Opinion: Time to halt the decline

Why do half of us now living in Connecticut want to pull up stakes and move elsewhere? That’s the question that begs for an answer following the release of a recent nation-wide Gallup Poll, which showed that, indeed, 49 percent of Connecticut’s residents would just as soon head for the exits.

But hey, we already know why — don’t we? We’ve got a state government that has gone completely off the rails. We’ve got a political class in Hartford, the majority of whom vote for the narrow interests of their party rather than the interests of the people who sent them there. Here in the state senatorial district encompassing Norwalk and Darien, we have an outstanding example in the person of State Sen. Bob Duff. More on that in a minute, but first let’s look at a few instances of Hartford’s handiwork:

One of the hugely expensive boondoggles that the Malloy Administration rammed through the state legislature is a “bus-way” — a 10-mile-long road between New Britain and Hartford dedicated to buses only.  Projected cost when it’s completed is $573 million. Then there’s the new train line that promises to zip people between New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield.  That’s $647 million for that. And it doesn’t end there. If the critics are right, taxpayers will end up subsidizing these grandiose projects forever because neither of them will ever get the number of riders needed to pay the full cost of operating them.

How many of us here in Norwalk and Darien need to take a bus between New Britain and Hartford? How many of us yearn to ride the rails from New Haven to Springfield?  (Pause) That’s what I thought. And yet both projects got the ringing endorsement of our own Mr. Duff.

Mr. Duff also approved of the hundreds of millions of additional dollars the governor is spending to “incentivize” certain companies (“bribe” is more like it) not to flee to other states. Keep in mind that the administration is using other people’s money — your money — to do the bribing. What’s even stranger is the corporate welfare. More millions are spent to help some companies — selected by who knows what criteria — to move from one part of Connecticut to another part of Connecticut. Must be nice to have that kind of influence with the governor and his loyalists.

On a broader scale, Mr. Duff cast the deciding vote for the largest tax and fee increases in Connecticut history to pay for all this waste of taxpayer money on projects outside his district.  And yet, just as economists predicted, the revenues have fallen far short. Very far short. But rather than learn from experience, the governor, with Mr. Duff among others dutifully falling in line, is gearing up for another round of gimmicky budgeting that’s sure to make things even worse.

Public employee unions are happy, though. Even as the state careens toward another gargantuan deficit, the governor is looking to add more than 500 new state employees. See? Our state government is still not big enough for the likes of Malloy and Duff. Meanwhile, growth in the private-sector of Connecticut, the only place where real jobs are created, is pathetic.

To be fair, we should acknowledge that Mr. Duff does do some things for us in Norwalk and Darien besides hauling away ever-larger chunks of our income. He sends us emails warning about the weather (“Better bring your umbrella”).  He sends out press releases about federally funded projects like the work on I-95 in Norwalk (which, by the way, he had nothing to do with).  He gets his picture in the paper many times during the year, at ribbon cutting ceremonies and such.

These things unfortunately do nothing to stem the flood of outward migration of retirees who can’t afford to live here and young people who can’t find jobs here.  There was a net outward migration of more than 325,000 people during a recent 20-year period reported on by the Yankee Institute. If it weren’t for new births, which made up for the losses plus a little extra, Connecticut’s population would have dropped by about 10 percent.

Consider a few other facts:

• Connecticut has had no net new job growth for almost the past quarter-century.  None.  Zero.  (It is probably no coincidence that the start of this dismal record is when the state adopted an income tax in 1991, pushed through by a Republican governor, Lowell Weicker, after he won election promising not to.)

• A survey by the website TopRetirements.com ranked Connecticut in 2012 as the worst state in which to retire.

• Barron’s newspaper rated Connecticut’s debt situation in 2012 the worst in the country.

• The Cato Institute gave Gov. Dan Malloy a grade of “F” in state fiscal management, saying he “creates a more hostile climate for business, but then tries to compensate for the damage with tax incentives.” Or as I call them, bribes, using other people’s money of course.

Absent a change in the administration in Hartford, there’s not much that residents of Norwalk and Darien can do to turn things around.  But we can make progress in that direction.  First off by educating our representatives about what really generates jobs and prosperity. It’s not more taxes, fees, and regulations, as they currently seem to believe. What will turn things around is Hartford getting out of the way and letting wage-earners, entrepreneurs, and businesses keep more of the money they earn.  It is scaling back the regulatory state that strangles opportunities for success and kills jobs.

