“We reject the idea of cutting our way to prosperity. That has never worked,” said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano. His remarks came at a press conference yesterday where members of the labor community, including CEA, called on the state to adopt a pro-growth, investment budget.
Labor leaders pointed out that austerity budgets haven’t worked elsewhere, and there is no reason to believe one would work in Connecticut. Their remarks came ahead of the governor’s budget address, which is expected February 20.
“Just take a look at Kansas,” Luciano said. “In 2012, their Governor dramatically cut taxes and spending with the hope that jobs would be miraculously created and revenue would increase. But the opposite happened. Revenue shrank, the economy grew more slowly than neighboring states, their bond rating plummeted, and there were massive cuts to education and infrastructure. So, in 2016, the Republican controlled legislature realized their experiment had failed and rolled back their tax cuts.”
French teacher Mary Yordon, the president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, said that teachers are eager to work with Governor Lamont and legislators. “We care about the long-term stability of state finances and believe that we should all thrive together. We live here too! We are not only teachers; we are also commuters, homeowners, and taxpayers.”
CEA President Jeff Leake said, “It will take all of us, working together, to solve the challenges facing Connecticut. We must invest in our future and make sure that our ability to recruit and retain a high-quality, diverse teaching force isn’t impacted by concerns about pensions and education funding.”
The solution shouldn’t rely solely on teachers to contribute more, which is what we did last year in the state budget lawmakers passed in 2017. We must join together as a society and collective community to fix the harm that these decades of neglect have done, together and in a shared fashion. Pension concerns are having an impact on recruitment, hiring, and retention of a workforce of high-quality teachers from diverse backgrounds.
The Education Cost Sharing formula — known as “ECS” — was adjusted and improved, but education in Connecticut is still not adequately funded. Local education districts need to be able to accurately predict state funding contributions and set our local budgets without the brinksmanship and uncertainties of the recent past.
Moving taxes from the state to the municipal level does not solve funding problems; and it also creates a few new ones. We still are going to have to make the investments to shore up this vital public asset!
Miles Rapoport, a Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at Harvard and a former Connecticut Secretary of the State and Connecticut State Representative, urged Lamont and the legislature to avoid easy ways of cutting the budget, and instead look toward the future.
Yordon said that she looks forward to Governor Lamont’s budget providing supports for public schools without the disruptions and uncertainties that have occurred over the past two years. “Mutual solutions for predictable, on-time reasonable funding for public schools are critical. Better stewardship of resources is possible to build a Connecticut that is a good place to live and where all can have an equal opportunity to thrive together.”