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Time to be “All In” for Better Choices at the Capitol

The plan presented today follows a series of recent public events where Governor Dannel P. Malloy previewed specific elements to be introduced during the 2017 legislative session. They range from re-tooling the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula for local school aid to creating a new Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB) to oversee financially distressed towns’ finances.
New details revealed today include an overhaul of state reimbursements for communities’ Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for non-profit hospitals within their jurisdiction. The governor also assigned a specific amount in targeted savings that in January he asked of state employee union members in his “State of the State” address: $700 million.
Click here for a summary of the governor’s proposals prepared by AFT Connecticut’s legislative advocates.
As previously reported, leaders of the unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) — including seven affiliated with AFT Connecticut — have been in exploratory discussions with Malloy Administration officials. They have not yet determined if there is a path forward for contributing additional savings beyond the more than $1 billion dollars provided annually by members’ previous agreements. 
“The governor and lawmakers must understand the implications of once again asking state employees to make economic sacrifices,” said AFT Connecticut vice-president for public employees Chuck Morrell. “Any agreement would have to be good not just for our union members but good for the public they serve, too. That means an overall budget package that makes investments — not more austerity cuts — in our economy, communities and people so we can move Connecticut forward,” added Morrell, who for 31 years worked to maintain the Student Center at the University of Connecticut’s main campus in Storrs.
Click here for our previous report on the governor’s call for state employee labor savings.
Many of the changes to funding for local schools that the governor included in his budget package were revealed over the previous week. The most significant involves re-calibrating the ECS formula to increase resources for cities and towns struggling with poverty — but does so by reducing funds from other communities’ schools.
“We welcome a statewide schools funding formula that is, in the governor’s words, ‘more equitable, transparent, and fair,’ said Sal Escobales, president of our affiliated New Britain Federation of Teachers. “Shifting resources away from communities that aren’t struggling with poverty to help cash-strapped districts like ours alone won’t be enough. Worse, it risks creating divisions along economic or even racial lines by pitting towns against each other when we should be working together to educate all students in Connecticut,” added Escobales, who teaches biology at New Britain High School.
Click here for reporting on the proposal that includes Escobales’ comments.
What was missing from the governor’s speech today was what our members, along with faith, community, labor, civil rights and social justice advocates have long demanded; tax fairness.
Since the Great Recession began in 2008, Connecticut working families have felt the pain of vital service cuts made in the name of balancing budgets. Yet there is plenty of money in our state – still the richest in the nation — with far too much concentrated in the hands of a select few. This elite group of hedge fund managers and corporate CEOs pay effective tax rates that are far less than the rest of us in order to fund public services.
There are better choices available to the governor and state lawmakers than once again asking middle class families or their students to bear the burden of budget shortfalls. A new report released Monday demonstrates how closing a loophole that allows the richest in Connecticut to avoid their fair share could generate over half a billion dollars in revenue.
Click here for the Hedge Clippers’ report on closing the carried interest loophole.
Convincing elected officials to do the right thing will take a united, sustained effort — one that can only succeed if union members are mobilized and their communities are engaged.
“There’s no shortage of opportunities for making our voices heard,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “We’re going to need to pledge to be ‘all in’ to assure our grassroots legislative action efforts to succeed. The stakes couldn’t be higher; we’re fighting to resist more of the same austerity policies that last year devastated Connecticut’s quality of life,” added Hochadel, who taught physics and science in the state’s technical high school system. 
Click here for the response of the state’s labor movement to the governor’s proposed budget, which includes Hochadel’s remarks.

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