Members of the House of Representatives stand at the beginning of the 2023 legislative session on Jan. 4, 2023. Stephen Busemeyer / CT Mirror

Here we are in the early spring of 2023 and another legislative session is underway. There is earnest testimony by concerned and honest citizens. Legislators host hearings that extend late into the night so that as many stakeholders and citizens can share their perspectives, whether it be on housing, zoning, health care, wages, transportation taxes, green energy, and the list goes on.

Legislators, Democrat, Republican and those in between hustle to get their names attached to proposed legislation so that they may have something to put on their mailed flyers to their constituents to show the legislator’s efforts in Hartford on behalf of these selfsame constituents.

Yet there stands the elephant in the room that the legislative leaders in the General Assembly ignore. This elephant is not the metaphorical GOP elephant as symbol of the Party of Lincoln, rather this elephant is the continued downward spiral of Connecticut from economic tiger before the institution of a state income tax in 1995 to an economic has-been.

Where Connecticut at one point had as many Fortune 500 company headquarters as Chicago, with New York the perennial leader, Connecticut has ceased to be a better place to run a business and raise a family despite her many advantages, beauty and history. Thank you those who have elevated the state above the citizen.

After the Great Recession of 2008-2009, Connecticut was one of only a handful of the 50 states to not regain the number of jobs lost in that recession by the time the 2020 Covid-19 economic shock struck. Connecticut was not in the middle of 50 states, but close to the bottom in job recovery.

The migration of citizens, rich, poor and those in between, white and Black, Democrat and Republican, men and women from un-free states like Connecticut to free states continues, after the brief pause caused by the Covid-19 emergency, as all people will seek freedom if they can have it.

The structural statism/racism that has been carefully crafted in Connecticut by the statists is being left unscathed by this 2023 legislative session. It is in fact being reinforced with ever more rules to buttress this self-same, structural statism/racism, which are the hurdles, burdens and barriers that the state puts in the way of the citizen to get an education, get a job, start a business, run a business, put a roof of their head, put food on the plate of their children and to pursue happiness as they see fit. As African-Americans have one-eighth the net worth of whites in America, every hurdle is higher, every burden is heavier and every barrier is thicker for the average, African-American citizen. 

One of the biggest elephants is that Connecticut pays the highest pay and benefits to our diligent public sector workers of all 50 states, which is a natural drag on competitiveness. It also violates Article 1, Section 2 of the Connecticut Constitution as all free governments are instituted for the benefit of the general citizen and not for the benefit of a special faction of public workers to earn more than like-jobs in the private sector and substantially more than Massachusetts and Rhode Island pay their public sector workers. This high pay and benefits also violates Article 1, Section 1 of Connecticut’s constitution against public emoluments to one citizen or special class of citizens not available to the rest of the population, i.e. pay and benefits far in excess of the private sector. Would you want to pay a higher rent or a higher interest rate on your mortgage than your neighbor does in perpetuity?

The overwhelmingly white, suburban teachers unions have restricted public charter schools to a mere two percent of our public school population with 6,000 mostly high-needs black and Hispanic students on wait lists for space at public charter schools.  Educational vouchers from the state to our children aren’t even available here to give all high-needs and not-so high-needs students an annual $9,000 education voucher to spend as they chose towards their education, perhaps to attend a Catholic school or a private day school.

The mental maladies of anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, adolescent brain damage and addiction from high potency recreational marijuana marches forward, despite the reality that legal recreational marijuana stores in California are shutting down due to competition from untaxed and unlicensed marijuana sold on the street. New York State is unable to control the sale of high, potency recreational marijuana by unlicensed sellers in New York City, far outstripping anything sold by licensed pot shops. Is selling drugs to our youth the goal of our leading political class, however achieved?

Instead of making it shorter to get a permit to build or renovate a house or apartment or to make it less expensive to build or renovate a house or apartment so that we would have more of them to address our housing shortage, the legislature mulls overturning local control of communities with more rules and minimums and offering to put citizens on lists for “affordable” housing so the politician can “deliver” a solution to the housing shortage they created and exacerbate.  Why can’t they lessen the building requirements and the time it takes to get a permit?

Structural statism/racism will continue to be built up brick by brick, statute by statute, right there on your TV screen as you watch the Hartford proceedings, yet another requirement, another minimum, another prohibition, another mandate, another government program to make Connecticut less free.  And so the migration of citizens from un-free states like Connecticut to free states will continue. And just because our taxation and regulation is not as bad as New York and New Jersey, does not make Connecticut less un-free.

When can we make it easier and less expensive to build a house or apartment? When can our high-needs and not-so-high-needs students have greater school choice? When will we stop criminalizing working with our hands and back to earn a living lest we don’t have a state license? When will we promote policies to make electricity, natural gas and heating oil for our homes less and not more expensive? When will we lower the cost to go to work?

When can we stop making ever more laws, which make out daily lives more expensive or more complicated? The state on these shores was made to serve the citizen and not the other way around.

Peter Thalheim lives in Stamford.