There’s no silver bullet when it comes to balancing the state budget and growing the economy, but we know that attacking working people is not the direction Connecticut should be taking. As the governor and legislators face the challenging fiscal reality of our times, they must have the courage to create a bold, 21st century revenue stream that will sustain Connecticut and its citizens without cutting the vital services we all depend on.
That was the message a group of labor leaders shared with members of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth on Friday.
“We need bold tax reforms that help grow the state’s economy and ensure that Connecticut remains a great place to live and work, not just for millionaires, but for the middle class, and those who aspire to the middle class,” said Donald E. Williams, Executive Director of the Connecticut Education Association. “The cornerstone for Connecticut’s future stability and growth is a stable and predictable revenue stream that is effective and reliable in collecting everyone’s fair share of taxes to support our schools, our seniors, transportation, and the services that our state requires.”
The Commission met with labor representatives on Friday — the last day of hearings before they release their recommendations by March 1.
Worker representatives on the panel included Lori Pelletier, President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO; Salvatore Luciano, Executive Director, Council 4 AFSCME; Donald E. Williams, Executive Director of the Connecticut Education Association; and Attorney Daniel E. Livingston, Chief Negotiator for the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC).
Together, they advocate an approach that invests in public services and structures, makes Connecticut’s tax structure fairer, and provides workers with the security and purchasing power needed for sustainable growth.
Pelletier emphasized that fairly paid and fairly treated workers are central to the idea of a high road economy:
“Business and labor may be adversaries at the bargaining table, but we are not enemies,” said Pelletier. “We all share a common interest in a strong economy with good jobs and high productivity. We want safe, stable and livable communities. The states that are leading in the growth of jobs with good pay and benefits are states like New York, California, and Minnesota that have strong unions in both the public and private sectors.”
Luciano argued that it’s important for legislators and the public to remember the Commission’s statutory mission as it moves forward:
“The Commission’s explicit mission is to make Connecticut better for families and businesses. Taking the low road of lowered living standards, diminished educational opportunities, lower quality public services and an even more unequal economy will only make things worse for everyone — except for the privileged few.”
Livingston stressed the importance of truth and reality in weighing public policy decisions:
“Let’s take action based upon facts and information, not anecdotal evidence, propaganda, and political slogans. For example, Connecticut’s current pension plans are moderate and well-funded. Our problem is the old pension debt, created before there was collective bargaining, by a General Assembly unfettered by the obligations of a contract. So reality matters when making recommendations.”
Panelists also pushed back against previous testimony from organizations advocating continued attacks on collective bargaining at a time when state and municipal workers have repeatedly stepped up to help their employers and local taxpayers through economic concessions and other savings.
“Our public service workforce of teachers, police, social service providers, health care workers and environmental protectors — like their private sector brother and sisters — is an asset to be supported, not a punching bag to be scapegoated,” Pelletier said.