The best thing we can do now is to get our politicians to focus on reversing those misguided policies in Hartford, or else replace them. The politicians, that is.

Bill Dunne is a 24-year resident of Norwalk.


15 responses to “Opinion: Time to halt the decline”

  1. anonymous

    @Bill spot on. Duff needs to go, photo ops but no substance. Malloy right behind him.

  2. Bill

    Sooner or later these idiots will learn that the money pot is limited and public unions can’t be the beneficiaries of taxpayers’ losses indefinitely.

  3. Oldtimer

    Bill Dunne apparently believes he could do a much better job than either Duff or Malloy. He undecided about which job to run for ?

  4. Piberman

    Here in Norwalk during the recent election none of the candidates for Mayor or Council discussed how to curb spending, punitive taxes or excessive public union salaries. Or how to reverse property stagnation or Grand List decline. With our political parties completely oblivious to common day concerns what prospects do we have of restoring Norwalk’s “golden age” when employees received only modest salaries, housing prices increased yearly, taxes were affordable, elected officials earned our respect and newcomers were anxious to live here ? The definition of a “failing city” is when elected officials are oblivious to common day concerns of its citizens. Norwalk is a failing city. Absent a much more competent class of elected officials the only option for many is moving. Which is what the polls indicate. No surprise here.

  5. Ken Werner

    Sorry guys. I’m not a member of a public employees union, but I understand that at least some unions are not fans of the Malloy administration since they have had to give up benefits and agree to contracts that made their members unhappy. Connecticut has serious problems, but let’s not blame the public employees who are suffering right along with the rest of us.

  6. Ken, the public employees in the State of Connecticut are among the highest paid in the entire United States, and are paid on average about $7,700 per year more than comparable private sector workers (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-03-01-1Apublicworkers01_ST_N.htm#table). The ‘give backs’ they gave to Malloy still provide them with benefits and retirement packages far richer than most private sector employees get, along with an unprecedented deal that guarantied no layoffs of state employees for 4 years — a perk no private sector (or public sector, before this) employee has. “Suffering right along with the rest of us” rings hollow when the “us” has endured tens of thousands of lost jobs (while the public employees were guarantied employment), and has been hit with big tax increases largely imposed to protect those public employee jobs (tax increases which have clearly contributed to Connecticut’s moribund, worst-recovery-in-the-nation economy).

  7. John Levin

    Point of information: the survey reporting that approximately half of CT residents wish to move out of state does not identify the respondents’ reasons. It is not reasonable to assume, as you do Mr Dunne, they wish to move because “We’ve got a state government that has gone completely off the rails.” That may be your opinion, but there is no data presented anywhere which would support it. Rather the contrary: the fact that the Democratic party in CT has been able to maintain a hammerlock on both branches of the state legislature would seem to serve as evidence that a majority of CT voters at least are somehwat satisfied, rightly or wrongly, with the status quo.

    In reality, there are many reasons individuals may wish to leave the state. Here are ten plausible examples: 1) winters are bad here and better in places like California, 2) suburban and small town, or small city, life in CT is boring as heck, and other places may be perceived as more exciting or fun, like California or NYC, 3) a lack of instate professional sports teams to cheer for, 4) CT beaches are shielded by Long Island sound and thus don’t have the waves and natural beauty of states like Rhode Island, or California, 5) there are no mountains, and thus limited opportunities for engaging in outdoor winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, 6) higher paying jobs are perceived as being available elsewhere (such as the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota?), 7) a family member lives far away, perhaps in California, and is missed, 8) the west coast offers the natural beauty of ocean sunsets, which we don’t get in CT, 9) acid rain from Midwest power plants wreak havoc with gardening, farming, and copper plumbing in CT and is not a problem much further out west, 10) people are better looking in general in California, and Los Angeles in particular, than they are in CT. So, each of these 10 reasons I list has exactly the same amount of data supporting it as the reasons you state, right?

