HARTFORD. -- Speaking to an overflow crowd at the Legislative Office Building this week, representatives of Better Choices for Connecticut released a report outlining several options to stop Governor Rell's proposed budget cuts on vital needs and services.
The report indicates ways the Legislature could modernize Connecticut's revenue system while closing the state's massive budget deficit. It builds on a small millionaire's tax enacted last year after the legislature overrode a veto by the Governor. The outcome of the referendum in Oregon was cited as a good example: it raises personal income tax on higher income households in order to maintain the state's quality of life.
Representatives of the Better Choices coalition, which includes non-profit providers, labor unions, community, faith based and advocacy organizations, visited legislators after the press conference and pressed them to adopt measures to protect families. They called on the Legislature to find the way to maintain vital public services when families need them most including education, health, public safety, environmental protection, and transportation systems.
Increasing revenue, according to the Better Choices report, would align Connecticut with 30 other states including Oregon that have acted in the last year to increase state revenues to keep pace with the growing need for public services, and be in a position for future growth and sustainability in better economic conditions.
The revenue options advocated by Better Choices for Connecticut includes proposals to:
• Close corporate tax loopholes that benefit multi-state companies over local companies;
• Evaluate the $5 billion in tax breaks in state tax laws and reduce or eliminate unproductive tax breaks;
• Increase income taxes for those who can best afford it,;
• Delay reductions in the gift and estate tax, a tax that affects only a handful of the state's wealthiest residents;
• Tax excess profits of electricity generators to raise $ 400million a year. Connecticut has one of the highest electric rates in the country. The windfall profits accruing to for-profit electricity generators because of deregulation could be a significant source of state revenue and relief to rate payers. Company filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory commission were used to estimate that imposing an assessment on 50% of profits over 20% of the return on equity would generate over $400 million.
"We can balance the budget without relying solely on spending cuts that damage the state's economic future and harm families," said Jamey Bell, Executive Director of Connecticut Voices for Children. "There is a wide range of more balanced alternatives, such as evaluating and reducing the state's ‘hidden budget' of tax breaks and corporate tax loopholes."
William Cibes, chancellor emeritus of the Connecticut State University System and former secretary of the Office of Policy and Management under Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. said, "It's not a question of IF revenues will be raised, but which revenues will be raised. Better Choices is performing an important public service by putting forward some very constructive suggestions about how to do that."
Maggie Adair, Deputy Director of Connecticut Association for Human Services noted, "During a recession as deep as this one, demand for public services dramatically escalates. Slashing vital state services would hurt the working poor and middle-income people who have lost their jobs and are running behind. Connecticut is the wealthiest state in the nation, but it is among the most unequal. We have the capacity to protect and invest in our people and our communities."
The report, "Revenue Solutions for FY 2011," is available on the Better Choices for Connecticut website at www.betterchoicesforCT.org.
The Rev. Steve Camp of Faith Congregational Chruch in Hartford announced a special meeting at his church of the faith-based community to address Connecticut's economic crisis. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 14 at 7 pm. He urged everyone to join this effort to move forward.
Photo: by Tom Conolly/Rev. Steve Camp