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Opinion: Promises made, promises broken — Part 1

Toni Boucher is a Connecticut businesswoman and former District 26 State Senator.

“We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.” —Abraham Lincoln

The first rule of public office: Your word is your bond. If you break it, you lose the people’s trust.  It is sad to see how far some have strayed from this principle.

When promises are broken people feel betrayed.  No wonder so many people are losing faith in Connecticut.

Connecticut’s economy is in trouble. It has gone from the top in the U.S to the bottom. Hopes for a new day were dashed as promises made to improve the economy and grow jobs were quickly broken. The ruling party’s attack on businesses and residents has them looking for the door, depressing tax revenues and home values.

Connecticut’s administration pledged to make government live within its means and balance the budget. When faced with massive state deficits from spiraling employee costs, they employed past practices of more taxes; kicking the can down the road by refinancing debt and guaranteeing platinum level state employee benefits far into the future.

They proclaimed that more taxes would kill our competitive advantage.  Yet, they passed increases to the income tax in 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2019 on LLC’s.  Unprecedented numbers of anti-business bills, expensive union contacts and excess spending continue unabated.

To understand how this evolved we need to look at the promises made and what actually happened in two parts.

Part one, today, examines the promise to improve Connecticut’s business climate; not increase the income tax, reduce healthcare costs; install tolls only on trucks and the lock boxing of transportation funds.

Part two, tomorrow, examines the promise to balance the budget; secure union concessions; reform pension and unfunded liabilities and put Connecticut on a “debt diet.”

 

Promises Made, Promises Broken

  • The promise to improve Connecticut business climate:

New legislative leaders are hostile to businesses vital to our state, saddling them with massive burdens that hurt their ability to grow. They passed the nation’s highest minimum wage with an automatic 2 percent increase every year thereafter.  Westport estimates that it could cost an extra $300,000 annually for summer student workers.

The ruling party passed the most aggressive 12-week paid family medical leave act (FMLA) in the country on businesses with one or more employees, paid for by a .5 percent payroll tax for workers making up to $130,000 per year. State unions are exempt. The state has the option of increasing the wage deduction if this government-run program runs out of money. Paid time off could be used for a family member or those “like” family.  Employees will be forced to pay even if they already have coverage.

The governor promised to veto the bill saying it was “ill-conceived and simply will not work.”  He reversed his pledge and is now planning to sign it.

 

  • The promise not to increase the income tax:

The majority party passed $700 million in new taxes.  A $50 million income tax increase was levied on small business pass-through entities, such as LLC’s, adding to the cost of doing business.  And an additional $150 million in other tax and fee increases was passed.  The majority also passed a new exit tax surcharge of 1 percent on top of 1.25 percent on high priced homes; extended the temporary 10 percent business profit surcharge and rescinded $1 billion in hospital tax relief.

More new taxes include: surcharges on prepared restaurant and grocery food, 10 percent tax on alcoholic beverages, car trade-in fee of $100, taxes on Lift and Uber rides and taxes on plastic bag, parking, digital downloads, dry cleaning, and interior design work.

  • The promise to reduce health care costs:

The Democratic leadership proposed a “public option” state-run healthcare mandate that would institute a $10 per member, per month surcharge on individual health insurance policies and a $5 per member per month surcharge on group health insurance policies.  State employees would be exempt. This state program would be in direct competition with the healthcare insurance industry and put 48,000 private insurance jobs at risk. The public option would damage the private market.  CIGNA said it risks their long-term viability and have threatened to leave the state if enacted. The administration first opposed it and then reversed itself.  The governor now says it deserves support.

Bills to take over private pension and health insurance jobs and bring back tolls failed for now but the administration promises to keep trying. Democratic leaders also failed to pass capital gains and investment income taxes; a statewide property and car tax, sales taxes on legal, accounting, engineering and investment services; allowing parolees to vote; forced regionalized schools; pot legalization; and a proposal to divert teachers pensions payments to towns that would add to the highest-in-the nation property taxes.  These bills, like tolls, could come back to bite us later.

Let’s hope not. Connecticut needs to keep its promises to cut costs and give businesses the confidence to stay and grow jobs.

This op-ed originally appeared on CTViewpoints.org.

