Connecticut must take the high road and not attack the middle class was the message labor leaders gave today in testimony before the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth.
“We need bold tax reforms that help grow the state’s economy and ensure that Connecticut remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “A cornerstone for Connecticut’s future stability and growth is a stable and predictable revenue stream. Connecticut has one of the best school systems in the country, but there are still pockets of significant need and inequality, and we need the resources to support all of our schools and students. Our state needs stable and reliable revenue to support critical state services, and a quality education for our children.”
The Commission was created by the legislature, to recommend changes to state revenue and tax structures by March 1. Williams told Commission members the state must honor its commitment to keeping the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement Fund solvent.
“Teachers have always paid more than their fair share into their retirement. They do not receive Social Security and because of that, cities and towns have saved billions of dollars over the years.”
The labor leaders told the Commission, made up of business leaders, that attacking the rights of men and women to earn a decent living undermines the future of Connecticut. They said preserving the quality of life for working men and women is essential to moving Connecticut forward.
“Business and labor are not enemies. We all share a common interest in a strong economy and safe, stable, and livable communities,” said Lori Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.
Pelletier explained several changes that, according to numerous studies, would help reduce inequality and help grow the economy. Those include raising the minimum wage, closing the gender pay gap, and establishing low wage employer fees to fine employers who pay their employees such a low wage that they are forced to rely on state services and enroll in Husky and SNAP programs.
Attorney Daniel Livingston, chief negotiator for the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) urged commission members to focus on the facts associated with economic and political decisions.
“We must take actions based on facts and real information, not anecdotal evidence, propaganda, and political slogans.”
Williams agreed, pointing to the myths that millionaires pay their fair share. “The fact is that in 1992 the highest earning taxpayers paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes. Twenty years later, that figure fell to less than 17 percent. Tax shelter schemes have proliferated for the wealthiest taxpayers, many of whom live in Connecticut.”
Sal Luciano, executive director of Council 4 AFSCME, urged the commission to not recommend the elimination of collective bargaining. Luciano dispelled a number of myths regarding collective bargaining and highlighted the importance of workers’ rights to a robust and growing economy and the fact that states making the greatest progress today are states where freedom to bargain is protected.
Luciano, quoting the late Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.”