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OP-ED | Lawmakers Would Rather Be the Juice Police Than Deal With the Economy

by Suzanne Bates | Apr 25, 2014 9:00am
(9) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Opinion

We are nearing the end of this year’s legislative session, and I admit I’ll feel a little relieved once the statehouse empties out, because it’ll mean lawmakers can’t do any more harm.

Connecticut’s economy is in trouble. Our state’s economy was the only one — the only one — in the nation that shrank in 2012. (Numbers aren’t out yet for 2013.) We were last in economic growth in the nation. Last.

And this week a new Gallup poll came out that showed Connecticut residents are not feeling too enthusiastic about their home state. Only 31 percent said Connecticut is the best or one of the best possible states to live in, placing us in the bottom 10 states for home-state pride.

Maybe it has something to do with the cost of living here — our local and state taxes and energy costs are among the highest in the nation, while our personal income growth lags behind the national average.

And this week, we read about how New London almost ran out of money. Local elected officials were overly enthusiastic about their revenues and underestimated their expenses. Sound familiar?

I know I’ll be accused of preaching gloom and doom, but refusing to face the growing list of red flags will not make anything better. Before we can solve the problem we have to first admit it exists!

You would think all of this bad news would cause some concern among Democratic lawmakers, who hold majorities in the state House and Senate, and also fill every other statewide office. You would think they would be trying to figure out how to turn our state around, to re-energize our sluggish economy and give encouragement to the business community and Connecticut families.

But that hasn’t happened. Instead, our lawmakers seem determined to ignore the bad economic news, focusing instead on a supposed surplus — one that is rapidly disappearing — while remaining silent on the looming billion dollar deficit that forecasters say is coming next year.

Let’s celebrate the surplus by sending everyone $55 checks! As though that will help the state’s middle class, who are disappearing right alongside that surplus.

Legislators continue to make promises they can’t possibly keep — Retirement for all! Everyone can retire with dignity! Read the fine print — the fiscal impact statement on the proposed retirement savings bill says the program would cost the state up to $340 million over the next two years, and that’s before the guaranteed rates of return kick in on everyone’s investments, which could be fiscally disastrous for the state.

Everyone can get paid more! Our minimum wage is now on its way to be the highest in the country. Job losses? Inflation? Things that will hurt the working poor? Let’s worry about that later.

The state hasn’t done anything this session to respond to parents’ concerns about a burdensome testing schedule, or to local concerns about the costs of implementing the Common Core.

And instead of coming up with new and creative ways to help children who are failing in school, the state Senate instead wants the state Board of Education to write lesson plans about the history of labor unions, just in case any Connecticut teachers are clamoring for more state-designed curriculum.

What our children really need, it seems, is the state to act like the juice police, telling childcare providers and parents how much juice children can drink, and what kind of milk they can put in their sippy cups.

Maybe I’m being too hard on them. I’m sure they’ve done some good things these past few weeks. I know they mean well, and that most of them work long hours for very little pay.

But if we’re going to turn things around, the majority party needs to find the political will to face some hard economic facts. And they need to come up with fixes that last longer than a $55 check.

Suzanne Bates is a writer living in South Windsor with her family. While traveling across the country as an Air Force spouse, she worked for news organizations including the Associated Press, New Hampshire Union Leader and Good Morning America Weekend. She recently completed a research fellowship at the Yankee Institute. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.

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(9) Comments

posted by: bgenerous | April 25, 2014  11:08am

Only 6 in the entire House and Senate voted against the UTC deal.  It seems to me the best endorsement of Governor Malloy’s economic policies for business are coming from the Republican legislators. The majority party isn’t the only party that needs a shot of political will.

posted by: shinningstars122 | April 26, 2014  9:42am

shinningstars122

Ms. Bates I guess even a Dual UConn NCCA Division 1 championship could not even pull you out of your funk?

I look forward to to the economic shot in the arm Hartford will receive next year when the AAC Championship comes to town next year.

We all agree that Connecticut needs to do better in economic growth and lowering the cost of living and energy.

Regardless of your dooms day observations things are changing.

Governor Malloy has at least shown the vision to invest in transportation, infrastructure, and gasp! even tourism.

I think we can all remember Jodi Rell’s infamous response to funding tourism promotion…a big goose egg.

You can criticize all you want, and maybe your should move to North Carolina while you are at it, but places like New Haven, Danbury, Stamford, and even Lithcfield are CT success stories and are doing much better now than they did back in the 1990’s under soon to be twice convicted felon John Rowland.

The issues are Hartford, Waterbury, and Bridgeport and the smaller cities and rural areas of our state that need much more economic support.

Sadly Tom Foley has no magic bullet, or even a plan, for this much bigger challenge either.

Clearly after almost eight years of GOP obstructionism and austerity in Congress, we in CT are seeing and feeling the fruits of their labor…no money for small towns to help develop infrastructure and attract new start up businesses.

I mean we are in one of the best areas of the world culturally and economically with a great quality of life. One which Ms. Bates, many in CT would not want to sacrifice so we could become more like Texas or West Virginia.

I agree both parties have to be smart and manage state finances in a prudent and responsible manner but please get off the dooms day soap box for once and consider enjoying a beautiful spring day in Elizabeth Park.

posted by: StillRevolting | April 26, 2014  12:26pm

I couldn’t agree more but, have noticed that the more that “gets done” under the Gold Dome, the worse off I become. The next legislative session should be one week long and focus on nothing other than a zero increase budget. I’m sick of my state government and simply want less of it.

posted by: Greg | April 26, 2014  8:48pm

“and maybe your should move to North Carolina…”

And here we see the default argument when there is no logical rebuttal to hard economic data showing this state lagging the entire country by a laundry list of metrics.  Don’t like it? Get out!

