We reached out to the local candidates for the state senate and state house races via our editorial page and asked them three questions.
Here are the answers for Christopher Morelli, the Republican challenger for Connecticut’s 30th House district:
There has been a lot of discussion the past year about the economic situation in Connecticut. For the Democrats, since they hold the governor’s office and the General Assembly, what things have been done and are in the pipeline that have improved or will improve the situation and how would you push the efforts even further? And for the Republicans, what has been done incorrectly and if the Republicans take the majority in Hartford, what would you do to improve the state’s economic situation?
For a number of years now, Connecticut has been struggling to balance its budget and foster an environment for economic growth. Since 2011 alone, state taxes have been raised billions of dollars by our state legislature. These tax increases are part of why Connecticut is the second highest taxed state in the entire country.
However, our problems go back even further than 2011. Since the 1990s, Connecticut has lost somewhere between 120,000 and 160,000 manufacturing jobs. Not only that, Connecticut is yet to recover all of the jobs lost in 2008’s recession, and job growth is choked by Connecticut’s toxic business climate, regularly ranked close to last in the country.
In fact, Connecticut’s business climate has become so bad that we are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to big businesses to remain in our state. The future continues to look grim. Our current fiscal year ended with a budget deficit of $170 million while in both years of the coming legislative term, the state budget will face a shortfall of over $1 billion. Our state also has over $20 billion of bonded debt, one of the highest levels of debt per person in the country. I recognize that I paint a bleak picture of the present, and future of our state. However, our future is not set in stone.
If every state legislator finds just $10 million of savings in next year’s budget, we will not only have a balanced budget, we will have a budget surplus. This can come from spending to fix our crumbling infrastructure but avoiding projects like the CTFastrak expansion to Storrs. It can also come from ending the taxpayer subsidy of political campaigns.
Smarter spending can come from many places in our government, places where money can be saved without hurting the most vulnerable among us and without laying off hardworking people.
But controlling government spending is not all that we can or should do. We need to cut red tape for businesses of all sizes, simplify our tax code, and as a result, create an environment where jobs will be more readily available to Connecticut’s residents and the economy is growing.
Smarter government spending can be used to lower taxes for everyone, and then new money flowing into the state from business and economic growth can be used to cut taxes further. To accomplish this, we need to come together and work with each other to find real solutions.
The past few months has seen discussion about property tax reform in Connecticut—with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities putting its weight behind reform. Do you think the state is in need of reform? Why do you feel that way and what can be done if change is needed?
I do feel that the state is in need of property tax reform. Throughout my campaign I have heard from a number of people about how burdensome property taxes have become. I cannot disagree with them; our property taxes are statistically some of the highest in the country.
However, we have to be careful what we endorse as property tax reform. What seems to be the leading suggestion for reform is that the state government should enable municipalities to levy their own sales and/or income taxes and then municipalities will use the revenue from those new taxes to lower property taxes.
While this may sound appealing initially, one need only look at Connecticut history to understand why this is not the path we should embark on. When Connecticut’s income tax was passed in the early 1990s, it was supposed to stop the sales tax from skyrocketing and lead to balanced budgets indefinitely for our state. The relief was only temporary.
Connecticut now has one of the highest income taxes and sales taxes in the country, and we are looking at massive budget shortfalls in the coming years. Property tax reform is needed, but it is needed in the form of ending mandates from the state that drive up the cost of municipal governance. It is needed in the form proper municipal aid funding from the state to our towns.
These suggestions are just a start and I am willing to work with legislators from both sides of the aisle to make sure that we solve this problem.
Aside from the above questions, what do you see as the single biggest issue facing the state in the next two years and how would you like it addressed?
Outside of budgetary and economic concerns, I am not certain which issue I would consider most important. The protection of the watershed land that feeds Shuttle Meadow Reservoir, land currently threatened with being quarried, is an issue I feel is very important.
Healthcare is always an important issue and the state’s heroin crisis needs special attention. Providing support for veterans is also important, as is support for police and firefighters. I plan to address all of these if elected.