Fairness — it’s missing from the state budget debate
State employees have stepped up while the wealthy and corporations have not
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 families, a 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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