Connecticut cut $1 billion from its planned borrowing this year in response to lowered tax revenue but is still moving forward with a massive project to update the state office building at 165 Capitol Avenue. Among the projects and grants-in-aid that didn’t make the bonding cut was $4.5 million for repairs and alterations to group homes and residential facilities with the Department of Children and Families.
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.
The state of Connecticut paid out $28 million in wrongful imprisonment awards in 2015 and 2016, significantly more than in previous years. Lawmakers passed a bill this week creating legislative oversight for those awards and a formula to determine the amount of compensation for a wrongfully convicted individual. Under the proposed legislation the claims commission would be able to award up to twice the median state income per year of incarceration, adjusted for inflation. It also gives the claims commissioner discretion to award an additional 25 percent, but any payout over $20,000 would be subject to legislative review.
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.
The minimum yearly earnings needed to be qualified for unemployment benefits in Connecticut is $600, the third lowest requirement in the nation. The law was set in place in 1967 and has not been raised since. Adjusted for inflation, this figure would be $4,277.82 by today’s standards. A bill before the state Senate would raise Connecticut’s work requirement to $2,000 yearly and make several other adjustments to its unemployment calculations to put the state on equal footing with its neighbors.
Connecticut continues to struggle with budget deficits. In the past five years, our lawmakers passed the two largest tax increases in state history. And every year in recent memory the budget begins the year in balance and slowly falls behind as the year goes on. Why does this happen repeatedly, year after year? Here’s why: The cost of benefits for government employees is growing much faster than tax revenue. Some categories of benefits are growing nearly 10 percent each year while tax revenue is growing at 2 percent – at best. That means other aspects of government – services for people in need, road maintenance, town aid – face cuts even while overall spending grows. These benefits could be reformed, but they aren’t because of conflicts of interest present throughout the system.