The General Assembly passed a budget last week that stops driving Connecticut backward. The question is: will we take the next step and start driving forward? Last year, lawmakers passed the second-largest tax increase in state history, just five years after the largest tax increase. This year’s budget, while not good, was at least a temporary rejection of last year’s approach. It remains to be seen whether it was really a change of direction or merely a case of election-year stagefright.
Civil Service Reform
The traditional image of the union member as being a working class, blue collar factory worker has been replaced by a new reality: the state-employed bureaucrat enjoying perks and high pay at taxpayer expense. Figures show that six in 10 union members work for government. While some of them plow roads and keep us safe, many more are social workers, white-collar administrators and highly paid professors. Connecticut ranks fourth in the nation for the number of union members who work for government after only New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey.
What a difference a year makes. Last year, Senate President Martin Looney presided over the passage of a budget that included $1.8 billion in tax hikes and canceled tax cuts. Those tax increases fell largely on businesses and wealthy state residents. Last night, Looney seemed to repudiate his actions of a year ago, as he shepherded a budget through the Senate that included over $800 million in cuts to planned spending, and contained no major tax increases.
When local law enforcement makes a drug trafficking arrest, the court has the ability to seize property - including cars and money - thought to be a part of the illegal operation. Vehicles and other property are then sold at auction and the proceeds are split between several state agencies. The practice is known as civil asset forfeiture and it brings in millions to state agencies. But some local police departments are slow to pay up.
Connecticut suffers from an approach to public policy that’s laser-focused on today’s urgent problems, while leaving tomorrow’s important challenges unaddressed. With lawmakers yet again cobbling together a budget at the last minute, time grows increasingly short to change the trajectory of our struggling state. A common sense approach to restoring Connecticut’s vitality should help us.
Several state union representatives spent more than half of the year working for their unions while still getting paid by the state, driving up overtime costs and putting an extra burden on the state budget. The year of 2015 contained 261 working days but Ronald J. McLellan, president of the Connecticut Employees Union Independent SEIU local 511, spent 201 of those days on union leave. He earned $111,000 in pay and fringe benefits from the state while working for the union, and continued to keep his title of lead power plant operator at Central Connecticut State University.