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.