State employee concessions will provide $24 billion in savings over 20 years.

I’ve worked as a correctional officer in the Connecticut prison system for 12 years.

I’ve also served my country as a member of the U.S. Navy, including nine years on active duty and another 11 years as a reservist.

My belief in public service is motivated by a desire to see all people treated fairly and to demonstrate the value of shared sacrifice for the common good. It bothers me when elected leaders and social media pundits use Connecticut’s continuing budget problems to churn people’s anger over public employee pay and benefits.

People need to remember that unionized state employees have stepped up to the plate three times in the last 10 years with sacrifices to help put Connecticut’s fiscal house in order.

Most recently, we agreed to make financial concessions that total $1.6 billion in the current biennium, and $24 billion over 20 years. These concessions include wage freezes and increased contributions to our pensions and health insurance premium cost sharing.

Put another way, state employees gave up an average of $17,500 per person in 2017-18 and 2018-19. So I think we’ve earned the right to demand fairness from others when it comes to fixing the state’s finances.

In this country, and certainly in Connecticut, the ultra-wealthy and many corporations pay the lowest tax rates – sometimes nothing at all – whether it’s through regressive rates, or loopholes, evasions and corporate giveaways that end up making our budget problems worse.

Connecticut takes a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy familiesa problem made worse by recent changes to the federal tax structure.

And then you have big corporations like Amazon, Wal-Mart and McDonald’s paying their employees such low wages that they need taxpayer-funded benefits (paid for by all of us) to survive.

As a military veteran and correction officer, it’s my job protect our communities and our way of life. I am not advocating class warfare. I have no ill will against the wealthy or successful.

My frustration falls solely on a system that our governor and our legislators have the ability to change. It’s not the fault of the people who benefit from the inequalities. It’s the fault of those who perpetuate or turn a blind eye to it while those of us in the middle class continue to sacrifice for the common good.

Nate Hunsicker of North Stonington is a state correction officer.

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9 Comments

  1. “Put another way, state employees gave up an average of $17,500 per person in 2017-18 and 2018-19.”

    No question this is true.

    But there is more to the equation. What did you get in exchange for what you “gave up?” Did you get additional job security, or promises not to see lay-offs?

    Also, we need to compare apples to apples. How do your benefits compare to others in the private sector? How does yours pay compared to the private sector?

    There are no answers in this comment, only a request that you tell us the whole story in context.

  2. Nonsense. We could NEVER afford the long term cost of the services provided without continual higher taxation and ongoing deferred pension payments. In essence politicians were ”cooking the books” and union management used those deferals and the ”we are a rich state argument ” as leverage in contract ”negotiations” to secure things like no layoffs, salary guarantees, and large bonuses – no matter what the economy was actually doing. Worse again, in many cases, those services were not competitive with the private sector where goods and services are primarily purchased in the open market – where competition is king.

    Many business leaders in Connecticut are stunned at the stupidity of politicians who agreed to these contracts and are legitimately questioning if the taxpayer was properly represented? Because all of this was done without GAAP accounting in place and in defiance of the constitutional spending cap that was ignored since 1991 until Republicans forced Democrats to implement some common sense fiscal constraints in the last budget cycle.

    Now that Democrats are back in control and they are up to their old tricks but worse senior leaders want to eliminate (a democrat) governor completely from bonding decisions because he forced them to reduce the amount going on the state credit card, he knows we are broke (on a GAAP basis) as Mr. Lembo reminded Gov. Malloy every quarter in his updates

    Bottom line – the public sector has not seen a significant downsizing in decades (not including casino workers) but the private sector has had three separate times in the last 20 years. Your lucrative labor / benefit contracts were ”negotiated” behind closed doors, hidden from public scrutiny and never debated openly on their merits by the legislature.

    However, the harsh reality of insolvency is many rank and file, hard working people, will never see what is owed if Connecticut requires federal assistance and that is looking more likely because growth is stagnant compared to other places. Growth is the only way out of this mess. So, this is not about a few billionaires or a few hundred millionaires paying a little more in taxes – this is about hundreds of thousands of people giving up and looking for better opportunities in other states or decided to retire to lower cost states where their hard earned dollars will last longer.

  3. Our state is in a fiscal crisis which is due to the underfunding of unsustainable state retiree benefits. The problem grows each budget year with fresh liabilities coming due to be paid by worn out taxpayers. Taxing the rich is a panacea that will eventually chase those rich to a state that doesn’t use them as an ATM machine to fix the state’s fiscal mismanagement. Class envy doesn’t look good on anyone and is not the cure for decades of fiscal foolishness.

  4. Personally, I detest the use of the word “Fairness”, as a political catch phrase. It is, and should always be about “Income Equality”. State union employees cannot expect or justify tax mandates requiring elderly residents living on a fixed income of $30,0O0 via Social Security, to pay for lifetime healthcare and state employee pensions, exceeding $75,000 per year. Additionally, tax burden for all must be proportional and exert an equal percentage of taxation based on percentage of total gross income, no matter how that income has been earned, or what tax bracket. This should be true for the poor, middle class and the rich Connecticut is broke because of selfish, biased policies and beliefs by it’s residents. This state is no longer a community. But instead, a group of many different fifedoms, who care only about their own, and what they can get. This state is not only financially broke, it is also morally and ethically broke.

  5. The nice thing about being wealthy is they can leave a State that just taxes and spends. Corporations that find a State not friendly to business goals can leave too. So who’s going to pay the bill when they leave. Oops

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