the second-highest electricity costs? Can Governor Lamont be unaware that the TCI will raise the price of gas by up to 17 cents per gallon in only the first year, costing the average Connecticut family up to $450 per year in additional fuel costs?

What a difference a year makes! Recall that as they attempted to jam tolls through, the governor and the legislative majority repeatedly told us it was essential to fix roads and bridges. But now we’re supposed to pay more to drive to work in order to fund a socialite’s new Tesla. Huh.

That’s not all the politicians have in mind. Just yesterday, a dozen legislators stood shoulder-to-shoulder with government union activists from SEIU 1199; CSEA; the Congress of CT Community Colleges, and the CT Working Families Party. Predictably (oh, so predictably!), they were calling for higher taxes to fund a supposed “people’s recovery.” Under their plan, our state’s highest income tax rate, at nine percent, would match New York’s, or worse, New Jersey’s, destroying any competitive advantage Connecticut still has over two neighbors with some of the highest tax rates in the nation.  As we’ve seen since massive tax hikes began in 2011, with each new increase, more affluent people leave the state, eroding the tax base and diminishing the revenues available for funding government programs.  There’s little “recovery” for anyone – least of all the poor — in such a scenario.

If Connecticut’s left really wanted to ease the financial burden on struggling state residents, they’d advocate for repealing or delaying the newly-imposed Paid Family and Medical Leave tax – which is being deducted through a mandatory payroll deduction, even though no leave will be available for a year. As always, only the elite are exempted; state employees (who get paid leave in any case, along with generous pay increases), won’t be chipping in.

It’s maddening – and almost enough to shatter one’s shiny New Year optimism. But not quite. There’s reason for hope.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that more of us are paying attention than we ever realized. And together, we can make an impact. But we need to work together. This year, we are counting on you. Please stay connected – check the news on our revamped web site, follow us on Twitter (@YankeeInstitute), friend us on Facebook (Yankee Institute).

When the time is right, we will ask for your help. Your participation — your voice — makes a difference.

As always, we will remain vigilant, serving as your eyes, ears – and voice – in Hartford. And we’re particularly excited to have added a new member to our ranks: Our new Director of Policy and Research, Ken Girardin. A Connecticut native, Ken joins us from the Empire Center, where he served as fellow and director of strategic initiatives. Among other publications, Ken co-produced the first independent analysis of New York’s property tax cap – facilitating efforts to make it permanent – and a quantitative analysis of the outsized influence of government unions over state policy. He holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in materials engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York and worked in the New York State Legislature.

Keep the faith! It’s a New Year. A new future lies before us. Together, we can make it one of freedom and opportunity – for all of us.

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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