Obliviousness characterized the last state administration and has started to characterize Gov. Ned Lamont’s as well, since a report the other day that Connecticut was the only New England state to lose population last year passed without official notice.
“I’m completely unsurprised,” Fred Carstensen, director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut, told the Waterbury Republican-American. “Population in general is driven by job creation. You’re not going to have people move into the state for a net addition when you don’t have an employment base to hold them here.”
Quinnipiac University economics professor Chris Ball elaborated: “Our taxes aren’t much worse than those of some other states in the region. It’s just a persistently bad fiscal situation and a persistently weak state economy, probably because of our bad fiscal situation.”
Anyone watching the Lamont administration can see that it promises only highway tolls, higher taxes, more expensive mandates on business, expansion of government, and the continued supremacy of the government employee unions.
In real terms the state’s economy has shrunk over the last decade. Carstensen says the jobs added by the state in that time pay an average of $25,000 a year less than the jobs that were lost. Nevertheless, the liberal Democratic majority in the General Assembly is eager to raise taxes while increasing subsidies for illegal immigrants, most of whom, according to a recent study, soon start receiving welfare benefits. That is not the formula for prosperity.
This political and economic environment is discouraging not only business expansion but also continued residency by people with substantial taxable assets. While the migration from Connecticut to lower-taxed states is not perfectly quantified, nearly everyone here knows people who in large part for tax reasons have moved to Florida, Texas, or New Hampshire, states without income taxes, and even to Southern and Western states with income taxes but lower tax burdens generally.
Those tax burdens are lower than Connecticut’s not just because their public services are not as extensive as Connecticut’s but, more so, because their governments are not as controlled by government employee unions as Connecticut’s is.
This week the governor announced that the state Office of Policy and Management will increase data sharing among state agencies to improve their efficiency and services to the public. It’s a good idea but it’s hardly the auditing state government needs to reverse Connecticut’s decline.
That’s because the big money in state government is not a matter of too many forms having to be filled out or the inability of one agency’s computers to integrate with another’s but because the premises of state government’s most expensive policies are mistaken.
Social promotion is graduating most high school students that are ignorant of high school math and English. This has made public higher education into remedial high school. Poverty policy is perpetuating poverty rather than creating self-sufficiency. Urban policy is weakening the already impoverished cities. Labor policy has made state government’s biggest single expense impossible to control.
But because these mistaken policies sustain huge special interests and those interests have come to dominate the majority political party, they are never questioned politically.
Showing Connecticut’s decline, the state’s economic and demographic data practically screams for challenging these policy premises, but there’s too much profit for too many people in continuing to do what drives the state down.