Members of the Connecticut House of Representatives and State Senate vote on hundreds
of bills affecting the daily lives of Connecticut’s citizens. With so many votes, it can be challenging to discern whether individual elected officials are acting in the best interest of the state on critical issues.
The Yankee Institute for Public Policy is a think tank that focuses its research on crafting taxpayer-friendly, limited government public policy solutions for Connecticut. Yankee
scored these votes based on our research on tax and budget issues, education, government accountability & transparency, health care, and electoral reform. This 2010 Voter Guide serves as a resource for citizens to make informed decisions about their elected officials as they head to the polls on November 2, 2010.
1 – Government-Financed Political Campaigns
In 2005, the Connecticut legislature passed a campaign finance reform law that brought sweeping changes to how political campaigns for state offices are financed. The law provides candidates public funds to finance their campaigns if they meet the requirements of the program, dubbed the Citizens’ Election Program. The stated goals of the law were to increase the competitiveness of political campaigns, mitigate corruption, and encourage more people to seek public office.
The Yankee Institute study “Slanting the Playing Field” by Heath W. Fahle studied the effects of the program after the 2008 elections and discovered that electoral competitiveness had
not changed significantly and that some “outsider” candidates, namely those running from non-major parties (independents, Green Party candidates, etc.) were significantly impeded
by the new rules. The program cost $12 million in 2008, is anticipated to cost more than $40 million in 2010, and quadrupled the size of the administering government agency, the State Elections Enforcement Commission. State Representative John “Corky” Mazurek proposed to eliminate the Citizens’ Election Program due to its ineffectiveness and cost on June 26, 2009 (LCO #9518 to SB#1801). A “Yes” vote supported the Yankee position on the issue. The motion failed 37 to 68 with 16 absent.
2, 3 – Permitting Reform & Electricity Rates
Two challenges facing families and small businesses in Connecticut are the bureaucracy- plagued permitting process and the high cost of electricity.
An Act Concerning the Permit and Regulatory Authority of the Department of Environmental Protection and Establishing a Permit Ombudsman within the Department of Economic and Community Development (H.B. 5208) passed the State House by a tally of 144 votes in favor with just one vote against on May 5, 2010. The bill passed unanimously the same day in the Senate. A “Yes” vote supported the Yankee position.
Connecticut’s electricity rates are some of the highest in the United States according to the federal Energy Information Agency. These costs impose a significant barrier to economic growth and vitality in the state. Yankee supports measures to bring down the cost of electricity in Connecticut using free market, limited government principles.
An Act Reducing Electricity Costs and Promoting Renewable Energy passed the Senate on May 4, 2010 with 20 votes in favor and 14 in opposition. In the State House, 81 legislators voted yes while 40 voted no. Governor Rell vetoed the legislation on May 24, 2010 because it did not effectively address this problem. A “No” vote supported the Yankee position because the bill was rushed through the legislature and did not adhere to free market principles.
With tax revenues sagging due to the poor economy, legislators passed H.B. 6801, An Act Authorizing Economic Recovery Notes, to finance state government operations on August 31, 2009. Such Notes serve as an escape hatch for state officials so that they do not have to take constructive measures to limit the size and scope of state government.
Connecticut’s spending and borrowing habits have spiraled out of control in recent years despite the fact that the state ostensibly has a “spending cap” in place to restrain them.
Yankee Institute investigative reporter Zach Janowski has done research on the cost of a real spending cap and discovered that if the spending cap had been adhered to, the current budget deficits that plague state finances could have been avoided.
The legislature passed H.B. 6801 by a vote of 102 to 37 with two absences in the House and 23 to 12 with one legislator absent in the Senate. A “No” vote supported the Yankee Institute position against borrowing to pay for current spending.
5 – Estate and Gift Tax
Connecticut’s Estate and Gift Tax brought in $238 million in FY2009, making it one of the top ten sources of revenue for state government. The $2 million threshold for the Gift and Estate Tax was scheduled to increase to $3.5 million, exposing fewer estates to this tax. Hungry for more tax revenue, the legislative leadership rescinded this tax cut by pushing off this change for two more years, raising $76.2 million according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis.
An Act Concerning the Estate and Gift Tax (H.B. 7101) passed the State House of Representatives on December 21, 2009 by a vote of 97 to 39 with 15 legislators absent. The Senate passed it the same day by a tally of 22 to 12 with two Senators absent. A “No” vote supported the Yankee Institute position against raising taxes.