Blame Rowland, blame Rell; the legislature is a meaningless body of government with zero power to do anything; It’s always the fault of the Governor-(R) for this state’s fall from grace, crappy economic growth, absurdly high cost of living, etc etc etc.  State legislature with overwhelming majority control by democrats for decades? Meaningless, they don’t matter, they can do no wrong, the legislature has no power.

In CT, it’s not Malloy’s NOR the legislature’s fault because Rowland?  Who hasn’t been in office in how long???

GET OUT IF YOU DON"T LIKE IT!!!

posted by: Lawrence | April 28, 2014  8:57pm

Can’t they do both?

Not everything is about dollars and cents, you know.

Perhaps you should talk to your local Republican Town Committee, see if your ideas and political positions interest them and represent the majority of voters in your town. Then you could run for state rep. and show everyone how to do it perfectly, according to your own standards.

posted by: shinningstars122 | May 1, 2014  6:22am

shinningstars122

@Greg I think you do not appreciate my point of comparison.

Politicians do not plan for the future they only think about the next election cycle.

I would also suggest you Goggle how corporations like to extort states to earn enormous tax breaks to keeps jobs in the state.

Thanks UT!

Ms. Bates points and methods I disagree with with and her nanny culture description is both ignorant in line with Koch borther talking points.

How about we take show some tough love to the plutocracy and corporate America and motivate them to invest in the economy and create better paying jobs?

posted by: Greg | May 1, 2014  9:56am

Shining Star: I appreciate your points just fine, and no i don’t need google ro read how UTC “extorts” CT for $400MM to stay in the state and NOT ADD ONE SOLITARY JOB (and expand elsewhere in the country), yet that deal is paraded around by Malloy like he won the super bowl. Same with Bridgewater, paying a billionaire to move a town or two over.  I don’t disagree with you on that point, or on the concept of corporate welfare in general. Here’s the problem, in CT we pay those evil corporations to not leave while other states pay them to come and set up shop. 

Essentially, we pay to stop the bleeding. Other states we love to hate for their down south backwardness (TX, TN, SC, GA) are expanding and growing. We’re not.  That is a product of decades of poor public policy in my opinion.


My point, which i’m not sure you fully appreciate, is that you can’t go around blaming the GOP in DC, Bush, or Rowland and Rell for the state’s problems while willfully ignoring the perpetual Democratic legislature that has dominated policymaking here in CT for decades, especially when we are the one outlier in the entire country. Guess what? You can’t blame John Boehner and G.W.Bush for CT’s last in the country economic performance either, sorry.  You can’t blame the bush tax cuts for this year’s magical, vanishing surplus-now-deficit.  At some point the legislature needs to own making this state the laggard of the nation, and blaming DC while the rest of the country grows just doesn’t work.  Malloy needs to own this deficit as well, since he was on NPR earlier this week bragging about how he, specifically, brought us from deficit to surplus. 

And my last point: it’s a cheap shot to yell out “MOVE SOMEWHERE ELSE” or “KOCH BROTHERS” when attempting to debate policy, just as it’s intellectually lazy for the other side to yell “BILL AYERS” or “GEORGE SOROS”.

posted by: shinningstars122 | May 1, 2014  8:30pm

shinningstars122

@Greg the austerity measures are hurting us in CT. Right now the Federal government is the only entity that will spend money and ironically since CT is still very dependent on defense spending things will only get tighter.

Corporations are hording cash and have no motivation to invest in job creation. I mean honestly if you can borrow money at O% interest from the Fed and invest in the stock market and make 20% profit since 2008… well you do the math.

To put things in a historical context, the reason CT has had one of the highest median incomes in the country and some of the best schools is that it has always been a great place to raise a family.

When our economy was an industrial based we thrived. The middle class thrived.

We have to find that new niche(s) that also incorporate our positive assets of a great quality of life and convenience to NYC and Boston.

The reality about down south is their taxes will go up and have been going up, they have offered enormous tax breaks as well, but with their growing populations they will need to invest in infrastructure schools, wastewater treatment plants, and the such and as we all know that will not be cheap.

I mean Atlanta has some of the worse traffic in America right now. I think we are in a better position to balance growth with a great place to live.

I have lived in many places across this country and I came back to the CT because it is a nice place to live, if not one of the best.

We have to attract young entrepreneurs who can no longer afford to live in Williamsburg and can come to Bridgeport instead and have that huge loft, for cheap, to start that new business.

The Governor is savvy about this as is many in the legislature but honestly it is gonna come from the cities and town to be the advocates for this shift.

posted by: shinningstars122 | May 1, 2014  8:38pm

shinningstars122

@Greg my last point to you is, if think it is a cheap shot or laziness to not point out and criticize the Koch brothers, and all the other billioanires trying to take over our democracy, you are clarly not paying attention to the influence and control dark money non-profits have exerted onto our elected officials and the process.

It is the biggest threat to our democracy and must be stopped. Corporations are not people, unless you want to go back to the Gilded Age.

I highly suggest you consider reading the book ” Winner Take All Politics” its documents quite clearly how both parties have contributed to the demise of the middle class over the last 40 years.