  8. Suzanne

    OK, as a native CA, I have a couple of comments: CA is slowly being ruined by overpopulation and is suffering the worse drought, on record, in 500 years. LA (lived there 17 years), at least on the West side, practices “body cultism” including lots of help (read plastic surgery) to stay so good looking. While the emphasis here may not be so stringent for the “body beautiful” look, it was a relief to see great looking people in CT aging naturally. Far more beautiful than plastic. Otherwise, I do agree with the point that the reasons people are leaving the state have as much to do with the 10 points above as they do with politics. Pretty shocking that the financial downturn was not explicitly mentioned: that took away at least have a dozen families from our neighborhood and we are just hanging on.

  9. Audrey Cozzartin

    My husband and I have been interested in leaving Norwalk because this area (Fairfield County/Metro NY) is a rat race and we’d rather live someplace less competitive, hostile, and frenzied. We’re in search of a good, ethical community and wonder where on Earth that might be.

  10. Piberman

    Mike Lyons is on target. Gov. Malloy was the first Governor in the nation to guarantee public unions immune to layoffs while granting major salary gains at the same time passing the largest tax increase in the state’s history. All CT Democrats need be proud of this distinction – governance at its best.

    There’s another distinction. According to the Chronicle of Education CT’s UCON’s professors are the best paid in the nation. No wonder the Governor wants to expand UCON when CT college grads leave CT in astonishing numbers. UCON’s profs support the Governor.

    Gov. Malloy deserves re-election. That will insure CT remains the national poster child for fiscal mismanagement on a scale not seen since the Great Depression.

  11. Bill Dunne

    John Levin says it us “not reasonable” for me to assume that people may wish to move because “We’ve got a state government that has gone completely off the rails.” Why not? Why is it any less reasonable for me to assume that than for John (or somebody) to assume that acid rain is the reason? (That assumption is my favorite, but that people in other states might be better looking comes in a close second.)
    Hey, John, it’s an opinion poll. Opinion polls don’t engage in in-depth analyses. They just ask fairly simple questions and get fairly simple binary answers, like yes or no; no profound probing into the reasons for those answers. So we are left to make surmises. You can make yours, and I can make mine. Right? But I daresay that one’s sense of economic well-being would generally be considered a far more compelling reason for a far greater number of people to stay or to go than, say, the quality of the sunsets. But that’s just me.

  12. Casey Smith

    @John Levin – You were kidding, right?
    The original article, which NON had a link to, listed items like cost of living, family location, job opportunties and various other issues.
    We’re planning on moving elsewhere simply because once we retire, we won’t be able to afford to live here. Neither my spouse or I have the wonderful municipal retirement packages.
    And, speaking about winter, I’m so tired of having the driveway plowed back in by town plows after shoveling it out the first time. But I digress….
    We have friends who are thinking about relocating and we’re open to their suggestions. Time will tell.

  13. srb

    Libertarian Cato Institute and Rupert Murdoch owned Barron’s give Malloy poor marks–wow that’s a surprise. New release, Northerners moving South. NOTE: I bet dollars for donuts that the 10 mile bus route is generously subsidized by our federal government, as is our MTA. As Frank Bruni aptly pointed out in his column the other day- and I’m paraphrasing, America today thinks small. Whether it’s Chris Christie on another tunnel or Bill Dunne on a bus route. No Erie Canal, transcontinental railway, Hoover Dam, Interstate Highway or landing on the moon for you guys, its too expensive. If America is falling behind its due to small mindedness.

  14. anonymous

    @John Levin? every one of your 10 reasons have existed for a very long time, some for a millennium (no mountains, beaches on a sound, lousy weather), some since the 1940’s (moving to California, boring).

  15. the donut hole

    People (not enough yet) are tired of a state that provides subsidized and free housing to people who own $30,000 cars who don’t work. Take a look at all the late model cars parked all over Washington Village and out on Water Street all day long doing nothing.
    People (not enough yet) are tired of hearing the same groups telling us over and over again that life isn’t fair so they need to take more of the money that most people have to get up and work for so they can buy top dollar food with their EBT cards dressed to the hilt.
    People (not enough yet) are tired of hearing about the poor teachers (35 weeks per year) and government workers (35 hours a week) who are so irreplaceable we have to pay them huge salaries above market rate.
    People (not enough yet) are tired of giving the state $2 billion a year in gas taxes and getting about 5 cents on the dollar back in roadway improvements.
    If enough people can wake up and do something about it, the state might just make it. If not, we’ll take a look at Rhode Island. That’s our future.
    Now imagine for a second what this number would be if we didn’t have changes of seasons or nice beaches and then ask yourself what the differences are.

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