6 – ObamaCare for Connecticut: SustiNet
After a lengthy and expensive advocacy campaign funded by many of Connecticut’s public and private sector unions, the General Assembly considered a bill to create a new universal health insurance program in Connecticut called SustiNet in June 2009. The bill was intended to reduce the number of uninsured individuals and reduce the overall cost of health care in the Nutmeg State.
The Yankee Institute studied the SustiNet plan in a report entitled “Obamacare for Connecticut: Dr. SustiNet’s Prescription for Big Government Healthcare” and determined that the actual cost of the program was understated by at least $2 billion annually with no discussion of how to pay for it. Given this and concerns about the unintended effects on overall health care costs, the Yankee Institute is critical of the plan.
Yankee also raised concerns about the manner in which the SustiNet Plan was sold to the public and legislators. Yankee Institute investigative reporter Zach Janowski dug into the coterie of groups pushing the plan and discovered a tangled web of connections between labor unions, health care advocates, and other activists largely financed with money originally obtained through a lawsuit settlement brokered by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
After much deliberation, the legislature opted to set up a study group called the SustiNet Health Partnership Board of Directors to recommend a new state-sponsored health insurance plan by January 1, 2011. H.B. 6600 passed the House on May 20, 2009 by a vote of 107-35 with nine absences and Senate on May 30, 2009 by a vote of 23 to 12 with one absent. The Governor vetoed the bill on July 8, 2009, but was overridden by the Legislature on July 20, 2009. A “No” vote on the original bill supported the Yankee Institute position.
The 2010 legislative session focused primarily on closing the yawning budget deficit. The Governor and legislative leaders sparred with competing deficit mitigation plans which largely resisted making hard decisions on spending and taxes, instead focusing on one-time revenue sources and budgeting gimmicks to paper over the budget problems faced by the state.
An Act Making Adjustments to State Expenditures for Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2011 (S.B. 494) passed the Senate on May 5, 2010 by a narrow 19-16 vote and the State House by a 93-57 count. The Governor signed the legislation into law on May 7, 2010.
The Yankee Institute continues to support significant reforms in the spending habits of state government which were not embodied in S.B. 494. A “No” vote supported the Yankee position.
8 – Tax & Budget 2009
Republican Governor Jodi Rell sparred with legislative leaders throughout the summer of 2009 on reaching a budget agreement for the FY2010-11 biennial budget. At first, Governor Rell held the line on taxes and spending, refusing tax increases or borrowing while demanding that the legislature bring spending under control.
The beginning of the Fiscal Year 2010, on July 1, 2009, came and went without a budget deal. State agencies continued operating only through emergency budget orders from the governor.
In late August 2009, Rell offered to accept tax increases in exchange for spending reductions and other concessions. Legislative leaders accepted the tax increases but did not reduce spending. Gov. Rell refused to sign the budget bill, but also did not veto it, allowing it to become law without her signature.
The Yankee Institute’s research focuses on reducing the size of government, holding the line on taxes, and decreasing spending. With all three bedrock principles violated by this agreement, Yankee repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the budget deal (H.B. 6802) that passed the State House on August 31, 2009, by a vote of 103 to 45 with three absent, and 22 to 13 with one absence in the Senate on September 1, 2009. A “No” vote supported the Yankee position on the matter.
9 – Government-Financed Political Campaigns II
In response to the court challenges to Connecticut’s government-funded elections law, the General Assembly considered An Act Concerning Clean Elections (S.B. 551), which increased the basic public grant to gubernatorial candidates from $3 million to $6 million. It passed the State Senate on August 5, 2010 with 24 yes votes, 10 no votes with two Senators absent. The State House passed the bill on August 13, 2010, 106-30 with 15 absent.
The Yankee Institute firmly opposed this $3 million handout. A “No” vote supported the Yankee position.
10 – Government Accountability & Transparency
In February 2010, the Yankee Institute launched CTSunlight.org, an online tool that allows visitors to review payroll, pension, and expenditure data for every state government agency and office
Imitation being the most sincere form of flattery, state legislators were so impressed by the project that they decided to build a similar website at state expense to duplicate Yankee’s efforts. Yankee supported the state effort to bring more disclosure and transparency to
its spending. An Act Requiring the Establishment of a Searchable Database for State Expenditures (H.B. 5163) passed the State House on May 3, 2010 unanimously and on May 5, 2010 in the State Senate, also unanimously. A “Yes” vote supported the Yankee position.