It’s Time for a People’s Budget!

From the archives…

This column appears in the February 9 – 16, 2012 edition of the Hartford News…

After months of denials, Gov. Dan Malloy’s administration finally admitted that the state economy sucks. The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has projected a budget deficit of close to $ 145 million. The OFA also determined that the concessions agreement between Malloy and state employees will only deliver about one-third of the $4.8 billion in savings that the Malloy administration claimed the deal would create. The reaction of Team Malloy to these facts was swift and decisive – they immediately blamed the Republicans. As former legislator and blogger Jonathan Pelto pointed out in a recent column, the truth is that there has been one constant through the gubernatorial reigns of Republicans John Rowland, M. Jodi Rell and Democrat Dan Malloy – a Democrat controlled legislature. Both the Dems and the GOP are to blame as it is their conventional economic policies that have brought the state to this point. It’s time to implement the changes which have long been called for by social justice organizations and community activists, specifically an economic structure which is based on fairness and common sense.

Last year the Community Party initiated an economic justice plan called Plan C – The People’s Budget of Connecticut. During the 2011 General Assembly session Governor Malloy presented two budget scenarios for the state, neither of which involved any”‘shared sacrifice” from the wealthy and corporations. We decided to present Plan C, which consists of several elements. First, we want corporate tax reform. Under the current system, companies like AT&T make millions of dollars in Connecticut and are then able to ship the loot to Nevada, where they don’t have to pay taxes on the money. Call us crazy, but we think that’s a bit unfair. Tax loopholes should be closed so that corporations pay taxes on the profits that they make off of state residents. We demand a change to Connecticut’s regressive tax structure. The working class and the poor in this state currently pay more in taxes than the rich. Better Choices for Connecticut, a labor and social justice coalition, cited the recent decision by New York officials to maintain a tax rate of 8.82 percent on couples making $2 million per year and individuals making $1 million, while reducing the tax rate on households earning less than $300,000 annually. Couples in Connecticut who earn $500,000 a year and individuals who make $250,000 are currently taxed at a 6.7 percent rate. Malloy and the legislature could raise taxes on the wealthy and still maintain a competitive advantage over New York, which is the reason Malloy cites for coddling the rich.

We believe that the state should establish a public bank. As I mentioned in last week’s column, North Dakota is the only state with a publicly owned bank. Their unemployment rate is 3.5 % and they have a $1 billion budget surplus. The Bank of North Dakota has generated over $350 million dollars in revenue for the state’s general fund since 1997. This money is used for balancing the state budget, job creation, fair and principled lending to small businesses, homeowners and college students, infrastructure projects and funding vital social services. Guess who doesn’t have to pay for all of this good stuff? The taxpayer. More money in the state’s coffers means more spending flexibility for things like municipal aid, which ultimately translates to less of a tax burden for city residents.

Welfare reform is a must. Hartford has the highest poverty rate in the nation at 31.9%. Cash assistance was decimated in 1996 by Democrat President Bill Clinton and Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The system is currently backwards, as finding employment is emphasized over education and job skills training. Individuals must scramble to find low paying jobs before getting kicked off of the program, which only perpetuates the cycle of poverty. The term for Connecticut’s cash assistance program is 21 months, the shortest in the nation. We want participants in the program to receive education and training which will make them more competitive for jobs with higher wages. This foundation will increase their chances of becoming financially independent. Individuals should also be able to remain in the program if they can’t find work or are faced with an economic hardship.

Close to $30 billion has been spent by Connecticut to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with $450 million dollars coming from Hartford. This money could be used for job creation, education, health care, housing and infrastructure spending. We demand that the US end their military adventures and use the money at home. The unemployment rate for Blacks and Latinos continues to be higher than the jobless rate for whites. Latino unemployment in Hartford has reached Depression-era levels, while as many as 50% of young Black males in some areas of Hartford cannot find a job. This lack of opportunity certainly fuels the violence in North Hartford and other low income urban neighborhoods.

Finally, we think it’s pretty messed up that homeowners are being kicked out of their houses by the banks that they helped to bail out with their tax dollars. We want a long-term moratorium on housing foreclosures. Judges can currently modify the terms of loan agreements for luxury items such as yachts – we demand that homeowners be afforded the same protection.

Check out the People’s Budget Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Plan-C-The-Peoples-Budget-of-Connecticut/134064293347049 ). Follow me on Twitter @CommunityParty1.

David Samuels

Founder

Community Party

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