This Viewpoint was originally published in CT Mirror on June 28, 2019.
In its recent editorial (“Cautionary Tale From Connecticut,“) the Providence Journal claimed that “Connecticut is a sea of dysfunction.” The facts show that nothing could be further from the truth.
It is true that Republican governors John Rowland and M. Jodi Rell, who controlled the state for 16 years before Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy took office in 2011, mismanaged the state. But under Democratic governors Dan Malloy and Ned Lamont, and the Democratic-controlled legislature, Connecticut has dramatically improved its economy and fiscal status.
Contrary to the Providence Journal’s claims that Connecticut “overspends,” the truth is that Connecticut is a low-tax state. According to North Star Policy Institute, Connecticut’s ratio of total government expenditures to state GDP ranks second lowest of the 50 states. Only New Hampshire spends less on government relative to GDP than Connecticut.
Further, According to Ernst & Young’s 2019 study of state corporate tax rates for the Council on State Taxation (COST), Connecticut’s total effective business tax rate ranks the fourth lowest of the 50 states. And Connecticut’s total corporate tax revenues comprises the smallest percentage of state tax revenues of any state, by far.
Connecticut hemorrhaging jobs? In fact, during Democratic Gov. Malloy’s eight-year term, the state gained 86,000 private sector jobs, setting an all-time high. In comparison with the previous Republican Rowland-Rell administration, Connecticut under Malloy added twice as many private sector jobs in half as many years.
Connecticut losing companies? When Gov. Rell left office in 2011, there were 11 Fortune 500 corporate headquarters in our state. When Gov. Lamont took office this year, the state was home to 17 Fortune 500 HQ’s. In fact, USA Today lists Connecticut as one of the top ten states with the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 headquarters per population.
What Connecticut has not done is expand its government sector. Under the previous two Republican governors, a third of all the jobs created in the state were in the government sector. By contrast, Governors Malloy and Lamont have shrunk Connecticut’s government workforce to the lowest level in more than two decades. Indeed, USA Today ranks Connecticut as the 9th leanest staffed state government in the country.
Yes, the two previous Republican governors badly mismanaged our pension funds. But Govs. Malloy and Lamont have implemented major reforms. In 2017, Malloy signed a ten-year agreement with state unions featuring give-backs that outside actuaries estimated will save taxpayers $24 billion over two decades. Malloy and Lamont have now fully funded the state’s required contributions to its teacher and state worker pension funds for the past decade. The state estimates that contributions to the state pension fund will soon plateau, then begin to fall. Governor Lamont just signed into law major reforms in the state’s teachers pension fund that stabilize pension contributions that were facing dramatic increases.
The claim that the Connecticut is burdened with high debt levels is incorrect. While state government-level bonded debt is higher than average, municipal debt is far lower. According to the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, Connecticut’s total bonded government debt as a percent of state GDP ranks us in the middle of the 50 states.
When Gov. Malloy took office, Connecticut was home to 11 billionaires. Today, 17 billionaires call Connecticut home. And according to Phoenix Wealth Management, the number of millionaires has expanded nearly 20 percent since 2010, raising Connecticut from 4th to 3rd in the nation in millionaires as a percent of the population. We also rank 5th highest in median household income.
In short, Connecticut’s debt is modest; our unfunded pension liabilities are manageable; more billionaires and Fortune 500 companies are calling the Nutmeg State home than ever before, despite UTC’s pending departure. And we continue to improve our already high quality of life.
Our strict gun laws enacted after the Newtown massacre led to the steepest decline in violent crime of any state in the nation. Our crime rate is the lowest in half a century, while our prison population has dropped to the lowest level in a quarter century.
Public financing of elections has eliminated the rampant corruption of the Rowland-Rell era. We’ve implemented paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, protections for women’s reproductive rights, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and codified key elements of the Affordable Care Act in state law.
The Providence Journal’s editors should visit our wonderful state, get the real story about our economy and state government, and enjoy our excellent quality of life.
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This is an excellent summary of the good points of the last decade, and provides a largely accurate assessment of the poor management of Governors Rowland and Rell. That said, those private sector jobs have largely been of low quality, confirmed by the state’s gross product, adjusted for inflation, shrinking almost 10% between 2008 and 2018. That is, in 2018, the state’s economy was about the size it was in 2005. Nondurable manufacturing collapsed (largely pharma), and finance/insurance shrank by more than 25%. Connecticut’s fastest growing sector measured by value of output has been in information–BUT employment there has shrunk by 20%–so that growth can’t continue unless employment grows. Worse, the fastest growing sector nationally in both employment and the value of output is information–BUT in CT employment has fallen, value is growing slower than the national rate, and it is a smaller sector in our economy. Bottom line: we are falling behind even in our fastest growing sector.
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