12 comments

Piberman June 22, 2019 at 9:35 am

Former Senator Boucher is spot on. CT Democrats are giving the nation an extraordinary example of misguided “tax and spend” anti-business policies that have and continue to have a devastating effect on our decade long stagnant economy. That CT’s decline occurs while the nation is experiencing the most vigorous economic post-War boom. Gov. Lamont reportedly is meeting with various CT major business leaders. But the Legislature remains steadfast in pursuing its “tax and spend” refusing to reduce our CT State budget. And seems utterly indifferent to the impressive Exodus of residents that according to a frequent Bloomsberg News article is the largest in the nation. Our new State motto is “we are leaving”.
Help is not on the way.

Norwalk native June 22, 2019 at 11:25 am

Thanks Toni for this well prepared article.

Like many Fairfield County residents, I avoid CT taxes at all costs: buying things in other states, selling my cars refusing to expand my home or make improvements. At least the Fed taxes go to buy missiles and Aircraft Carriers; not pay the bloated wages of Teachers and Public Union employees.

This one-party state will continue to spiral downward towards the bottom of State competitive rankings until the poor and Liberal Elite decide they have had enough.

Piberman June 22, 2019 at 12:03 pm

To Norwalk Native:

The great “trajedy” of CT is that its major depressed cities look pretty much the same as they did some 3 or 4 decades ago. And that’s where almost 1/3rd our State’s population live. Bridgeport hasn’t changed – some 20% of its citizens live at or below poverty status. Incomes are astonishing low. Not many good jobs. It’s 2 hospitals and City Hall are the largest employers. Some of us remember when Bridgeport was one of our nations’ most vibrant industrial cities.

It’s easy to blame the public Unions (State and Municipal) for feathering their own nest. And CT’s major political parties dependent on the public Unions. But economic growth takes place in cities worldwide. And there’s something about CT residents that just ignores the sad fate of our major cities. So we’re in a rut without prospects. Most of us don’t spent much if any time in our major CT cities. So its a case of out of sight out of mind.

I remember some 5 decades ago looking down the interior of the largest electric cable factory in the world right in Bridgeport – a1/4 mile long. All the equipment had just been sold to Japan. That factory, owned by GE, made transoceanic cables spanning the globe. In hindsight selling that factory’s equipment foretold the future of Bridgeport. But the City still has fabulous parks and among the very best homes anywhere to be found in CT. In a word rebuilding CT ought start with Bridgeport – once the “Arsenal of Democracy”.

Adolph Neaderland June 22, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Blaming the folks who run for office or incumbents is an easy out – I blame the public !
When only 1/3 (or less) of registered voters vote at the local level, we get the crumbs. Our stakeholders do not get involved until it’s too late.
Norwalk’s upcoming election is an opportunity to clean house.

Steve June 22, 2019 at 4:36 pm

Toni Boucher where were you when Rowland and Rell were string the stage for our current problems ?

Piberman June 22, 2019 at 5:26 pm

Adolph Neaderland:

Why be surprised only 1/3rd turn out to vote. No candidate promises lower taxes. Or even holding the line as did Westport for 5 years. Or spending less like Danbury. Or creating Prof. Management as does Greenwich.

If there are no real choices does it make any difference who oversees Norwalk. Best I can judge for the past 40 years few if any of Norwalk’s elected officials would qualify to run a small Wal Mart. In contrast to our surrounding well governed towns where business/professional experience is required for “public service”. Norwalk remains uniquely different from other towns and cities with our long tradition where their are no requirements for public office. Even former City employees can hold office. So far no other CT cities have followed that “approach”.

As apples fall from trues our taxes rise every year producing the same set of City services. Why complain.

Paul Lanning June 22, 2019 at 9:59 pm

In the last Norwalk election, I believe the turnout was one-fifth of the electorate, not one-third.

Amanda June 23, 2019 at 11:12 am

@Steve, exactly what I was going to say! How the R’s love to point fingers at current administration and forget how we got here in the first place.

Steve June 24, 2019 at 9:01 pm

Rowland and Rell’s mismanagement are what put us in the hole. Add to that the worst economic downturn in 80 years… Sorry you can’t blame Malloy for not saving a person who was given a horrible cancer by the prior incumbents. Hypocritical Republicans-

Scott June 25, 2019 at 10:04 am

@Steve – ‘Hypocritical Republicans’….please. How about the current Democrats lying to the electorate and subverting money that is supposed to be going into the transportation lock box?! Oh wait, that money never made it to the transportation lock box so they really aren’t misappropriating that money….come one! They’re all thieves and liars. Don’t think your tribe is above it all.

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