The 2017 legislative agenda laid out by Gov. Dannel Malloy in his State of the State Address this week lacked any clear vision for Connecticut, focusing mostly on more cuts to services and jobs and a pledge to continue to “reduce spending responsibly and with great care,” a plan which has shed more than 5,000 working class jobs since 2015 and cut services to some of the state’s neediest residents.
What’s conspicuously absent were any clear plans to stimulate job creation, address the state’s income inequality (the second worst in the nation), and begin to diversify our economy – even when there are some obvious solutions right there under our noses. For a state that constantly mired in economic crisis, we should take a serious look at bold, new ways to improve our budget:
- Make corporations pay their fair share. In 2015, tax breaks (credits, exemptions, deductions, or reductions) amounted to $7.2B dollars. That’s 70% more than in 2000. That’s money we would have for education, roads, small business assistance and all other things that actually help our communities. Let’s stop relying on massive corporations and the finance industry to fix our economy. We need to rethink the way we invest in business and development, and every one of these should be under review.
- Invest in working class families. Focus on creating predictability for employees (not just businesses) by implementing a $15 minimum wage, passing family medical leave (FMLA), protecting collective bargaining rights, debt-free higher education and enacting predictable scheduling practices so that families can be financially stable and help create economic growth from the ground up.
- Enact smart revenue solutions for a sustainable state budget. There are fair, common sense policies available that would produce state revenue we badly need to avoid more cuts and layoffs. We need to eliminate the carried interest loophole, which is estimated to be worth $535 million annually, and make the state’s wealthiest residents pay their fair share of taxes similar to neighboring states. The legalization of marijuana can be an economic boon to the state and a substantial shot of cash to our general fund, not to mention millions of dollars in savings through reductions to our prison populations. In 2015, Colorado took in $115MM in revenue and a half billion dollars by September of 2016. Proponents of legalization estimate that Connecticut could reap about $50 million or more in revenue in the first year.
Cuts alone cannot balance a budget. We need smart solutions that actually invest in our economy. We cannot continue to ask those who can least afford it to make more sacrifices, while those who are able to afford it get by without paying their fair share.